Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 11 months ago

How Jesus Sees The Church

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Ephesians 5:25-30

Here is the word of the Lord, husband's 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. And the same way, husband should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. Joined me. As we pray, our father, we thank you that this is your very word to us. We pray that the Holy Spirit would do the work for which you have sent him, to show US Christ, to open her eyes, to see his beauty and his great mercy to us, and to grow in confidence because of who he is and all that he has done for us. And we pray this in Jesus name. Amen. So, a couple of years ago I I had the opportunity to spend some time in Brazil, especially in the city of some Polo. I travel frequently to teach pastors in Brazil and in Serbia, mostly Serbian. No. But the was a fascinating two weeks because I got to visit a number of different churches. One of them met and an air conditioned hotel ballroom with sophisticated PA systems and slides on the screen and a full band. It was a wealthy church, well clothed, well appointed, well educated. Another church met in a cement floored, prefab building that look more like a gymnasium that had open Air Cooling and heating. It was a middle class...

...church and one of the subsidies of some Polo. One that in a church sanctuary, looking very much like an American church sanctuary, with peers and a pulpit and a choir. And the last one we drove into on dirt roads, into the midst of one of the slums, the favelas. It was in a building for which the drug lords had given permission to meet and to build. It was sandwich between plywood enclosures in which people live and raise their families in the middle of the slum and as we met in that narrow room there were armed drug lords marching through the street or walking the streets to patrol things and keep things in order. And as we left we could see their guns on their hips just to make sure we behaved, and everybody else who went and left behaved as well. Now they were all churches. Their circumstances were very different from each other, but they were all churches. And tonight I want to talk about not what we see when we look at the church, but what Christies when he sees the church. Guess he he sees our different locations, are different circumstances, but he sees in all four of these circumstances. And then this gathered congregation and at Rincon and in the church I visited in South Tucson today, he sees his people raised from death to life. He sees his people in whom he has placed his spirit and made them one in him. He sees his covenant family that he has known and loved and sent his son to die for. And those externals are not significant to...

...him, though they tend to be with us. And tonight I just want to ask the question what does Jesus see when he sees the Church and the practical side? How does that affect what we see when we see the church? What? How does it affect our attitudes and our actions toward the church. Now, the passage I've read to you is most often read in the context of marriage, but really it's an extended discussion of Christ love for the Church. It's in the middle of his exhortation to husband's but it's really about the church and even says that at the end of the passage. I'm not talking about marriage, I'm talking about the church. A couple of years ago, and application this, I began to have couples who would come to me and want me to do their wedding and I would began to say to them, you know, I'm glad to do that wedding, I just want you to know your wedding is not about you. It's about Christ and the church and you're just another case in point of the love of Jesus for his people. That's what Paul is saying here. It's about Christ and the Church and Paul Describes here how Christ he is the church and his love for the church, and I find it's we will move to the point of application. This is very challenging to me because it's easy to see the problems in the church. It's easy to see the faults and flaws of the Church and it's elders and it's pastors. It's easy to see the divisions of the Church and the foolish things the church has done. It's easy to see those. But I think the way Jesus sees the church sets the pace for how we're to see the church. So we'll we won't spend a huge amount of time in the passage, but just enough to draw out a few things and then talk about...

...how it applies to us. First thing we would see about the church as what Christ sees, is the people he owns. They're the bride that is his. He loved the Church and gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her. Now, couple things to note here. Is Christ loved his people before they were his people, which is really kind of remarkable, because because he is God the Sun, he chose her to be his own. From Kevin he came and sought her to be his holy bride, and that was when she was dirty and defile. Ezekiel tells a story of the God of Israel going by and seeing a baby that was discarded on the side of the road dyeing, and Ezekiel Sixteen and defiled and takes the child and raises it. And that was what God has done with us. We were a dirty, defiled people and he said his love upon us in Christ when she didn't even know who he was. Secondly, he loved his church and showed that love by his self giving sacrifice, which we fully understand. And third he did so so he would and her sanctify her. That is that is both progressive and the idea of sanctification here set apart for him. He owns her, she is his. He owns her fully incompletely, which is why when we do wedding those we say, forsaking all others, I will keep myself only for you as long as we both shall live. Jesus says that to us. You are mine and only mine as long as I live. So he owns the church completely, and not just us as individuals, but the congregation with all its faults and flaws. You you cannot be a Christian without being part of the congregation. I run into a lot of people these...

