Why Join a Church?

Many people are asking this question: Why bother joining a church? What is the big deal about church? Isn’t the church just a dying institution irrelevant to the world today? Although many people question the importance of church and the importance of being a member of the church, the Bible tells us that the Church is the people of God on mission to transform the world through the Gospel (1 Pt 2:9). The church is the vehicle for displaying God’s glory to the ends of the earth. Therefore the church is hugely important in God’s plan for redeeming the world through his son Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us that the church will endure and survive as the uniquely blessed people of God and that the “gates of hell will not prevail against it”. (Mat 16:18)

The Foundation of the Church

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”” (1 Peter 2:4–6, ESV)

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28, ESV)

The Church was founded and established by Jesus Christ. Yet, we see that from the beginning of the Old Testament God had a grand plan to spread his glory through a corporate people. The first fruits of this cosmic plan was through Israel. As we move into the New Testament we see that God plans to create a new kingdom and a new humanity from people of every ethnicity and nation. The way that God created these new citizens of the heavenly kingdom was through the death of His son Jesus Christ. The cornerstone and foundation for the church is and always will be Jesus Christ.

Jesus the Cornerstone

The Bible makes it clear why Jesus came. Jesus who was fully man and fully God came for the purpose of redeeming humanity. Jesus lived a life of complete perfection, without sin and without disobedience. Where you and I fail every day, Jesus succeeded. As a result, Jesus could be the only sacrifice who could pay the price for our sin. Every human being has fallen short and has rebelled against the Almighty God (Rom 3:23). We are hopelessly lost in our sin, yet God was gracious in sending Jesus to us. Jesus, out of love for us, went to the cross and was nailed to that tree for you and me. On the cross Jesus purchased our salvation and our freedom from the bondage of sin. On the cross Jesus purchased our entry way into this new community and new humanity. In Jesus we have been given citizenship into the kingdom of God. All we must do to receive this incredible gift from God is simply call out to Him in faith. We turn from our sins and put our trust in Jesus Christ. This is the entry point into the church and it is the only way to belong to the people of God.

The church is established by Jesus. His death is the founding stone upon which the church is built.. You see the church can often be made up of a variety of people of different ethnicities, education levels, social backgrounds, and many other things. Yet the One who brings these diverse people together is Jesus Christ. Often times there are a variety of areas on which people build community. People might build community on a special interest like a hobby or a special cause, but the church is a people united by Jesus Christ. The founding stone, Jesus, brings us all together and forms us into a new people called the Church.

Local vs Universal

The church can be seen in two light: There is the Church universal, made up of all believers in Jesus Christ at all times and the church local, which is made up of specific believers at a specific place. All true Christians belong to the Church (universal) but not every Christian belongs to the church (local). This is important to remember that being a member of a church does not grant you entrance into God’s kingdom, only Jesus does that. Yet, the church is made up of people who have received salvation through Jesus.

The Purpose of the Church

The ultimate purpose of the church is to display God’s glory. This happens as the church worships God, disciples and trains other believers to maturity, and proclaims the Gospel through evangelism and missions. The purpose of the Church is to worship, disciple, and evangelize.

Ministry to God: Worship

As a people formed and created for the glory of God, worship is the essential duty of the church. Scripture reminds us of the importance of corporate worship in the life of the church. Colossians 3:16 Paul tells us to “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thanksgiving in your hearts to God”. We are also told “to live for the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:12).

It is vital for those who belong to the church to worship the Lord. This is why churches  meet every week. The purpose of this time is for one reason to worship the Lord. We want to praise and honor the Redeemer of our souls and give our lives to him in worship. The worship services are centered around the Gospel message as revealed in the Bible. As a result, preaching is heavily emphasized because as God’s people we need to hear from God’s word. In addition we sing together, singing about our God. Our worship also includes the giving of our finances showing God that He is first.

