The Ideal Church, Part 7

 

THE IDEAL CHURCH 7

 

We’ve covered some pretty deep truths in our study of the “the ideal church.”  So deep, in fact, some of you might be getting the bends.  This time, I’d like to lighten it up a little bit and deal with a very practical component of the ideal church.  That’s not to say the first six components aren’t practical, because they are.  But there’s no denying they are all very deep, spiritual truths that, as we learned last week, can only be fully grasped as the Holy Spirit reveals them to you.

 

This next essential component is also a spiritual truth, but it’s something most people understand, at least on a very basic level.  The seventh component of the ideal church is love.  Love must be the motive and the moving power of the ideal church.  I said that most people understand love; that might be bit generous, considering the current state of the human race.  Maybe most people think they understand love, or want to understand love.  Almost everybody believes that love is the answer.  Those great wordsmiths England Dan and John Ford Coley certainly did:

 

Name your price
A ticket to paradise
I can’t stay here any more
And I’ve looked high and low
I’ve been from shore to shore to shore
If there’s a short cut I’d have found it
But there’s no easy way around it

 

Light of the world, shine on me
Love is the answer
Shine on us all, set us free
Love is the answer

 

Who knows why
Someday we all must die
We’re all homeless boys and girls
And we are never heard
It’s such a lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely world
People turn their heads and walk on by
Tell me, is it worth just another try?

 

Light of the world, shine on me
Love is the answer (let it shine)
Shine on us all, set us free
Love is the answer (you know the answer is love)

 

Tell me, are we alive, or just a dying planet?
What are the chances?
Ask the man in your heart for the answer.

 

Well, you get the idea.  Human beings instinctively seem to know that “love is the answer.”  What they don’t understand is that not just any love will do.  It has to be the love of God.  We can all empathize with the sentiment behind that song, but only Christians know God’s love is the answer.  Or at least we should.  

 

Ephesians 5 deals with this issue, and it begins like this:

 

As children copy their fathers you, as God’s children, are to copy him. Live your lives in love—the same sort of love which Christ gives us and which he perfectly expressed when he gave himself up for us in sacrifice to God.  (Ephesians 5:1, 2 | JBP)

 

It’s too bad that there are chapter divisions in the Bible.  Ephesians is a letter and nobody divides a letter up into chapters.  What Paul wrote in what we call “chapter 5” is just a continuation of a thought he started to write about in the previous chapter, which begins this way:

 

As God’s prisoner, then, I beg you to live lives worthy of your high calling. Accept life with humility and patience, making allowances for each other because you love each other. Make it your aim to be at one in the Spirit, and you will inevitably be at peace with one another.  (Ephesians 4:1, 2 | JBP)

 

Be worthy of your high calling

 

Christians are to “live lives worthy of (their) high calling.”  But what is the “high calling” of the Christian?  It’s a call to live life on a plane commensurate with the position we have in Christ.  Paul told the Ephesians what their position was earlier in his letter:

 

(God) lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with him in the heavenly realms—all because of what Christ Jesus did.  (Ephesians 2:6 TLB)

 

Christians are already seated with Christ in “the heavenly realms.”  That’s quite a position to be in!  It doesn’t get any better than heaven.  If God is so sure of your final destination – if your salvation is so secure – that He sees you already with His Son in heaven, Paul’s very stern advice is “live lives worthy of” that high calling!  He wrote something similar to another church, one in Philippi.

 

But whatever happens, make sure that your everyday life is worthy of the Gospel of Christ.  (Philippians 1:27 | JBP)

 

And the Colossians, Paul wrote with even greater clarity:

 

We also pray that your outward lives, which men see, may bring credit to your master’s name, and that you may bring joy to his heart by bearing genuine Christian fruit, and that your knowledge of God may grow yet deeper.  (Colossians 1:9b – 10 | JBP)

 

If you call yourself a Christians, then according to what Paul wrote, you should live your life worthy of the Gospel.  There are at least two reasons for this. First, you’re being a hypocrite if you don’t.  Saying you’re a Christian but living like you aren’t makes you a hypocrite.  But there’s a second very important reason.  You may not realize it, but if you are a Christian, people are looking at you; they are evaluating whether or not your life lives up to the faith you claim to possess.  That’s not because you’re any more special than the next person, but it’s because people seem to know that Christians are supposed to be different, and the world holds us to a higher standard.  