...days who say things like I don't need the church, I don't need the institutional church. Is what they mean. I listen to sermons on the Internet, I play good music on my handheld device into my ear buds and I hang out with my friends at the coffee shop. Isn't that what church is all about? Well, no, it isn't. And most of all, the church is not something I created my pleasure. It's something God creates by the Gospel. But when Jesus looks on the church, you see something that he owns, that is his, that he's purchased by his blood. And when he looks on Covenant Presbyterian, He sees a group of people and he says to them you are mine, I own you. He looks on us and he says, I have purchased you, you belong to me. And, most amazingly, he is not ashamed to call us his people. So he owns US completely and and in owning us, he places his name on us. Secondly, he's purifying the church. Now she is clearly a blemished bride, that but she is becoming unblemished. Christ love the church, says Paul, and gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of the word. And a little later, no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. I love that phrase. Nourishes and cherishes it's it's this picture he has here's is a bit unusual. She is his fully cleansed. She he owns her fully, but she is not just clean, she is being cleansed. She is righteous and being purified. She is a...

...finished product and in the midst of being finished as a product. Luther put it this way, she is both righteous and center at the same time, and that that kind of gets to the core of the tension that we feel sometimes with God. It's it's wonderful that God says you were fully accepted and righteous in my eyes through my son, but something we don't feel so accepted because we look at our lives and say so. God says I'm Righteous, but this done looks all righteous. So the church is the same. She is fully righteous and yet God is sanctifying her, he is cleansing her because she is both righteous and sinner at the same time. She is holy in being made holy and he sees all her blemishes. I find that helpful. Will come more to that at the end, because I'm a proof reader. You know, proof readers are proof readers are somebody when the student hands the paper to them and it's still upside down to the proof reader's eyes, they look across the first page and say there's a Typo on that line. That's prefer they're looking for the TYPO, the bad grammar. They're not looking for the fact that they're two hundred and forty nine correctly spell words on that page. Doesn't matter. There's one word that's wrong. That's that's how that's how I tend to be. I look for the blemishes in the church. I'm I'm well aware the blemishes. I read blogs about the blemishes. Everybody's writing about the blemishes of the Church. The Lord knows all about the blemishes and he gave himself for a blemish bride and he is in the midst of purifying her and he is nourishing and cherishing her. I that's that's it, beautiful language. Jesus is not a drill sergeant. Jesus is not the Master Sergeant...

...you get in basic training whose primary goal is to break you. It's not barking orders demanding response. He is nourishing and cherishing. There is not in Jesus an accusing tone. My Wife says there times when I have an accusing tone, even when I say things nicely. There is no accusing tone in Jesus, there is no angry tone in Jesus. He has never exasperated, he's never trigger happy. He is loving and nourishing his bride to make her holy in the washing of water with the word and the and that word, which is cleansing her, is the word of the Gospel. Paul says, as you have received Christ the Lord, so walk in Him. What I need is more of Christ and who he is and what he's done, because that is what causes me to grow. I am rooted and grounded and established in him. Now we need the law that it is not the law that cleanses us. It is Christ, by the spirit, that cleanses his people. And as we hear of Christ, he changes us, he transforms us. So, yes, Jesus is fully aware of the blemishes the book of revelation. I hear all the things I commend you for each of the churches that I have this against you. He sees those, but he already knew them. They're already factored into his sacrifice on the cross. They're already factored into the fact that he is sanctifying and nourishing and cherishing his people. So we are a work in progress, a construction site, a place of purifying and mature he owns us, he is purifying us now, total makeover,...

...and he will complete that work. We've just sung that there's a purpose in his work. He will present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. He will do it someday, the last day. She will be in splendor, that that's glorious, radiant, honored, not despised. There will be no spot or wrinkle, all imperfections removed. She will be wholly and without blemish. No flaws will be found in her, and that is not something that may happen. That is certain. His death and resurrection have shook secured that outcome for us, his people, and I just find that wonderfully hopeful. God, God begins with a congregation of people made up of individuals he has chosen before the foundation of the world, for whom he has given his son, who, by his incarnation, bearing their sin upon the Cross, resurrection and Exaltation, has purchased them and by the spirity calls and forms them into his people, makes them righteous in his eyes, and now is in the midst of scrubbing her clean and ironing out all the wrinkles and removing all the blemishes. And his purpose is for our glory. Some day we will be presented with splendor. Jesus said, we will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of his father. I just stop think about that a second. We will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of his father. That that sounds pretty impressive. That is that is the glory that God intends to...

