Jan 14 2024 The Kingdom of God and The Church

We’ve been looking at the Kingdom of God. The first week we started, I had mentioned that on this week we would revisit the relationship between the Church and the Kingdom. This week – Cindy follows people on – substacks and other places – and everyone is commenting on The Church – the Universal Church – knowing and understanding and appreciating The Church.

I say I am talking about the Church – the capital C Church – universal – catholic – not the denomination – but the universal Church. We aren’t talking about our church (that is next week) or other churches – but The Church.

The Church and the Kingdom are NOT the same thing. They are connected – but they cannot be separated, but they are two different entities.

Scot McKnight – People use the word Kingdom for everything we like about the Christian faith – People use the word Church for everything we dislike about the Christian faith.

There are a lot of people who don’t like the Church. There are a lot of reasons people feel that way – people have been hurt, offended, or wounded by some church. Not The Church, but some church.

A lot of people come into our church who were hurt or wounded somewhere else. I have also heard of people who left our church because they were hurt or wounded. If you have been wounded by church, you are not alone – and there is one specific reason – churches are made up of PEOPLE! People hurt and wound – it is what we do! I would say – and I would put this on us, as well – every one of us HAS or will – at some time – hurt, wound, or offend people in a church.

It is sad and discouraging that churches cause many people to give up on church – but I get the problem. I have talked so many times to Christians who had gone to church their whole lives – and something happens and it takes a long time to get back into it if they do.

The problem is – some give up on The Church.

To give up on The Church – that is concerning and worrisome. That is not a good thing. Now, many, if not most would say they have not given up on Jesus. And I’m sure that is true. But they fail to understand that the Church is the Body of someone named Jesus. You cannot remain connected to Jesus if you are disconnected from The Church. They are connected. Completely, and always.

I am going to give a biblical and theological approach to the church.

I’m going to give a few ways – first – in ways that we offend.

We offend in ignorance. That could be innocent. You go wherever you are – work, people – you don’t have all the information about those people – you are ignorant about some things – it just so happens that someone just finalized a divorce… and you go on talking about how your church is having a series – How to Divorce-proof your marriage! And it hurts that person.

I remember series – divorce-proofing your marriage or drug-proofing your kids – and I think from now to eternity, no pastor should title a series like that!

Second – we offend in obliviousness. That is not always innocent. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in ourselves, or our opinion – or anxiety, fear, importance – or the importance of what we have to say – that we fail to read the room. We fail to get facial expressions – body language – fail to understand the context we are in. If that is something we do – it is a personal weakness. We need to learn, and not be oblivious to people’s body language and expressions. We can’t do it all the time – some don’t ever give it to us – but it is important for us to be aware – so that we recognize when something isn’t working right… STOP! The response I’m getting from you is not what I would think it would be! What am I missing?

Some of you are really good at that. But it is the only way to get to that.

3rd – like that, but worse – we offend in arrogance – we communicate in a way we think is right that puts people down – that shames and manipulates them. Even if what you are communicating is RIGHT – you are WRONG! If you put down others, insult, or dehumanize others, you are wrong. What you are doing trumps what you are saying.

4th – lesser – but still a problem – and probably all of us at sometimes – we think we offend when we have not. Like me – you have a problem like that – that is an unhealthy thing. I struggle with that – and it is not healthy. If you have never thought that? You may want to reconsider.

My goal is to help us develop a deeper appreciation for The Church – I believe it is crucial for our spiritual well-being. If we continue to have a negative view of the Church – it will hinder our relationship with God.

We looked at this from last week – and I’m sure you all went back and read the context… all the things that will NOT be in the New Heavens and New Earth…

Revelation 21: 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband…

I read that – and I missed it! After this – He talks about all the things that will not be there.. then in 9:

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."

The Bride of Christ is what? The Church! Ephesians 5 makes that clear. He is going to show him the Church.

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,

So, we need to have a deep appreciation for the Church, because we will be in it for all eternity!

One of – a theologian who focuses on Church theology I’ve appreciated – “Is the church to be seen as an instrument to accomplish God’s purpose in creation, or is the Church the expression of God’s ultimate purpose itself?

This is a trick quote – yes, in context of what he is writing – he is talking about the nature, essence, being of the Church – not how the Church should function or what it should do.

After thinking through this – I have never heard a sermon on the nature of the Church – Ontology. I have talked often on HOW the Church should function – but before we know what to do, we need to understand what it is – what God created when He created the Church. Start with what it is – then we will know what to do with it!

Christians will disagree on what the Church is to do – but there are things about the nature of the Church we should agree on – like the Creeds – we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church – there is a lot to unpack there.

