AGCC Sun. a.m. 4/14/2002
#2 (SERIES ON THE "CHURCH" FROM THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS)
"THE CHURCH - A TEMPLE"
TEXTS: Ephesians 2:1-22 I Pet. 2:4-5
INTRO: What should a church look like? Immediately one thinks of a building, ornate or plain, but with a steeple and possibly a bell. Ask people in town where their church is and they will point out a location where a church building sits. Is it any wonder that the modern church spends so much energy and time in constructing monuments for God rather than ministries for God? A building for the church can be a useful and effective tool, but it is just that, only a tool … we must think theologically about the church, not just locally. In fact, if a church's goal is only to build buildings it has lost its way.
ILLUS:I asked a preacher, "How are you getting along?" He said, "We are living in idolatry--just sitting around admiring our new church. We have arrived; we have it made -- no more worlds to conquer." What ought to be a milestone has become a millstone. We have run out of goals. -- Vance Havner, from The Vance Havner Quote Book/On This Rock I Stand. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 16.
We must be careful in building God's church … that we see it as people and not property. The church can survive without buildings, or without programs, but never without people and God's Spirit. The REAL church is not build out of concrete blocks, it is built out of consecrated people! The REAL church cannot be constructed out of "stumbling blocks" either, only spiritual blocks!
The message of the church must not be compromised, truth must be spoken at whatever cost, or the church will lose its mission and its mandate. We must not lower our standards to just entertainment, or try to just accommodate culture; rather we must speak to our culture a transformational message that Jesus makes a huge difference. The church cannot just be another "feel good" or "do good" organization, it is a "BE GOOD" organization, and that is only possible when Christ lives within us.
PROP. SENT: The Bible challenges us as a church to be a HOLY TEMPLE, we are "living stones" that are "built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, with Jesus Christ Himself the chief cornerstone." (Eph. 2:20)
I. GREAT TRANSFORMATION 2:1-10
A. Historical Reality 2:1-3
1. Before we came to know God we lived as all people do, simply gratifying our sinful and selfish desires.
a. No gathering of unsaved people can possibly be called a "church" just because it is in a building with a sign in front that says so.
b. Before our sins were forgiven we were "objects of wrath." 2:3b
c. We could not have been a "holy temple" before we knew Christ!
2. It is amazing when you think about the material God has used to build a holy temple … He has taken the sinners of this world and after transforming them by His grace has created the greatest construction project in history, building His church!
3. Paul's strong language here about how lost we all once were is to show the tremendous contrast of God's grace after He has changed us.
a. Most builders pick out the finest materials to build a great building, but God has chosen the worst materials to build the greatest building … He must however transform those materials with His Spirit to be useful!
b. God was the first to use "recycled" materials in a building program!!!
4. When we were away from the real God our concepts of "god" were very different, as pagans we were enslaved by our own foolish and darkened hearts! What a contrast to being a Christian!
ILLUS:The pagans make their gods; their gods do not make them. They carry their gods; their gods do not carry them. They protect their gods; their gods do not protect them. They sacrifice to their gods; their gods do not sacrifice to them. Christians believe they are God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). Underneath them are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27). They believe their God is "an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). And they are convinced that "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
B. Heavenly Restoration 2:4-10
1. We don't build God a temple, He builds us into one!
a. By His grace and love He forgives our sins when we come to Him!
b. There are not enough good works to save anyone, your works can't be good until you are good, and that only happens after Christ has saved you!
2. God has taken sinners of this world and after saving them brings them together as one in Him!
3. When we belong to Christ we also belong to one another, there is only ONE building that is God's holy temple!
a. When the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. the nation of Israel ceased to exist, it was focused too much on a building and rules … but God's real temple did not disappear in 70 A.D., it still was there, created out of the many Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire, and Rome never could bring this temple down!
b. Sometimes we don't appreciate or even realize how important we are together in Christ … He has made believers into a family!
c. After all, the church is called God's house … and we call God "Father" … and in a house lives a family - the family of God, us!
4. It can be such a wonderful surprise and filled with joy when we recognize how God has brought us together as His family.
ILLUS:When she turned 21, Tammy Harris from Roanoke, Virginia, began searching for her biological mother. After a year, she had not succeeded. What she didn't know was that her mother, Joyce Schultz, had been trying to locate her for twenty years. According to a recent Associated Press story, there was one more thing Tammy didn't know: Her mother was one of her coworkers at the convenience store where she worked!
One day Joyce overheard Tammy talking with another coworker about trying to find her mother. Soon they were comparing birth certificates. When Tammy realized that the co-worker she had known was, in fact, her mother, she fell into her arms. "We held on for the longest time," Tammy said. "It was the best day of my life." Each week we rub shoulders with people whom we may barely notice. But if they share a birth in Christ, they are our dearest relatives. How precious is the family of God! -- B. Paul Greene, San Pedro, California. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 4.
5. Now that we are together there is a job to do, not just a service to attend.
a. While we are not saved by our good works, we are saved to DO good works! 2:10
b. Being the "church" is a lot more than just physically coming together once a week to sit for a couple of hours … we have a world to reach with a message of hope and forgiveness.
II. GOD'S TEMPLE 2:11-22; I Pet. 2:4-5
A. Hopeless Rejection 2:11-12
1. So many times in history man has tried to build God temples, but so often those temples became more important than God!
a. Worship became a lot of "do's and don'ts" more than a vital relationship with a living God.
b. The approach to God became bogged down with more and more rituals and rules in the buildings, barriers that had to be crossed, more and more doors to go through before you could even hope to come close to God.
c. This is still the case with many religions today - they make the path to God complicated and long, and so mystical that no one can be sure they found God!