Ministry to Believers: Discipleship

The Church also has the task of training and building up other believers to Christian maturity. The church should seek to make every man and woman mature in Christ Jesus (Col 1:28). The way believers are built up and made mature in Christ is through the teaching of God’s word to the corporate body of Christ.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV)

The Scriptures are essential if we seek to grow in our relationship with Christ. As a result, the local church should focus heavily on the teaching of the Scriptures. Churches offer a variety of Sunday School classes and Bible studies to help train our members in the Scriptures so they may be complete and equipped for every good work. In addition it is also vital that believers learn to minister to one another in community. Discipleship happens best, not in a class room, but through relationships. As a result, we seek to help our members build relationships with one another so that they can grow deeper together in their relationship with Jesus.

Ministry to the World: Evangelism

The church also has the great purpose of proclaiming the good news of Jesus to the world. This is our greatest task given to us by Jesus. We are called to go and tell others about Jesus Christ. The task of the church is to make sure others hear about how they can have salvation in Jesus.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14–17, ESV)

The Bible makes it clear that every Christian has the responsibility of making sure this good news is heard across the world. In order for people to be saved through faith, they first must hear about what Jesus has done.  Evangelism is not just the task for missionaries or pastors but for every believer.

The Mission of the Church

The mission of the church is found in Matthew 28:18–20. The resurrected Lord, before he ascended into heaven, gave this charge to the church:

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:18–20, ESV)

God’s Glory Displayed in the Church

As the Church faithfully proclaims and lives out the Gospel, God’s glory will spread to the ends of the earth. As people come to know Christ and join God in his mission to redeem the world, God will cover the earth with his worshipers. This will happen as we work together in a local church as the people of God working in unity of our cornerstone, Jesus Christ. We are a sinful people redeemed and forgiven by Jesus. Jesus is the hope of the world and the church is God’s ordained means of taking that hope to the ends of the earth.

So Why Join a Church?

So why would you want to join a church? Well, part of the reason is because it is biblically commanded.  To not join a local body of believers is to be disobedient to God’s command.  Hebrews 10:24-25 states we are commanded not to forsake the assembling together. So joining a local church as a member is something commanded by God, but it is much sweeter than just a rule to follow.

So why would you join a church? You desire to join a church Because God has given you salvation by His grace through Jesus, and you want to share that good news with others. You want to join yourself to the people of God to whom Jesus has bound you. You want to lock arms with other believers to worship the Lord, to grow in maturity together, and to work together to tell the world about our savior. As the church achieves its mission, we have the promise that Christ will be with us and that nothing will stop us. Businesses will go bankrupt and nations will collapse, but the church, the redeemed people of God, will survive for eternity as God’s glory is displayed through us.

So why join a church? The better question is, why would you not?

My Soul Magnifies the Lord

The Following is an excerpt from my sermon "God's Unexpected and Wonderful Plan " from Luke 1:39-56.  You can click the link for the sermon audio. 

Luke 1:46 - "And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord'".

Mary praises God for choosing to use her, a woman of such humble origins.  She begins this psalm asking that her life might magnify the Lord. A simple statement, but a prayer that should be on the lips of all the saints. May our life and existence be used to magnify the greatness of God’s name! May he be exalted and made much of through our lives. His glory must be our greatest treasure and longing joy. Just as a magnifying glass enlarges and makes clear, so too should our lives magnify the glory of a God to a world who cannot see clearly. Our lives are to increase in size the font of God’s grace so that this near-sighted world can read its truth.

However Mary’s first statement is not so much one of a prayer, but an indicative statement.  She is not asking the Lord to use her to magnify the Lord, she is praising him for already using her for such a purpose. Mary is carrying in her womb the savior of the world.  She is carrying the son of the Most High God. God has already chosen to use this woman to magnify His name by bringing Jesus into this world through this humble country girl from Nazareth.  As a result of this truth her “spirit rejoices in God”. She is filled with overwhelming joy over the fact of God’s amazing plan includes her! How wonderful it is to be apart of the divine plan of God to spread the glory of his name!  How wonderful it is to be used to magnify the name of the Lord!

