A Dwelling Place for God
Reverend Anthony R. Locke
August 08th, 2010 www.FirstPresTucker.org
at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker
Ephesians 2:11-22 Apostle’s Creed Series 15 English Standard Version
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—
12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
The Apostle’s Creed defines a Christian as someone who believes in God the Father Almighty, in Jesus Christ the Son, in the Holy Spirit and in the holy catholic Church. If we wish to claim the Christian label then we must believe in the Holy catholic Church. To not believe in this essential doctrine is to morph the Biblical faith into a new religious group undeserving the name Christian.
The word catholic is Old Elizabethan English and it means universal. We are not claiming to believe in the Holy Roman Catholic Empire, led by the Pope and headquartered inside the Vatican. We believe in one holy universal church. One catholic church.
All believers are members in this one global people of God that Jesus leads and outside of this Church there is no salvation. Gentiles, Jews, Armenians, Turks, Arabs and all others are brought near by the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. We are made equal brothers and sisters in the family of God. The Jewish laws are abolished. The Spirit has brought all humanity together in Christ.
So why do so many self proclaimed Christians never practically join the local church?
As Gentiles we have the same corporate experience as Israel when we collectively seek God in worship. God blesses His people with His presence. God moves us into action and as a group we pursue the Kingdom.
The corporate body of Christ is the light on a hill. One light can’t light up a hillside. Our identity in God’s family is through our membership in and our participation with a local faith assembly. For better or worse.
Yet many believers shun this local corporate commitment. They miss out.
By faith we are members of the universal church, but you can’t tithe to the universal church. You can’t sing in the universal choir. You can’t identify yourself in a community like Tucker as being a believer unless you join a brick and mortar church.
“Yes. But the church is such a mess!” you say. Don’t tell me the church is a mess. I am a minister. I know where the piles of dirty laundry are hidden. I know the internal failures, the mismanagement, the moral failures and the embarrassment that is the church.
If you find a perfect church, don’t join it, you’ll screw it up.
There is no perfect church, but the future glory and beauty of the church should encourage us to join the messed up inglorious church we find in our immediate community.
And this sermon isn’t just for people who need to nail down their church membership. If you are an inactive member then this sermon will apply to you. If you are a member who doesn’t give anything into the offering plate then this sermon will apply. If you a member who only talks about the bad stuff you see in the church, this sermon will have something to say, and if you are the model of a church member then this sermon will encourage you to more love and more good works for Jesus’ sake.
We are called out of this world to be members of the body of Christ. We are a building that is set on the foundation of the Apostle’s and the only Begotten Son of God who is the chief cornerstone. Jesus is apart of the family of God. Jesus is our elder brother.
The universal church is the temple of God, but we also — notice verse 22 — the local assembly is also being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
This is a dwelling place for God. The glory of God that dwelled in the Temple and Tabernacle of Israel is in the midst of us. We are members of the household of God. We are Abraham’s children, we are of Israel’s seed, we are a chosen race, a holy priesthood, and the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Let this doctrine animate your soul with joy. Let’s be encouraged to find our life within the life of Christ’s church. Let’s join with Jesus to build His church.
We need to support this place with our prayers, our money, our feet and our best energies. We need to prize the church like Jesus does. He gave His life that He might sanctify it, purifying it by the washing of water by the word. The church is the joy that was set before Him that enabled Him to endure the cross and treat the worldly scorn with distain.
The Bible gives three images of the church. Jesus is our head, Jesus is our foundation, and Jesus is the groom.
First, Jesus is our head.
Is a head still a head if it doesn’t have a body? I’ve seen some sci-fi movies where heads exist all by themselves. Decapitated heads. But if we do not give ourselves to the church then we de-corporal-ate the head. By our inactivity we shrivel the body below critical mass and the head looks like it is alone. We must be committed within the local fellowship so the head has something to lead or we make Jesus as the head look all alone and a little freaky. We show great disrespect to the head when we skip out on His body.
If we do not join our life with a local body of believers then we are not participating in the body over which Jesus is the head. Without church membership we are not participating in the full life of the church and we are disrespecting Jesus as the head of the body.
Second, Jesus is the foundation of the temple of God.
Is a foundation still a foundation if there’s no building on top of it? The church is called God’s building with Jesus Christ as its foundation. No one drives past a cement foundation in the dirt and thinks, “Looks like they’re about ready to move in.” A foundation exists to be built upon, not lived in all by itself.
Who wants to live in a basement without the rest of the house on top? No one, except . . . except for Christians who want Jesus but not the church! How many Christians do you know who want the foundation, but not the people of God growing on top of that same foundation?
