What would you say is the purpose of the church?
Has that purpose changed over the years?
Is this still how we see church today?
At least as early as Moses we know that people felt a need to build a special place to meet with God. As a matter of fact, God told them to make a ‘dwelling’ for Him.
In Exodus 25 He gives them instructions how to construct a ‘sanctuary’ for Him…
In Exodus 25:8 God said to Moses, “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”
This statement was part of a longer conversation God had with Moses telling him what He wanted in His sanctuary. As a matter of fact this conversation goes on through several more chapters.
Look with me at Exodus 31:18 When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God. NIV
These instructions were given to Moses when he went up to meet with God and receive the Ten Commandments.
Look at verse 1 of chapter 32
Exodus 32:1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” NIV
Instead of the Tabernacle as it was described, God met with Moses in a small tent pitched on the outskirts of town.
Exodus 33:7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. 8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses. NIV
God intended a place for everyone to meet with Him, but they weren’t ready.
***Do you think God is pleased with our worship today?
TABERNACLE/TENT: The Tent of Meeting did later became the “Tabernacle”, a place where all the people would gather to meet with God and worship Him.
It was still a ‘Tent of Meeting’ as it traveled with the nomadic people wherever they went, but now it was a place for all the people to gather together.
*They wanted a place to come together and meet with God. Sure, they could pray and meet with God alone, but there was something special about all of them being able to meet together with the Creator of the universe.
Time in the Tabernacle was serious. It wasn’t just a place to go and hang out and catch up on what was going on in camp.
SYNAGOGUE: In the cities, they built a Synagogue. It was a more permanent structure, not just a tent they set up and took down.
Even Jesus used to teach in the synagogues.
Luke 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.
TEMPLE: Of course they would later build the Temple.
What do you think worship in the Temple must have been like?
This was no average structure. It was built with only the finest and most expensive materials. It was full of gold, jewels, and rare woods.
It was meant to be like no other building.
It was meant to be a place of reverence and worship. As you know, certain areas were seen as so sacred that only certain people could enter.
The original Temple even contained Moses’ Ten Commandments and the Ark of the Covenant.
It was very ornate. It was known to be Holy. It was not to be entered into flippantly. (Story of rope around priest)
***Do we view our ‘worship center’ that way?
*RITUAL BATHING: As we visited the Synagogues in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas last year, each of them had a small pool outside. These were for ritual bathing. Everyone was expected to be washed clean before they could enter.
I’m afraid this view is far from where we are today.
How many of our people take time to ‘cleanse’ themselves before they enter our buildings? How could our time at church be different if we took time for a ‘cleansing bath’ before we entered a church service. The early church put much more emphasis on holiness than we do.
Of course if God is omnipresent, and He is, He is everywhere. We can meet with Him in any place, but it pleases Him for us to set aside a place to come together for worship, praise, instruction, encouragement.
***I know things can become simply ‘ritual’ but do we ready ourselves properly for worship?
ORNATE BUILDINGS: I know the same God meets with us in a barn, a house, or a cathedral, but I wonder why His instructions for the Tabernacle/Temple were so elaborate? I think it pleases Him when we set aside a place specifically for meeting with Him that requires sacrifice.
***Do our buildings say “God dwells here”?
ATTENDANCE: I think we would have to say that God wants us to go to church. We read verses such as…
- Psalm 122:1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the LORD.”
- Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
- Jesus attended church, we read this verse earlier about ‘His custom’…
- Luke 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.
***Is attendance for most of us as God would prefer?
We know the New Testament church started at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples. Look with me at the end of Chapter 2 and see what the church was doing at that time.
Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. NIV
- They devoted themselves to teaching. This is a theme throughout the Bible…
- Study to show yourselves approved unto God.
- Be transformed by the renewing of your minds.
- Teach them to observe all things I have taught you
- Teach the older women/men to be good examples for the younger…(Titus 2)
- Fellowship was important
- The remembered Jesus in communion
- Jesus told them to baptize before He left. (They baptized 3000 just a few verses earlier.)
- Prayer… Matthew 21:13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'” NIV
- I am afraid most of our church leadership let you down in this respect…43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. How often do you see miraculous things taking place through church staff? We teach miraculous, Spirit filled lives, but do we exhibit them?
- They took care of each other.
- They met together in the Temple courts…they had a special place to meet.