Ephesians is Paul’s theology of the Church

Ephesians 1: 4 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love.

We have talked about this a lot – these are all PLURAL – He is writing it to the Church. The word Ephesians is not in the Book – it is written to THE CHURCH – a hub is in Ephesus –

Before the foundation of the world – this concept of the Church was in God’s mind. God is thinking about the Church – the Bride of Christ – the Body of Christ. He goes on and lays out all these blessings -

22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all.

Jesus reigns over all things for the benefit of the Church. He lists all these things He gives to us – and His reign and rule – the purpose is to benefit US – the Church.

In 3 – Paul tells how God creates the Church by bringing the Gentiles and Jews together into one family. In Paul’s world, there were Jews and Gentiles. If you were Jewish – you were part of the people of God – if Gentile, you were not. But in Chapter 2 – Paul says – that is all over. Everyone is brought in to become people of God.

Ephesians 2: 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,

This is the Church. There were two types of people – Jew and Gentile – but all were brought together into one.

15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new humanity

ONE NEW HUMANITY – BINGO! That is what everything is all about.

, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross

The Church is a new humanity. God created humanity and humankind in His Image. Therefore, we should dehumanize NO ONE. All are in God’s image. Not all people are in Christ – and that is a notch or two or three up – we are a new humanity. Adam was the first Adam. Jesus was the second Adam. The new Adam – and we will not become like Adam and Eve – we will become like Jesus – for we shall see Him as He is and we will become like Him.

Ephesians 3:9 I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.

If we were to go back to the Beginning – In the Beginning – there was a secret that God had – a mystery – like this is the original conspiracy theory – but it is not weird…

10 The purpose of this enlightenment is that through the church the (manifold) multifaceted wisdom of God should now be disclosed (made known through the church) to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms.

The Church is how God chooses to reveal Himself to the world. That was His plan from the beginning – not a bunch of buildings and people – but this new humanity that brings all into His family to be His people.

“The world does not know of any other Christ except the Christ that is embodied in the Church”

And I hope that scares you – but not in a bad way.

I know God reveals Himself in many ways – But His purpose and plan is to do it through partnering with the Church – He says it so clearly in Scripture.

I think, sometimes, and this is good too – you’ve heard – you may be the only Jesus someone meets – but we need to think, no, the Church is the Body of Christ – and it is all over the place in all different sizes – but the Church is the way we will meet Jesus for the most part.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession,

We are a new humanity! Think about it! Yes, we still sin and have problems and everything – but someday that will be gone. Adam and Eve had mortal bodies – we will have an immortal one.

that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

We are all these things – for one purpose – to proclaim the excellencies, moral goodness – of God.

When Moses said – Show my Your glory – God says – I will let my GOODNESS pass before you. I am the Lord, almighty – filled with lovingkindness.

So, we, as the Church – are to proclaim that. When we proclaim the gospel – it is the ultimate picture of that. Not just in our words, of course, but in everything.

Sometimes, as a church – as people – because in our world – there are things that the churches are doing that drive people away – we feel responsible – but we need not. We need not make up for that – but understand that there is this remnant Church of people who are living out the life of Christ. The Church is the Body of Christ – and if so, we should be engaged in what He was engaged in. Look and see – what did He do? He proclaimed the Kingdom of God. Being the Body of Christ, needs to be holistic – everything we see Jesus engaging with – not just the things we prefer.

Proclaiming the kingdom – the gospel – but also – that we upend people’s notion and understanding of God – so that through our speaking – our words – people will see through the false things to see who God really is.

But it is also a clarifying and correcting of people’s understanding of Scripture – Jesus did that continually – and we should do the same.

Jesus battled and defeated the spiritual forces of evil – and it is our business to do that – through prayer – through engaging the world as an alternative culture, community, politic, economic – to what they have – by confronting religious systems that have gone away from Jesus. Jesus did that throughout His life.

He confronted the religious people. We confront the nonreligious people. He didn’t care about the Roman Empire. What was on His mind – His people were not living as God wanted them to live.

Then, we need to preform the life of Christ – welcoming outsiders – doing works of ministry, compassion – and being engaged in works of justice, righteousness and peace. What that looks like will vary – based on your heart and passion – and it is just as good as you working with a couple people you are caring for. God is not counting how many you minister to or are engaged with. It is being faithful with these things.

Lord, I thank You – I ask that You would help us to appreciate what You have done – we appreciate that You have given us the Church – it is your place – where You dwell -

Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

Body of Christ
because we are members of His body. (Eph 5:30 NAS)

He is also head of the body, the church; (Col 1:18 NAU)

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