...share with us. Jesus said, the glory you have given me, I have given to them. We will be in union with the eternal son, as adopted sons forever. That that is his purpose. We will be his everlasting bride. A couple of years ago I was I was thinking about this, this this great glory that awaits us, and I I thought of a wedding. I recently attended a wedding here in town, Friends of thirty some years who's youngest daughter God gave her a wonderful husband. She waited patiently for years and we were all at the the wedding reception afterwards, and you know, there's a there's a head table with the bride and the groom and the bride's parents and the groom's parents in some cases, and then they're all the guests. And Somehow in the back of my mind I always thought at the wedding supper at the lamb we were the guests at the tables. No, we're at the head table, there are no guests, we are the bride at the head table. That that is the place he will give us some day. So revelation says. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. That is the end we will have and it is certain which, as I as I look at my life, gives me great hope that God is not finished. He will complete the work he has done, and it means as I look at your lives, I can say someday I will see them and they will be more themselves in absolute purity and they have ever been. He sees that we, he owns us, he sees he is...

...purifying us and everything is going exactly as he has purposed, and he sees the glory that will be ours. So that's how he sees us. How do we see the church? How do we see each other? Well, as soon as I ask that question people say, Oh, he's talking here about the invisible universal church, not local congregations. Well, that's a nice dodge, except that doesn't play out in the New Testament. If you follow the teaching of the New Testament, you find that every local congregation is the people of God. It is the body of Christ, the bride of Christ. You are, as a congregation, everything that the church is in its entirety. Here you are a full expression of the invisible church. Here in Arizona we have we have these places where rocks kind of erupt out of the ground, especially as you get up in the mountains. Well, all those rock formations that are below the ground are, like the church, invisible, spanning from eight age to age, and these little rocky eruptions are local congregations. That's you and me. We Are you are the church. Paul says that even to the Corinthians. So think Highli of how God sees you. We're just a small group of people. Know, you're the church. You are the body of Christ here. That's what Jesus sees. Well, how does that affect attitudes and actions? And this is where I find thinking these ways as helpful to me, because I tend to look at the church through...

...these eyes, not through the eyes of Christ. I walk by sight, not by faith, and that's really the choice that when I look on the congregation, when I look on God's people, the Church of which I help pastor do I see those people as Christes them, or do I see them as I see them? And I tend to see them as very positive if they're growing and not causing too many problems, and I tend to see them as very negative if there are constant source of headaches. Well, that's very me oriented. You notice that that's not how Jesus sees them. I need to take my cue from Christ and how he sees the church. His love for the church shapes my attitudes and expectations. Now I don't know if it's true here. I I doubt in this congregation that this would be initial bit. You never know. Sometimes we become disillusioned with the church. Sometimes will become very disillusioned with the church, very disappointed with God's people. And here's how I picture it. When we're disillusioned, are critical of the Lord's bride. I pictured as a wedding ceremony and the groomsmen come with the groom and they stand in the fraud and the bride'smaids begin to come and the maid of honor comes and finally the bride appears and she walks down the island. She stands there next to the groom with her father on her father's arm. And and here's what I picture. The best man's watching this whole thing and and this would be he pictures the person who's critical of the Church and he watches this whole thing and he turns to the groom and says, I don't know what you see in her. How do you think that groom would respond to that? And yet when we look on a local congregation or even the wider...

...church and we say how ugly she is, how unattractive she is, how full of fault she is, we're insulting the groom and the groom is Jesus and it doesn't really matter what I think, it matters what he thinks. Christ sees the Church as he does and that's supposed to condition how I see a couple of years ago going through some very, very disillusioning experiences with a congregation wrestling with the question of when Randi and I just go sit in the back row of a mega church and disappears. Very appealing about this time and a friend of mine said, does Jesus still have his name on the Church? Well, yeah, well it is. He still own the churches as people? Yeah, is he still commit at it, to the Church and working in it with all their faults and flaws? Well, yeah, well then you can't abandon her because you take your cues from Jesus, not from how hurt you've been. So that's what I'm that's what I think the passage says. I need to see and love and cherish the church as Jesus sees and loves and cherishes the church. Alongside of this is realizing that when Jesus looks on the world, his eye is on his bride. So the church is not something that gets the dregs of my energy in my heart and my soul after I got done with all the important stuff. Eugene Peterson is paraphrase of Ephesians. The end of Ephesians one has as these wonderful words. After...

