We Believe: The Church is Christ's

The Church: Faith and Family  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:34
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Issue of Identity

Did you know that we’re soon set to reach a world population of 8 billion people? When I checked the world population clock this morning, we were at 7 billion, 970 million, 555 thousand, and counting. That’s getting pretty close to 8 billion! Imagine if you had that amount of money in your bank account! It’s easy to understand why, in a sea of 8 billion faces, that people ask the question “what differentiates me from other people?”. From a purely scientific standpoint, people are just numbers, moving parts in a system. But we know that science or scientific surveys don’t fully capture the whole picture. We have almost 8 billion people on this planet who are made uniquely according to God’s design, in the image of God. But we also have almost 8 billion people who were born into inherited sin under the fall of Adam and who have initially rejected God on their own, spurning the purpose for which they were made, which is to image God here on this earth. And so, with our primary function removed, it’s little wonder that we often feel lost here on our planet. We look for things that tell us what our purpose is, and how we fit into the bigger picture. And with this idea in mind, we begin to construct what is commonly known as an identity.
An identity is a perceived notion of the self that informs and directs the actions you take in life.
And we’re all trying to form an identity, and to answer a very simple question, quite clearly communicated in the words of the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, “Who ... are ... you???”
Identity will give you direction. It will inform every decision in life that you make. The perception of the self will give direction to your actions, your attitudes, your thoughts, your behaviors.
So let me ask you, how would you describe yourself? Setting all church answers aside, Who are you? Maybe you’d begin with your physical composition, male, female, blonde hair, dark hair, light skin, dark skin, and then describe your role in society: teacher, logger, construction worker, so on and so forth, and then maybe you’d branch out to national and regional identity, perhaps your lineage. For the newer generation, it’s their horoscope, what stars they were born under, or perhaps a category in a personality test. And it’s easy to describe all of these things that inform who we are, what our identity is. But at the end of the day, without God, we’re left guessing at our identity. We make up roles for ourselves based on how we interact with the world around us. And every human being is looking to describe their place relative to everyone else. It’s because we were made to be in community and to participate in community.
How we perceive ourselves is integral to how we live life. It’s also why people get so offended when you call them out for their sin. To them, it’s something personal. It’s because they’ve allowed that sin to define them, to become their identity.
So thinking about identity, thinking about who we are and what informs the decisions we make, there is a very special identity of a group of people before God’s eyes. In the hubbub of asking the question “Who are we?” God gives a response: You are mine.
Who are we?
God’s Response: You are Mine
God creates what we have known as the church out of the rest of the world. And he gives them a specific identity. Let me read a portion of scripture for you that helps show the new identity that God gives to those who believe in him:
1 Peter 2:9–10 ESV
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
There are people in the world who are specifically for God’s own possession! Notice, that with this identity also comes a purpose and a mission: “That you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light.” Those who have been saved by God are saved in order that they may worship and give honor to him. And their identity is formulated around mercy, mercy from God.
And when thinking about the identity of the church, having reflected upon this passage and many others, Marcus and I pieced together a statement of faith that summarizes a Biblical definition for the church.
Our Statement:
We believe the church is made of those redeemed by God who are called to live according to his purpose.
They are the body and bride of Christ, his people, united in the Spirit, led by Jesus, and welcomed into the Father’s presence.
As members of his body, they are filled and commissioned by God as ambassadors of Christ to the world.
As his bride, they worship Him in spirit and truth in response to His love.
There’s a lot included here, but for the sake of the sermon I have shortened the statement down further into three key principles of identity for the church:
Those three points of identity are:
Sinners Saved
Beloved Bride
Sent Servants
Let’s pray, and then dig into the truths of scripture that God has for us. (pray)

Sinners Saved

In order to understand our present, we must first understand our past.
Ephesians 2:1–3 ESV
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
we were dead in our sin
We weren’t waiting around in anticipation until a drop of grace might fall upon us. No, we were running headlong toward eternal destruction and we were happy to do so. We were content to trespass on holy ground and to defile the land which God has made. We were content to follow after our own passions to the point where when Christ came, we put him to death on the cross because we did not want the voice of God telling us what to do. This was our past. It’s the present for many people. And perhaps you can relate with those people to one degree or another. But there’s a greater hope for humanity. The church bears witness to that.
But God made us alive
Ephesians 2:4–6 ESV
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has atoned for the forgiveness of sins and has granted new life to humans. There are now a group of humans on the planet who deny their own passions. There are now a group of humans on this planet who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, as designed by God. There are now a group of humans who believe that every human life is worth something because of the inherent value that God has placed on it. Without God, we would not have seen any of these things. We would be dead in our sins and trespasses, leading unholy lives which leads to the hurt and harm of those around us.
So what does being a saved sinner mean for us? Well, it means that We are not perfect people. We do not have a holier than thou attitude to the rest of the world. We were a part of that world, following after the same things. But we are a people whose lives have been changed because of divine intervention. And there’s nothing that we ourselves did to merit this salvation … it was an act of God’s grace. We didn’t earn it. So knowing that you are a sinner saved by grace should give you great humility: toward the way you approach God and the way you approach others.
But also a Saved life is to be a transformed and holy life:
1 Peter 1:15 ESV
but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
1 Peter 1:16 ESV
since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Holy means not going back to those passions of the flesh. Remember the list we read from Ephesians 2, following headlong after the things of this world? Being holy means Not going back to Egypt, as God warned the Israelites. Not returning to those patterns of sin that you were so familiar with before you knew Christ. Not returning to drugs or to extramarital sex or to anything else that the world promises will provide happiness. Not returning to influential figures who will speak an identity into your life. No, being holy means you go to God to determine who you are. You have been purchased by God at the cost of his Son. Therefore, who you are and what your identity is is not defined by you, but by God. And God tells us this: he says that you are not your own:
1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
1 Corinthians 6:20 ESV
for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Being a saved sinner means understanding that you have been redeemed, purchased as you will, by God. He has the receipt for your salvation and can show proof of purchase. Our actions, our thoughts, our minds, belong to God. It’s for him to use. And we are just vessels of mercy that the Lord has made purse for honorable use within his house.
Now, there is grace for when we do sin. But the idea is to maintain holiness.
1 John 2:1 ESV
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
Just a quick note: if we do sin, the way back is reminding ourselves of who Jesus is, and who we are, and how we find forgiveness through him. The way back from sin is always the gospel message, the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s finding our identity in him and trusting in him as our Lord.
So who are we? What is the church?
We believe the church is made of those redeemed by God who are called to live according to his purpose.
They are Sinners Saved by grace who are called to live holy lives, worthy of being purchased by God.
That covers our first point. Secondly
Who is the church? The Church is the beloved bride.