- The Lord Added To Their Number…This is something else we must learn. We focus on numbers. They focused on doing what God was telling them to do and HE added to their number.
- Jesus wasn’t worried about numbers. Remember the day He taught about “Eat My flesh and drink My blood…” and many started leaving. He didn’t retract His statement and say, “Okay, that’s a little too hard. Let’s rethink this.” He let them go.
***I would love to see us concentrate on presenting Jesus
GATES OF HELL: There’s one more statement about the church I want us to look at tonight. If you read your Titus Newsletter this month you know what I’m talking about. This statement took place in Matthew 16. Jesus decided it was time to DEFINE THE RELATIONSHIP.
Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades (Hell in King James) will not overcome it.
This goes to all of us in the church.
- Do we simply know what others say about Jesus
- Or do we know Him ourselves.
- Who do YOU say I am?
It’s good to come to church and learn about Jesus, that’s one of our purposes, but that’s not enough.
John 5:39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. NIV
The church is so much more than a classroom.
It doesn’t just change what we know, it changes who we are.
Verse 18 is a very important verse;
18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
KJV says, The Gates of Hell will not prevail…
I used to read this and think, ‘This is what Paul was talking about when he said to put on the full armor of God. We’ve got to be ready for his attacks. After all,
1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith…
Sure, we need to put on the full armor of God to resist his attacks but Matthew 16:18 goes deeper than that.
It says the GATES of HELL will not prevail.
Satan attacks but GATES don’t attack. Gates are built for protection. They are there to keep the enemy out.
So who is the enemy of Hell? WE ARE!!! The church is.
If the gates won’t prevail, that means the church is on the attack.
Revelation 19 tells us how it all ends
Revelation 19:11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.”
19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But thebeast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
This speaks of riding into battle on horses, waging war against Satan. This is in the ‘end times’ but the church isn’t supposed to sit back and wait to get involved in the fight.
Our battle is against spiritual forces.
The church is not to wait for Satan’s attacks to fight him off. We are to do the attacking ourselves.
Why do we think that once we ‘get saved’ that everything will be roses from there on out.
Satan doesn’t leave. He’s still fighting tooth and nail. It’s up to us to stop his schemes.
Where did we get the idea of getting saved and playing harp on a cloud?
Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war.
Jesus Himself said,
Matthew 10:34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. NIV
When describing the elements of armor, Paul says the Sword is the Word of God…sharper than a two edged sword.
We don’t get saved to enjoy the good life. Jesus saves us and expects us to get involved in the battle.
The church is our training ground.
- A place to meet with God.
- A place to study scripture.
- A place to come to know Jesus.
- A place to be equipped for battle.
- A place to learn how to destroy the Gates of Hell
- Be diligent in prayer. Call on God in every situation.
- Don’t do anything without asking for His presence.
- Don’t wait on Satan to attack.
- Call on God before Satan has time.
We watch Satan take a jab at the church. What do we do? “Oh, my. How terrible.”
That’s not good enough.
Take on the full armor of God and stand strong.
Better yet, attack for the cause of Christ. Take him down right away.
- Stay ahead of Satan
- Look for Jesus in everything at all times
- Don’t just play defense
- Be the aggressor
- Big Hig and I used to play football before school with a group of guys. We got angry with each other one day. This was about to come to a fight. Hig was twice my size. If he got ahold of me it was over. I assessed the situation and punched him right in the nose.
His nose was bleeding and his eyes were watering so bad he couldn’t see. That was the end of the fight. I took the first punch and it was over.
This is not necessarily hand to hand combat. We don’t have to be physically strong to be effective in the battle.
- Study the scriptures, sharpen your sword. Put it to work.
- Pray hard. This is the key to spiritual warfare. (My Father’s house is a house of prayer for all people.)
- Don’t cower down when God is telling you to get into the battle.
- When we come to church, we have the honor and privilege to meet with the General one/one.
- Take advantage of that.
- Be ready to meet with Him.
- Focus more on Him than those around you.
- Trust Him to lead you into battle.
Are you involved in the battle against Satan or are you a spectator?
How does God want to involve you in the battle?
Know this, He didn’t save you to sit back and do nothing.
Matthew 10:34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. NIV
Our earth is a dark place. Without us attacking the situation it will continue to get darker.
Be an agent of Light. Get in the Battle. Attack the Gates of Hell.
Ask God how He wants to use you.