2. Too many times we make it hard for people to come to God … God never made it hard, man did!
ILLUS:According to orthodox Jewish tradition, there is only one day between Passover and Pentecost on which anyone may get married or get a haircut. The grand law of Moses disintegrated into such foolishness that it had to be replaced with the new covenant, written on the hearts of men. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
a. This is why Jesus got so angry with the Pharisees, they made the way so hard to find God that almost no one could do it!
b. The 10 commandments had become 613 individual statutes (categorized in two groups, "heavy" and "light"), nearly impossible for any individual to do them all!
3. Without God man has no hope, and fortunately God has made it easy to get to Him, He sent His only son Jesus Christ to die in our place, so by faith we can be saved.
a. This is the marvel of the church, we are all forgiven sinners! There is real joy in being together now because we are all forgiven!
ILLUS:If your religion doesn't take you to church, it is doubtful if it will take you to heaven. -- Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990).
b. We were without hope outside of Christ!
B. Hope Restored! 2:13-18; I Pet. 2:4-5
1. But now in Christ we who were far off are brought near to God!
a. There is hope for everyone!
b. Christ died for all.
2. How has God made this change possible? By the blood of Christ, His death for us.
a. We only have to believe it and preach it, not defend it!
ILLUS:Henry Ward Beecher said that a man who was starving to death would not go into the laboratory to try and figure out how wheat germinates in the soil nor demand a chemical analysis of bread. So those who are really conscious of their need for forgiveness are not concerned with the mechanics of the atonement, but only concerned that they themselves are the recipients of its effects. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
b. People are hungry to know God, although they are not often hungry to be religious!
c. Most people know they are sinners … they just need to know that there is a way to find forgiveness, and to know God!
3. The gospel is simple enough for a child to come to Christ.
a. We only need to confess we are sinners, and ask Christ into our lives, "by grace" … "through faith" … we are saved, "not of works lest any man should boast!" Eph. 8-9
b. Our hope for something better in life comes through Christ.
4. Peter calls us a "living stone -- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him" I Pet. 2:4
a. In Christ we together are a holy temple! 1 Pet 2:5 "… you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
b. God's house is alive, not a dead man-made structure!
C. Holy Residence! 2:19-22
1. The world will never be all that impressed with our buildings or our budgets, what it really needs is to see a vital living temple that is alive with the love and joy of Christ!
a. In some places church buildings can look better than the real church … how sad!
b. On the other hand, in some places where buildings don't look that great there can be a vibrant loving temple for God's Spirit to dwell in.
2. We need to make sure the real building or temple of God's Spirit is kept up as well as the facility we so often call the "church."
a. God is more impressed with our ATTITUDE than our ARCHITECTURE.
b. So is the world!
3. So often we can "look right" on the outside, but not reflect what we are suppose to stand for. We must be more than "holy" in name only!
ILLUS:The feeling of being beset by blind forces is especially strong in the mixed city of Jerusalem. ... Hardly a day passes in the "holy city" without a riot or a stoning, without cars being torched or firebombs thrown, without attempted lynchings or the stabbing of an Israeli by a Palestinian (or vice versa). After each incident, municipal cleaning machines, marked "CITY OF PEACE" in three languages, appear on the scene to wash the blood from the streets in time for the next group of pious pilgrims to pass by, fingering their rosaries and muttering solemn prayers. -- Amos Elon in The New Yorker (Dec. 24, 1990). Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 3.
4. Even now God's temple is continuing to be built, we today rest on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets who have gone before us, Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone.
a. God has been in a long building program!!!
b. God will not stop building until it is finished!
5. Satan has always tried to destroy God's temple … and while he succeeded in the material building in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. he will fail with the spiritual temple, it is rock solid!
ILLUS:Growing up on the Atlantic Coast, I spent long hours working on intricate sand castles; whole cities would appear beneath my hands. One year, for several days in a row, I was accosted by bullies who smashed my creations. Finally I tried an experiment: I placed cinder blocks, rocks, and chunks of concrete in the base of my castles. Then I built the sand kingdoms on top of the rocks. When the local toughs appeared (and I disappeared), their bare feet suddenly met their match. Many people see the church in grave peril from a variety of dangers: secularism, politics, heresies, or plain old sin. They forget that the church is built upon a Rock (Mt. 16:16), over which the gates of hell itself shall not prevail. -- Gregory P. Elder, Del Mar, California. Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 2.
a. Down through thousands of years church buildings have been destroyed, governments have taken them away or turned them over for other uses, but never have they destroyed the real "TEMPLE" of God, for it is not made from human goods, but from the heart of God.
b. The "holy temple" will exist until the end of time, will you be a part of it?
c. Don't be a "stumbling block" … be a "spiritual block" and become part of the greatest building program of all time … God's Holy Temple!
6. God's Spirit dwells in His holy temple … His church made up of living stones. Why not get cemented into this structure? Christ will not turn anyone away who comes to Him.
CONCLUSION: The Jews built a holy temple in Jerusalem for God's dwelling place, but those stones are now mostly gone … but God is not gone because His temple is made from living stones, those who are redeemed by Christ's blood! God's Spirit lives in His holy temple, are you a part of this great temple? You can be, let Christ into your life and be a holy temple!