Yet, just as Mary was chosen by God to magnify His glory, so too is every Christian chosen by God for the same purpose. As Christians we have been given the charge of the great commission.  We have been given the task sharing the good news of the arrival of the savior to the nations.  As we take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, God is using us to magnify his name. The glory of God is spreading to the ends of the earth as King Jesus reigns in the hearts of all peoples. Yet, he has chosen us for this task.  The wonderful thing about the church is that it is filled with a bunch of nobodies. The early church was filled with common, uneducated fishermen, hated ex-tax collectors, and despised gossiped about ex-prostitutes. Yet God has chosen those who are rejected by the world for the most important of purposes.  He has chosen the rejected on the most urgent of mission and the most glorious of tasks – magnifying the Lord.

Mary confesses that she is a woman of humble estate. There is nothing about her that any king of the earth would chose to bring his son into the world. No human being would chose Mary to bring the savior of the world into existence. Yet, the Gospel reverses the perception of the world.  He chooses a woman of humble estate, a nobody, to be the mother of the word become flesh.  All generations will call this woman blessed, because she has been called chosen by God for the most wonderful tasks. God’s mighty hand will use those who are humble and rejected by the world for incredible things.  Mary makes it clear in v. 49 that it is “he who is might” who has done all of this. There is nothing special or unique about Mary that earned her the right to carry God’s son or to participate in God’s story of redemption. No, she is but an ordinary teenage girl whom God chose to lavish his grace towards by his mighty hand.  God alone is the one who has accomplished all of this and he alone is the one who lavishes grace on his children

Meaning in the Mundane

Life can get a little mundane can't it? In our lives we can quickly get into the monotony of routine. Wake up, get the kids ready for school, go off to work, eat dinner, go to soccer practice, go to bed. Rinse and repeat. As ambassadors for Christ how do we thrive in the seemingly mundane routine we find ourselves every day? The answer is what must look to every area of our lives with Gospel intentionality. You see the Gospel provides meaning to the mundane and purpose to the trivial. Through a Christ-centered lens our ordinary days become powerfully meaningful and eternally significant. Let me give you two examples.

Raising Children with Gospel Intentionality

When we begin to live with Gospel intentionality, the way we raise our children is different. We are not just raising them to get a good job, get a good education, and make a bunch of money. We are raising them unto Christ. We are raising them to fulfill the great Commission. We are raising them for Christ and to evangelize them, disciple them, and release them as fellow partners in advancing the Gospel. This makes changing diapers and late-night feedings incredibly meaningful. Everyday mundane things filled with Gospel purpose.

Going to Work with Gospel Intentionality

The way we go to work is different, when we begin to go with Gospel intentionality. Many people absolutely hate their jobs. Their sole purpose for going to work is just to make a paycheck. However the Gospel fills our work with purpose. In Christ, not only are we going to work to provide for our families, we go living for Christ to be a light in a dark place. We build relationships with co-workers to be able to live out and speak Christ. As we go into our jobs we do not go as corporate drones but joyous ambassadors for Christ. Therefore no matter what our profession from garbage man to CEO all of it is incredibly meaningful.

The Gospel gives purpose to the mundane and meaning to the trivial. In Christ, our ordinary days become extraordinary. So if you are struggling to get out of the morning and finding your routine boring, begin to see yourself as an ambassador for Christ. When you do you will find just how meaningful the mundane can become.

Why I Write: Reflecting on One Year of Blogging

Writing is a task I've grown to love.  Each word is like a puzzle piece begging to be put together into a coherent whole. The puzzle pieces, each with their own nuances and meanings, bounce around and reshuffle at the command of my thoughts. The possibilities of a blank page are legion.  As ink spills on the page, a writer tosses the dice of influence, never knowing the impact the words dripping from his pen will make. The written word is hidden with power greater than any atom.  The power encapsulated word can transform a very man's thoughts. It's persuasion greater than the barrel of any gun.  The power of the written word is only limited by the mind of him who writes. The assembled word grows in power depending on the wisdom of the writer.  The wiser the writer, the more powerful the words. Imagine the possibilities if God himself wrote.  What if God, through the inspiration of human authors, assembled words together to communicate his wisdom? What if God used the power of writing to proclaim His truth?

This work of God would be sharper than any two edged sword.  His writings would have the power to cut a man in the deepest part of his soul.  His word could bring dead men to life.  The Bible, God's Word, encapsulates His power.