...he talks about the exultation of Christ. Over all principalities and powers. He says at the center of all this Christ rules, the church, and then this wonderful phrase. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world. The world is peripheral to the church, and that's stunning. So take all the stuff of Congress and three point five trillion dollar reconciliation bills and elections and COVID supply chain problems, global economy, civil rights, social justice, cancel culture and put them in the scales and they don't weigh anything next to the church. Nothing. They're peripheral. That what God is doing in the world. So when God looks on the world, the headlines He writes are not what you'll find in any major news outlook, conservative or liberal. The illustration I gave a couple weeks ago for this was the headline in Luke Chapter Two, as Caesar Augustus gives a decree that everybody has to report to their hometowns to be taxed. That's the headline. That was big news. God's headline is Caesar Augustus gives a decree that sends Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem some Messiah can be born. That's God's headline, and I guarantee you nobody in Rome cared one whit about it. So Jesus que about how he sees the church shapes how I see the church. The importance he gives of the church shapes the importance I give to the church. Where is the church in my affections? Now? I'm not saying your daily callings are insignificant. In those callings you serve Christ, but those callings will some day go away.

In the church will not. So what place does the Church have? Do you, it's one of my good friends used to say to you, build your life around the church, or do you have the church is one of the things around that orbits your life? It's good question. Christ loves the church with all its blemishes. So should we. Christ makes the is seize the church as the center of his work in the world and he wants us to love the church and make priority of the Church and the work of the Church as he does. But the church will always be a mixed bag in this age while he is purifying it. Eugene Peterson put it this way many years ago. Ordinary congregations are God's choice for the form the church takes in locale and pastors of the persons assigned to them for ministry saying. Paul talked about the foolishness of preaching. I would like to carry on about the foolishness of congregations. Of all the ways in which to engage in the enterprise of church, this has to be the most absurd. This haphazard collection of people who somehow get assembled into pears on Sundays, halfheartedly saying a few songs. Most of them don't like tune in and out of a sermon according to the state of their digestion, and the preachers decibel's awkward in their commitments and Jurk he in their prayers. Sounds like every congregation I've been part of. But, says Peterson, the people and these peers are also people who suffer deeply and fine God and their suffering. These are men and women who make love commitments and are faithful to them through trial and temptation, and bear fruits of righteousness, Spirit fruit the blesses the people around them. That's what Jesus sees. He knows the blemishes, but he is at work in the midst of it. The churches at construction project that helps me get my expectations right.

I've been on construction projects are messy. There you need a hard hat because they're shouting and noises and power tools and dirt and scraps of wood and bumps and scrapes. That's the nature of a Church and Christ is nourishing his church and cherishing his church. So behind this gathering, behind whatever community life you share, behind common meals, behind session and pastoral care of this church, is Christ who is using all that to nourish and cherish his people. So what the Lord is getting in your regular gatherings, as Christopher preaches as a nert, is nourishing and cherishing you as his people. Christopher is an instrument, but behind it all is the Lord of Glory who loves and cares for and nourishes and cherishes you. He is intent on bringing you to the fullest maturity and perfection. Someday, and finally, someday the church will be finished in pure and that gives me reason to endure. One day the church will be complete, which is why why Paul and First Corinthians writing too, the most troubled church in the New Testament, look forward to the day when God would be faithful and she would be perfected and that informed his present perspective on that Church. He had not lost hope, even though there was lots of dirt and grime and grittain shouting going on in the church at that time. There's a messy construction site. But Paul saw God at work and so he endured, he persisted to love and serve and care and forgive all of God's...

...people in the local congregation because Christ was at work there. So you and I have this incredible honor of being objects of God's saving, electing grace in which everything about us is fully known and already factored into the equation. I never look up at the Lord and say, did you know I was going to do that? Did you know those people in the church we're going to do? That already factored in. He has loved, he has given his son for he has fully accepted her as righteous. He is at work to perfect her and someday she will stand as the bride of his son forever and glory. And everything about how I see and respond to other believers in the context of the congregation is shaped by that and not by what my I see, by what he sees. We are the beloved of God. That the person in this congregation that you may find difficult to get along with. I'm I don't know if you have that problem here, like every other believer in every church I've been part of, but that person is beloved of God. God is at work in them as part of this congregation, and someday they will be presented as part of his bride in perfected glory. So give thanks to God and think often of his great love for you is his people, and then turn and reflect that great love to each other, with all your faults and flaws. Join me as we pray.

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