The Road Ahead - Pt. 1 • Gather Together

The Road Ahead  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  44:37
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Directions from 3 different people
The truth is, all three are mostly right - maybe…
It’s important to identify at least two key markers when you set out on a journey and those markers center around:
Who you are with and where you are going.
Heidi and I driving to Tennessee on our honey moon.
We didn’t really care how long it was going to take or if our car was going to make it there, we were just thrilled to be together!
I say all of that to give some context to what we will be doing over the next three weeks.
If you have been with us anytime since the beginning of the year, you know we just finished up an expositional study through the book of Colossians. This type of expository preaching is what will be the steady spiritual diet you can expect - walking through books of the Bible, so that we may learn the Bible better.
However, from time to time, we will have mini-series that may be more topical in nature. And that is the type of study we will have together today and the next two weeks.
And our time together is going to center around the two key markers I mentioned earlier: Who am I with? And, where are we going?
In the Bible, God has clearly laid out for us the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It begins in the book of Genesis with God being our Creator. He spoke and nothing became everything. This God is the eternal holy Creator of Heaven and Earth.
Eternal - Has no beginning and no ending
Holy - Separate from His Creation
Creator - He is our ultimate accountability
And as our eternal, holy Creator, he has the prerogative to set the boundaries of life - He gets to say do this and don’t do this.
If you have been exposed much to the Bible, you have heard of the failure of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and their choice to go against God’s clear directives. From that point, sin entered into the world, and death by sin, so death spread to all because all have sinned.
And this depravity of our human nature presents a problem in the scriptural narrative, because now, as God’s creation, we are not only subject to death here on earth, but as Revelation 22 states, we are subject to eternal death. We all deserve to spend eternity apart from God in Hell, because of our sin of rebellion toward Him. Not only are you a sinner by nature, but you are also a sinner by choice. Peruse the 10 commandments a bit, and you will understand what I mean.
And friend, we all stand guilty before our eternal, holy Creator - the One who gave us life. And because God is just (he is good in all He chooses), He must judge sin. God would not be good if He failed to judge our sin.
But God is also gracious, and made a way to judge our sin through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Friend, Christ came to seek and save those who are lost in their sin.
You see, God is your Creator. You have sinned against Him. But Jesus died for sinners.
This is why we as Christians have such hope! We were dead in our trespasses and sins - headed for an eternity of death, but God made us alive through faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus was born, lived a perfect, sinless life. He died as a substitute for sinners, was buried, and rose again three days later victorious over death, hell, and the grave.
And as sinners respond to this good news of Jesus in repentance and faith, God provides eternal life.
And everyone, from all places and all times, who place their trust in Christ are brought into the family of God as a part of His body - the church.
Church (ἐκκλησία -ekklēsia) - a called-out assembly of those who trust in Jesus as the Messiah.
However as you read the New Testament, you will find two different meanings for this word Church (assembly). The reality of the word is used for both the universal church and the local church.
First, let’s consider the universal church.
Every believer in Jesus, upon faith in Christ, is placed into the Universal Church - this is the body of believers from across all places and across all time.
Matthew 16:18 ESV
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Colossians 1:18 ESV
18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
Ephesians 5:32 ESV
32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
1 Corinthians 15:9 ESV
9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
And so, the Bible gives us two kinds of assemblies: One in Heaven and one locally. And both are extremely important as we consider the journey of our faith and our two key markers of our journey - who I am with, and where I am going.
Most people agree, those who have repented from their sin and have placed their faith in Jesus have faith siblings all across the globe that spans back millennia. However, you can’t see this church. The universal body of Christ is invisible.
So lets lay some groundwork for the Local church. Why is the local church so important for believers today?
Groundwork for the Local Church
I would argue that the local church is the visible expression of the universal church. Not only do we see the Global or Universal Church in Scripture, but we also see the local church as the crucial framework for tangible spiritual growth.
This universal placement is visibly embraced through local church partnership. Now, you won’t find formal membership explicitly commanded in Scripture, but the implications are definitely present. In fact, covenantal partnership answers the two factors we are considering today - who am I with and where am I going.
Let me be clear, attending church services is a good thing. Perhaps you have attended Emmanuel for a long time or you have been coming more recently and you have yet to partner with us officially. Friend, this is not an ultimatum of join us or get out!
But as we understand the Road Ahead for Emmanuel, we need to begin with a collective understanding of the Local Church.
As we consider the purpose of the local church and our membership/partnership, it’s only natural to ask, “Why would I partner with a local church in membership to begin with?”
Our answer centers on three main reasons: identification, edification, shepherding.
By identifying with, being edified through, and being shepherded by a local assembly, we signify, grow, and mature in our Christian walk.
Now, we read earlier from Hebrews 10, and perhaps your Bible is opened to that passage - you can keep it there, and we will look at it together more closely here in a few moments.
But I would like to give three statements for you to consider as we lay the groundwork for the Local Church:

1. Every believer needs to identify with a local church.

• The earliest believers were quickly added to a roll with other believers, following their profession of faith and baptism.
Acts 2:41 ESV
41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
• Early believers lived out their faith in intentional community.
Acts 2:46–47 ESV
46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
• Local assemblies had the responsibility to exclude specific people from their faith communities for heresy and unrepentant sin.
Matthew 18:17 ESV
17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
1 Corinthians 5:9–12 ESV
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
As you consider these verses, there is clearly an inside and outside of the local church. Believers were brought in after their conversion and public profession of faith. They lived their faith out then in intentional community, and were held accountable for continuing in the faith. For these reasons, and more, every believer needs to identify with a local church.

2. Every believer needs to be edified by a local church.

• Believers gathered together on a regular basis to rejoice in their common hope and to encourage each other to continue in love and good deeds.
We are going to look at this more in depth in a moment, but again:
Hebrews 10:23–25 ESV
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
• Regularly assembling with a particular group of believers helps us remain faithful and refrain from hardened hearts to our own sin.
Hebrews 3:12–14 ESV
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
• The goal of church membership is that every single member would contribute to the growth, maturity, and unity of the whole church.
Ephesians 4:15–16 ESV
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
1 Corinthians 12:25–26 ESV
25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
God’s design is for believers to not live in isolation, but in community with other believers. And as we commit to a particular group of people, we get to know each other well enough to speak into one another’s life. And as we do this week after week, month after month, the church thrives as the body ministers to the body.
ILL: Coal or chunk of wood in a fire
Because of this and more, every believer needs to identify with and be edified by a local church.

3. Every believer needs to be shepherded by local pastor(s).

• God’s design is for Pastors to oversee the growth, maturity, and unity of a local church.
Ephesians 4:11–14 ESV
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
• Believers are instructed to place themselves under the leadership of the church Elders (Pastors). Pastors will be held accountable for how they care for those they watch over.
Hebrews 13:17 ESV
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
• Church leaders were responsible for a specific group of people.
1 Peter 5:2–3 ESV
2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
The oversight of a plurality of elders in the local church is God’s design for leadership in a local church. God’s design is to care for His flock through under-shepherds. For this reason and more, every believer needs to be shepherded by local pastors.
And I would go as far to say that the impact of the local church in your life is directly correlated to the commitment you make to the local church.
If you approach the church as optional or nominal, the impact in your life will be nominal.
If you recognize the importance and invest into your local body, you will be impacted by that commitment.
Now, let me remind you that the church is full of a bunch of sinners just like you, and just like me. People are going to say and do things that upset you. They are going to walk in the flesh and show their imperfections. And the hardship that comes with all of that is at the heart of why our commitment first is to Jesus, then to His bride. You can’t have one without the other, but just like any family dynamic, there is joy mingled with hardship, love mingled with longsuffering, and giving mingled with receiving.
Church membership, according to Jonathan Leeman, consists of four elements:
1. Church membership is a covenant.That is, it’s a solemn agreement between a Christian and a local church. In this covenant:
2. The church affirms the Christians profession of faith in Christ. That is, by extending church membership to the individual, the church is saying, “As far as we can tell, your profession as a Christian is true.”
3. The church promises to oversee the Christians discipleship. This comes through teaching, preaching, the elder’s oversight, and the mutual building up which all members of the church are to engage in.
4. The Christian promises to regularly assemble with and submit to the church. By committing to a church through membership, and individual Christian promises to regularly gather with this church and to submit to its authority and teaching.
As a follower of Jesus, I need a local assembly. But what I do once I find one?
Guiding Principles for Gathering
Look back with me if you would to Hebrews 10:23-25
Hebrews 10:23–25 ESV
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
In Hebrews, you will find the overarching argument that Christ is Better. In chapter 10, His sacrifice is sufficient for sinners to be made right with God.
And because of Christ’s sufficient sacrifice on behalf of sinners, the author contends that we believers should respond in two ways:
1. Continue in Faithfulness (v. 23)
2. Commit to One Another (vv. 24-25)
How do I need to apply these truths?
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