I was on Facebook yesterday when I saw a meme which said:
“We will never change the world by just going to church. We will only change the world by being the church.”
In my response to the meme I agreed, but then I said, “A lot of folks have different ideas about what it means to be the church. What do you think that means?” No response so far.
Well, the Lord had that in my mind this morning when I was seeking him about what to write next, so I believe he wants me to look at this subject of what it means to “be the church.”
What is the church?
Well, first off, the church is not a building. When you walk into a building called “church,” you are not entering “God’s house.” God doesn’t live in that building. He lives in human hearts. Also, the church is not a denomination, so it is not Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, or Pentecostal, etc. And the church is not a business, and it is not a corporation of the state.
Buildings, corporations, businesses, civic organizations, social clubs, and denominations called “church,” are not the church, and they are not of God, but of man. This is not to say that God has not blessed church congregations in buildings and of church denominations. I believe he has. But those things are creations of man. They are not the church.
The church is the body of Christ, and it is comprised of all who believe in Jesus Christ with God-given faith who have been crucified with Christ to sin and who have been raised with Christ to newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. We are living stones in God’s spiritual building, and Jesus Christ is our chief cornerstone.
Definition of church: 1577 ekklēsía(from 1537 /ek, “out from and to” and 2564 /kaléō, “to call”) – properly, people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church (the mystical body of Christ) – i.e. the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.
The English word “church” comes from the Greek word kyriakos, “belonging to the Lord” (kyrios). Source: biblehub.com.
So the church is people, the people of God, i.e., those belonging to him whom He has called out from the world and unto himself to live holy lives, pleasing to him. And holy means to be separate (unlike, different) from the world because we are being made into the likeness of Jesus Christ. So, we are to be like him in character, thought, word, and actions (deeds, works).
Be the Church
So, if that is what the church is, what does it mean to be the church? Well, first of all it means we belong to Christ, he is our Lord (owner-master), and our lives are surrendered to him. It means we are living holy lives which are separate (unlike, different) from the world because we are being made to be like Jesus, i.e., we are conforming our lives to his likeness, by God’s Spirit.
It means, too, that we have died with Christ to sin and that we are now living to Christ and to his righteousness. We are no longer enslaved to sin, but we are now bond-servants of Jesus Christ and servants of his righteousness. Now we are walking (in conduct, in practice) according to the Spirit and no longer according to our flesh, because we believe in Jesus.
Regarding the activities of the church, the early church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, which would largely be the New Testament of our Bible today. So, to be the church we should be devoted to hearing and to obeying the word of God, for James said we are to be doers of the word and not hearers only (Acts 2:42-47; Jas 1:22).
They also devoted themselves to fellowship. So, what is fellowship? 2842 koinōnía (a feminine noun) – properly, what is shared in common as the basis of fellowship (partnership, community). Source: biblehub.com.
So, what do we who are believers in Jesus have in common with each other? In common we have belief in Jesus Christ and in his word, our salvation, our faith, our hope, our joy, our purpose, our calling, our deliverance, and holiness, righteousness, godliness, and purity, etc. So, these are the things which are to be the basis of our times of fellowship with one another.
But how many “church fellowships” have you attended where that was the case? Most I have attended have been about serving and eating way too much food, laughing, and joking, watching TV or movies, playing games, putting on skits, and talking about all the same kinds of things the world talks about, and the name of Jesus is hardly ever even mentioned.
But if we are devoted to Christian fellowship, that means we are sharing with each other what is of God, in what is spiritual, encouraging one another in the Scriptures and in our walks of faith and in holiness, spurring one another on toward love and good deeds, and ministering to one other with the spiritual gifts God has given each of us for the building up of the body to maturity in Christ, which includes speaking the truth in love to each other.
And the early church devoted themselves to the taking of communion together and/or to sharing meals together and in times of prayer with one another and for one another. And they also ministered to the physical needs of their fellow Christians so that no one was in need. And day by day they met together in public places and in their homes for all these things.
And because they were serious about their walks of faith in obedience to the Lord and in the teaching of the word and in fellowship and prayer and in the sharing of the gospel with others, too, they were persecuted for righteousness’ sake and because they were the “called out” of God. And they grew in numbers because people were turning their lives over to Jesus.
Romans 12:1-2 ESV
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
This, too, is what it means to “be the church.” Because of what Jesus Christ did for us on that cross we are to surrender our lives to Jesus Christ as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is our acceptable spiritual worship of him. For, he is not interested in our programs, our buildings, and our performances. He wants us on the altar surrendered to him.
He wants us living lives which are separate (unlike, different) from the world because we are being made to be like Jesus in thought, word, and deed. We are not to blend in with the world. We are not to immerse ourselves in today’s culture so that the world will like us. We should stand out as different. We should be putting into practice daily what we say we believe.
We should no longer be living in sin, doing what we know is evil as a matter of practice. For, we are not to be living worldly lives, living for the pleasures of the flesh. But we are to be walking in obedience to our Lord, following him in his ways and in his truth, being the light of the world and the salt of the earth which he called us to be.
Here I Am, Lord
By Daniel L. Schutte
I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them –
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my word to them.
Whom shall I send?
Here I am, Lord
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night
I will go, Lord
If You lead me
I will hold Your people in my heart
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[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rom 12:1-8; 1 Co 12:1-31; Eph 4:1-16; Jn 6:44; Eph 2:8-10; Heb 12:1-2]