Are churches buildings or people? Jesus didn’t die for buildings, did He? Jesus died for people. His people are His church. You are His church. As His church you are deputized with certain duties and joys.
Look at Ephesians 5:23. “Christ is the head of the church, which is His body “ The church is called a body. So what part is Jesus? Jesus is the head. What part are we? We are the rest of the body. Some of us are busy fingers, some are an eager foot, a strong arm, a bent knee, a willing hand, a soft shoulder, a strong back. But some of us are missing from church. If a foot is amputated the body limps. If an arm is dead, the church has to drag along that dead wood. When a foot is asleep, the body suffers shooting pains.
Some Sabbaths we are all present and accounted for. Other Sabbaths when we look at Christ’s body, we see parts missing. The body looks a little bit mutilated or amputated. One wonders just how effective it really is. Parts of it are here but some are missing. What duty do we have to remain a part of Christ’s body? Hebrews 10:25 gives us a clue. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
What does this mean? Is it wrong to consider dropping our membership? Is it wrong to stay at home on Sabbath? Let’s look at some other translations of verse 25:
NCV – “You should not stay away from the church meetings, as some are doing, but you should meet together “
NLT– “Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do,”
NIV – “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,”
Obviously we are urged to attend church. This urgency is multiplied in the days just before the day that Jesus coming gets near.
Look at Ephesians 2:19. This is according to the Living Bible: “You are members of God’s very own family, Citizens of God’s country and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.” You belong IN God’s family. So attend your family’s weekly reunion. It is held every Sabbath. Dress up in your best. Revelation 19:7 talks about Jesus the Lamb: “His Bride (us) has made herself ready. She may be seen dressed in linen, gleaming and spotless, but such linen is the righteous living of the saints.” We, the church, are Christ’s wife. We ought to be a true and faithful wife in His family.
Ephesians 4:15 says, “Christ is the Head of the Body, His Church.” New King James says in verse 16, “from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Does your head love your body? For some the answer might be NO. Your body has let you down. It causes too much pain. But for Christ, He loves his body....His church.. You. Jesus is our head and we are the rest of Him.
There were 4 neighbors: Fred Somebody, Tom Everybody, Pete Anybody, and Joe Nobody. They all belonged to the same church. Things did not go well. Each week SOMEBODY went to the lake. ANYBODY was unfriendly and sure that SOMEBODY would not speak to him. So NOBODY went to church. Nobody was the only member worth anything.
NOBODY was very faithful.
NOBODY did all the calling.
NOBODY held the church offices.
NOBODY took up the offerings.
NOBODY preached the sermons.
NOBODY visited the missing.
NOBODY passed out literature.
In fact, everything that was needed in church, NOBODY did it!
At the workbee, EVERYBODY thought that ANYBODY would come. And, SOMEBODY should have come but NOBODY came. A visitor came to church. EVERYBODY thought that SOMEBODY should invite him home for lunch. ANYBODY could have, but in the end who do you suppose invited the visitor over for lunch? NOBODY!
Now it came to pass that all four died. And where did they finally end up? Well, EVERYBODY stood before the judgement seat of Christ. ANYBODY should have pleaded their case. They all thought SOMEBODY would save them. Which of them finally got to heaven? NOBODY!!!!!!
You are the Body of Christ. Jesus deserves a good body! Look at Ephesians 1:22 and 23 . “And God has put all things under the authority of Christ, and He gave Him this authority for the benefit of the church. And the church is His body; it is filled by Christ, Who fills everything everywhere with His presence.”
Back in 1979 I remember reading about the Air New Zealand Flight TE901's crash on Mt Erebus, Antarctica. 240 tourists were found dead. They were all frozen solid. Could a group of survivors have come through the bitter cold? Thousands of penguins live there year-around. They survive with no clothes on. Last year we saw a video called the March of the Penguins which explains the secret to their survival in -50 to -60 degree temperatures. A single penguin would very soon freeze to death in the frigid air.
Those smart birds huddle together. 5000+ Penguins rotate to and from the warm inner core from the frozen edges. By assembling together all are saved. Could tourists in an emergency landing do that for a day or two until rescue comes? I don’t know. But I do know that God’s people MUST assemble together on a constant basis to avoid becoming the Frozen Chosen. The last days are especially dangerous and God’s penguin church must not forsake the assembling of themselves together for spiritual warmth and survival.
I’ve noticed two groups in our church. One group will attend every possible event the church sponsors. Another group are once a week folk. The Sabbath morning only attenders. From my Bible study it seems to me that Jesus wants me to be heavily involved in His family. Every time you come to church you give up some other activity. You give up an early morning nature hike or you give up a bike trip. You give up sleeping in. You give up watching a favorite program on 3ABN. In giving up a part of what the world offers, you are showing everybody where your heart is. Your heart is with Jesus. Church is your priority.