Is there any wonder why I've grown so dedicated to the task of writing? I long to imitate God through writing. Seeking to match the power of God's word is as impossible as an infant beating a body builder in a wrestling match.  Although I aim to write powerfully and cut to the depths of men's hearts, my best efforts in writing will be nothing but filthy rags.  This is why I have decided that the content of my writing will be based on this precious, powerful Word of God.  Unpacking the truth of His word is the only hope that there will be any power in my words.  Only through the exposition of the Scriptures will my writing cut to the very souls of men, and that only through the working of the Holy Spirit.

I am amazed at God’s grace towards me.  A little over a year ago, I made a commitment to myself and to God to use social media to spread the Gospel.  Because of that passion, I decided to make the habit of regularly blogging for the sake of the Gospel.  To be honest, I was never really sure if I would follow through with the discipline of blogging.  I see the task of writing as one given to me by God. I view my call to teach and proclaim His word as a divine responsibility.  By His grace, I will proclaim the glorious truth of the Gospel through the written word, and I will continue to expose the truth of the Scriptures through writing, so that all may hear that Jesus is Lord!

Why Does God Allow Hardship in my Life?

Life is hard.  You know it, and I know it.  It seems like everything will be going so smoothly, and then you get blindsided by an unexpected emergency.  Often it feels like life is just a series of obstacles and problems that we must endure.  Many people in the midst of difficulty, ask the common question, "Why does God allow this to happen to me?"  Plagues of doubt haunt many Christians because of this question.  Part of the reason is that the thought of hardship and suffering as a Christian doesn't even seem possible.  Many have this idea that when you become a Christian, life becomes a nice stroll in the park on a beautiful spring day.  Many follow Christ with the preconceived notion, that God owes them an easy life.  This just simply is not the truth.  No where in the Bible are Christians promised a life of ease without problems or suffering.  In fact, we are guaranteed troubles in this life. (John 16:33) This promise of hardships in this life, leaves many of us scratching our heads.  Our confused logic goes as follows:

1. If God is sovereign and in control of everything, he can prevent suffering and hardship.

2. If God loves me, than he will keep me from hardship.

3.  Therefore, if I experience hardship, God doesn't love me.

Like many lies Satan tells us, they are grounded in truth.  Point number one is absolutely true.  God is powerful enough to do anything, including to prevent suffering in your life.  However, where the logic goes awry and breaks down is at point number two.  The lie satan tells us is that God cannot be loving if he allows us to suffer.  The truth is that God does love us and allows us to suffer for His glory and our own good.  This is in fact the promise of Romans 8:28, "That God works all things together for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose."  God, in his sovereign orchestration of your life, allows hardship to come into your life for your own maturity and Christ-likeness.

This is why James writes in his letter, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness."  So what is the purpose of our suffering?  To make us more like Christ.  Our suffering then is a profound instrument of the grace of God.  It is a good gift, a tool, that develops us into faithful Christ-followers.  This is an incredibly hard truth to see in the middle of suffering.  With our eyes focus solely on the present, we have a hard time seeing how God is using our suffering for our good. However, with time comes wisdom.  Looking back, you will be able to see the finger prints of God's grace in the midst of your suffering.

With the logic of point number 2 proven to be a lie, point number 3 proves to be a lie as well.  Often times, the most loving thing God can do is allow us to suffer.  It is a good gift.  The problem is that we tend to have a different perspective than God on what is good.  Our definition of good is a comfortable, pleasant, easy life.  God's sees our good as doing whatever it takes to transform us by the grace of Christ.  The most loving thing God can do is bring things into our life that are difficult, but through that suffering God ignites a passion in our heart to trust him in the midst of suffering.  Often during those times of crisis, God deepens our faith and maturity in a way the best of times never can.

I'm not sure what hardship you are going through right now, but rest assure, that God is indeed working all things together for your good.  Glorify God in the midst of trails and cling to him as your only hope.  Trust in the truth of God's Word not your emotions.   God is rock who loves us and holds us firm, even in the face of the must horrendous suffering.  For the faithful Christian who lives his life for the glory of God and is dedicated to sharing the Gospel with others, persecution is promised by Jesus. We can take comfort in the sweet words Jesus spoke, "In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33)