Jesus is the head of a body, he is the foundation of a building, and He is the husband of a glorious bride (Eph. 5:22–33; Rev. 19:6–9).
Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her to serve her and by so doing make her beautiful. The church submits to Christ, grows in beauty before Him, and obeys His commands. The two are inseparable as husband and wife.
How many believers do you know that seem to have a spiritual gift to point out what’s wrong with the bride of Christ?
Let me warn us all. Any husband worth the paper his marriage license is printed on will be jealous to guard the good name of his wife. She may be a lying, no good, double-crossing poor excuse for a wife, but if she’s your wife, you’ll protect her honor, whatever may be left of it.
And woe to the friend who comes around your house and disrespects your wife by pointing out all her flaws. Who wants a friend who rolls his eyes every time your wife walks into the room? Apparently, some people imagine Jesus wants friends like that. They roll their eyes when people suggest that the church is a praiseworthy institution in which we should invest our life.
I know there are some crazy people in this church, but this group of people is the bride of Christ. We need to treat the church with that biblical perspective of respect. Our culture is not going to show respect to the organized church. We need to be the ones who do that. Our respect starts by being as active as the Lord enables us to be. Don’t be like the world.
In America these days it is cool to be spiritual. Church is not cool. Community is hip, but the church is lame. When people move to a new town they join civic groups before they join the church. What a sad commentary on their understanding of the importance of the church.
The world sees organized religion is seen as oppressive, irrelevant, and a waste of time. Non-church people think Jesus is great, but they think the church creates moral hypocrites, judgmental nannies, and intolerant social creeps.
I can’t tell you how tired I am of people telling me what’s wrong with the church. I am tired of books like The Shack slandering the value of the bride of Christ repeatedly in its’ pages. I am so tired of that too cool for school attitude. Since when did we become too sophisticated be apart of the body, the temple and the church that Jesus loves?
There are plenty of reasons people offer for their disillusionment with the church. Many Christians feel like the church just doesn’t work anymore. They are just sick and tired of the church’s failings and impotency. They recognize that most churches are not growing. “No one is getting baptized. Our young people aren’t sticking with the church after high school. We have simply lost our way.”
Churches lose sight of the mission. There are a host of problems in society that we are ignoring. Since the government took up welfare, the church has turned a blind eye to the community around her and is making no impact on the world. How many un-churched people in our community would be saddened if our church closed? Are we still relevant?
The church Jesus loves might be as flawed and messed up as a group as we are as individuals. But she won’t always be messed up. She won’t always be flawed. We are the apple of Jesus eye.
You can’t love God and not love His family congregated together on a Sunday morning. You can’t be spiritual and not be religious. You can’t love Jesus and hate His wife. We need to love the organization.
We all need to be thankful that someone was organized enough to plan Sundays School lessons for our little ones. We need to be thankful someone is taking care of the financial books. We need to be grateful when people work so hard to pull off the best we can. The best meals, the best Bible Studies, the best music, the best decorations and the best worship we can.
I’m so glad people work so hard around here.
But more earth shattering, Jesus loves it. He loves this. He loves you. He loves me. But He loves us even more. We are His body doing His will in this place. We are His home that is growing up into a temple where He can dwell. We are the glorious bride of Christ. We might be a mess today, but that blood is still washing and it is still cleansing and one day we will stand perfect before Him.
I bought a great little book last year called, “Stop Dating the Church.” Sometimes my commitment to the church is more like a dating relationship than a marriage. Is your commitment to the church more like a weekend dating affair? Do you keep delaying a wedding date?
We are the living organism that was birthed at Pentecost. We are given the keys to heaven and earth by the victory of Jesus over death and hell.
There is no way to God outside of the one way, who is also the one truth and one life, the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what it means when we say that there is no salvation outside the church. You cannot have God as your Father without the church as your mother. Baptism, the Lord’s Supper are not administrated by individuals but the Church. The ministry of the Church is God’s answer to the problems in this world.
We need to be putting this world on the defensive. We need to go on the offense and pull down the walls of unbelief that trap people on a path to destruction. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against the collective push of the church. We just need to push together, that’s all.
We need to create the ministries that hire people and give jobs to those in need.
I want my sons and daughter to feel the swagger of a confident church. To feel the victory of Christ in our life together. To see lives be set free and set on the highway of holiness. I want them to feel the strength of faith that lives for heaven and holds this world’s treasures without fear of the future.
By embracing each other we embrace Christ. We are a local manifestation of the universal church of our Lord.
May God give us the strength to show a skeptical world how glorious His church can be. Amen.
 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.