Jesus had a habit of Church going. Look at Luke 4:16 “He went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom And He stood up to read.”
Brilliant people develop good habits. Stupid people develop bad habits. I want to be a brilliant person. Romans 14:19 says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” To put this in plain English, we attend church to build one another other up. You will be stronger too. You will also be safer. Regular Church attenders get sick less. They’re exposed to more germs, but they get sick less. They live longer. Church attendance gives you protection from evil.
We went to Tanzania Africa and saw the Serengeti National Park. The lions are hungry but the Thompson gazelles don’t want to be eaten and they’re fast. When a pride of Lions stalks a herd of gazelles, which gazelle do they chase? They chase the one that is apart from the group. For some reason this gazelle strays from the group and becomes breakfast to the lions. The safety is staying in the group.
The word for Church in our Bible in the Greek Language is Ekklesia, which means those who are “Called Out”. Called out of what? Out of the world. Called out to where? Into the Body of Christ which is better known to us as the church. Out of the world and into the church. As we assemble together in the church we are sheltered. Safe from the evil one. Into Jesus.
A lady said: “It is so much easier to stay at home and watch 3ABN or Hope TV. That is my church.” Was she right? No! Not at all. Those Christian programs ARE helpful, wonderful, but they are never a substitute for attending church. Church is people. Unless you are rubbing shoulders with God’s people in God’s church on God’s Holy Sabbath Day you are not following God’s instructions.
In the New Testament a Christian who is not in church is an anomaly. Most of the Epistles were written to local congregations which housed the saints. Has God changed? Can you be a true Christian and cut out church attendance? If you are a true born again Christian why would you not want to be a part of the very church for which Jesus died.
One sign of a true Backslider is his absence from God’s Church. 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”
When you go out from the Church you do not belong to God’s family any longer because the church is God’s family on earth. Is everyone in the church a part of God’s family? NO. But conversely, those who are a part of God’s true family will be IN church.
Sister White says this. Testimonies To Ministers, page 15. “The church of Christ, enfeebled and defective as it may be, is the only object on earth on which He bestows His supreme regard.” It’s feeble, it’s defective, but He loves it.
Going to church will not save you. Entering a barn will not make you into a tractor. Jumping into the ocean will not make you a fish. Walking into McDonald’s won’t make you into a Vegi-burger. Sitting in a pew will not make you a Christian. But fish do live in oceans and tractors do park in barns and Christians do attend church. Do you? Here is where we grow.
Let’s say you are invited to a family reunion. Each person is to bring their own food and the drink will be provided. You wake up late and suddenly remember the reunion. It starts across town in 45 minutes. You throw on your clothes and run for the Frigidaire. It is empty except for two old heels left over from a loaf of bread and some hard peanut butter in the bottom of the jar. There is just enough jelly to skim some jelly onto it. You put it all together in a small Ziplock bag with a granola bar and run to the car.
When you arrive, the picnic lunch is about to start. You find a seat at the end of a table. The leader has prayer and it is time to eat. You open your dried out sandwich. The family beside you must have had all weekend to prepare because they have homemade potato salad, baked beans, all the fresh fixings for tasty Dagwood sandwiches with home grown tomatoes. They have a great smelling casserole, red watermelon, potato chips, and several homemade pies. You feel so forlorn as you consider your quandary.
But the lady who cooked it all comes over and says: Why don’t we combine our food? There is plenty of pie and cake, plenty of everything. And we just love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So you happily agree. You came as a forlorn pauper but you leave the table having eaten a meal fit for a king.
It should be that way when you come to church. Assemble with the saints. Sit next to someone. When they smile at you, smile back. Shake some hands. Hug someone back. Enjoy the wholesome sermon. Mark the verses in your Bible. Linger and talk afterwards. Make some friends. You came with little, but God will load you up with much. God’s abundance will be yours. God says, “Let’s combine our provisions. All that I have will be yours. All You have will be mine.” Of course, God does not need my meager offerings. He has a universal supply of peanut butter and fresh bread. God’s jelly jar is full. He does not need what I might bring, but I need His unlimited supply. His grace is mine. His rich robe of righteousness covers my pitiful poverty. I leave fully and richly blessed. Matthew 6:33. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you.” What a great treasure.
A good church can be one of the greatest sources of blessing to you. This summer, for your own sake and for the sake of your kids, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” God bless you.
Hymn of Praise: #15, My Maker and My King Scripture: Ephesians 4:14-16 Hymn of Response: #216, When the Roll is Called Up Yonder Sermon Notes: Sermon notes available as PDF
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 5/21/10