Beloved Bride

God operates with love. He calls a people out of the darkness so that he may expressly show his love in his grace toward them. As vessels doomed for destruction, they were plucked out of the fire so that they can see how narrowly they evaded their doom. And they are being gathered together, to be one people, one assembly, for God. To be a people for his own possession, that he may dwell with them and they with him. That he may share his love, his riches, his goodness, his blessing.
A beautiful picture that describes the relationship of the church to Christ is the picture of a bride to her husband.

A. Holy Bride

Ephesians 5:25–27 ESV
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
The beauty of the church, in God’s mind, is her holiness. A people made perfect by the washing away of sin. When she lives out life here on this earth and refrains from evil even though she is in the midst of it, God’s eyes are toward her. When she carries out actions of true love here in this world, actions that are not driven by selfishness, God sees that and God loves that.
And right now, it’s like an engagement period. Both sides love each other, but are not yet fully united. Christ gave himself up for the bride already. He has already committed his vow. And you when you placed your faith and hope in Jesus Christ as Lord of your life have committed to him with your vow.
And this life will be a testing of your faithfulness to that vow. But my encouragement to you is this: Hold firm to the love with which you first professed faith in Christ. There will be an end to the time of trial and testing soon, and if you hold on your vow will be seen as honored before the Lord.
We also know that one day in heaven Christ will be united with his bride, and that the oath that God’s people took dedicating their lives to him will be fulfilled:
Revelation 19:6–9 ESV
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
It will be a joyous occasion when all the people of God are finally brought to him, having been made pure and having prepared herself for this day.
Part of being presented before the Lord as the one people, redeemed from every tribe tongue and nation, means that we must learn to set aside enough of our individual selves to see that we are a unified people before the Lord. There is ONE bride.

B. Unity in the Body

Ephesians 4:4 ESV
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—
Jesus loves one lady, the church. And she must be one in order to be recognized by God.
Jesus himself prayed for the unity of the church right before his betrayal and arrest:
John 17:20–23 ESV
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
The church must be one. We must be one. There are a lot of things that I could pick up and say that would cause dissension within the church. I’m sure there are a lot of things that you could say as well. We could be a mean and angry people. But God has commanded us to bear with one another in love. Why? For the sake of unity. For the sake of being presented perfect and complete before Christ at the day of our unification to him.
And what is the one thing that should unite the entire church? Their love for Christ.
Part of being the Bride of Christ means that you love the husband.

C. Love for Christ

1 Peter 1:8 ESV
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
John 17:26 ESV
I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Heaven is for those who love Christ. It will be the place where he dwells and rules. God will pour out his love toward us and we will pour out our love toward him in perfect relationship.
That next chapter of the marriage of God to his people hasn’t been fully revealed, but it is good enough to know now what is expected of us before we arrive there.
Our church statement reads
They are the body and bride of Christ, his people, united in the Spirit, led by Jesus, and welcomed into the Father’s presence.
So who are we? We are sinners saved, we are the beloved bride, the one who is loved by God and who lives for God .... and we are sent servants.

Sent Servants

This should be no news to you. You should be well familiar with God’s sending of his people into the world.
1 Peter 2:9 ESV
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Matthew 28:18–20 ESV
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.”
Acts 1:8 ESV
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
As members of his body, they are filled and commissioned by God as ambassadors of Christ to the world.
We have a mission here on this earth. Part of understanding your identity helps you to know what to do with your time. Make disciples. Last week we were left with the task of sharing the gospel with at least one of our neighbors. How did you do? Did you take the charge and commission of your pastor seriously, as he seeks to convey the commands of God to you? Are you being obedient to the Lord who is your head, who is in charge?
When you are obedient to Christ, you are a welcome sight before his eyes.
John 17:9–10 ESV
I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.
Is Christ glorified in you today? Have you devoted yourself to Christ as his bride? Do you trust that he will supply all your needs as you are sent out into the world to live as servants of the most high?
When we are in Christ, when we are dwelling in him and reminding ourselves of his love, we’re also reminded of who he has called us to be, we can find hope and strength in this present age.
So what is the church?
We believe the church is made of those redeemed by God who are called to live according to his purpose.
They are the body and bride of Christ, his people, united in the Spirit, led by Jesus, and welcomed into the Father’s presence.
As members of his body, they are filled and commissioned by God as ambassadors of Christ to the world.
As his bride, they worship Him in spirit and truth in response to His love.
The church is comprised of those who are saved sinners; the church is the beloved bride of Christ; and the church is sent as servants of God into the world.
What is the church?
Sinners Saved
Beloved Bride
Sent Servants
Having a knowledge of who we are and what our identity is transforms the way we live, here and now. Let us be reminded of the people who God has called us to be: holy and set apart, lovers of God and active ambassadors for Christ’s kingdom. Let’s pray.
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