 

You’re the only Jesus
Some will ever see
And you’re the only words of life
Some will ever read
So let them see in you
The One in whom
Is all they’ll ever need
‘Cause you’re the only Jesus
Some will ever see
And if not you, I wonder who
Will show them love

 

Humility and patience

 

Back to Ephesians 4:1, 2, Paul wrote about accepting life with “humility and patience.”  In the KJV, the word is “lowliness.”  Our attitude should be the very opposite of prideful.  Being humble is a mark of a true believer because it was the mark of our Lord’s life.

 

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (Matthew 11:29 | NIV)

 

Regardless of what life throws at you or wherever life may take you, you as a Christian, need to remain humble.  How do you do that?  How do you manifest your humility?  Paul gives us an example in something he wrote to the Philippians – 

 

Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s point of view.  (Philippians 2:2b – 4 | JBP)

 

The other word is “patience.”  Some translations use the word “meekness,” but that’s a word that has come to be associated with weakness.  The Greek word is a much fuller word that is more suggestive “endurance” and “patience.”  It’s the idea of a man who is willing to keep pressing on no matter the cost.  For the believer, it means doing the will of God regardless of circumstances and especially regardless of what you think.  You may not feel like living the way God wants you to.  Living according to God’s will may make no sense to you.  But if you want do it right, you’ll willingly submit your will to God’s.  

 

There’s an absurd myth that many Christians have bought into that says you’ll always want to do God’s will with a joyful, grateful, willing heart.  That’s baloney for most of us.  That’s our goal, of course, but most of aren’t there yet.  Hopefully we will get to that point in life eventually.  But until we do, we need to do what Paul told his friends to do:  Put forth a decided effort to live the way we ought to be living.

 

Living like God

 

That’s the gist of what came before the first two verses of the fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

 

As children copy their fathers you, as God’s children, are to copy him. Live your lives in love—the same sort of love which Christ gives us and which he perfectly expressed when he gave himself up for us in sacrifice to God.  (Ephesians 5:1, 2 | JBP)

 

Paul thought it was vital for the future of the Ephesian church that its members copied God.  It may not sound like it, but Paul is actually drawing from his Jewish education and training when he admonished them to imitate God.

 

The Lord also told Moses to tell the people of Israel, “You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. You must respect your mothers and fathers, and obey my Sabbath law, for I am the Lord your God.”  (Leviticus 19:1, 2 | TLB)

 

The Lord gave Moses a pattern of thought and behavior for the Hebrews to follow:  Be holy because God is holy.  In Ephesians, Paul’s admonition follows this – Copy God, mimic or imitate God, which means living your life in love.  This makes complete sense because while God is holy, He is also love.  God is love and He always acts in keeping with His nature; He always acts in love toward all people.  

 

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  (Romans 5:8 | TLB)

 

The ideal church, then, will be a church in which its members demonstrably love one another.  That’s why I said earlier that this component is especially practical.  And the love here is agape.  It’s not eros or philio.  Agape love is unconditional love, pure and self-giving.  It’s a divine kind of love that asks for nothing in return.  Christians are able to have this kind of love because God puts it in them.  It’s the thing about church that non-believers like because they can’t find it in their world.  There is no unconditional love in the world.  It’s only found in the church.

 

And if you, as a church member, want to “walk in love,” your example has to be Jesus Christ.  His life helps us understand what love looks like.  That phrase, “as God’s children” deserves a quick look because if you understand it, it will make loving people like God does make complete sense.  The Greek word for “children” is tekna, which means “born from God” and “one dear to God.  That’s every true believer; they have been born from God and are very dear to God.  They are precious to God.  As God’s children, we grow and take on His characteristics just as we take on the characteristics of our earthly fathers.  You’ve likely noticed this.  The older you get, the more you look like and act like you’re dad.  You can’t fight it.  It just happens.  It’s great if your dad is a strand-up kind of guy.  The more mature you become as a Christian, the more like God you will become.

 

God’s children, like their heavenly Father, have love in their hearts and that love will inform all they think and all they do.  But, not just anything they do qualifies as an act of this divine love.  Paul clarifies and finalizes the issue for us:  Love others as Christ loved us.  Christ’s love for man was determined, purposeful, self-sacrificing, and it benefitted others.  Specifically, Christ’s love for us was manifested by Him giving His life for us.  As a matter of fact, Jesus died for His enemies!  That was the most extreme example of agape love ever.  Our Lord gave up His life willingly for His enemies.  And that’s how we should be loving each other in the ideal church.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

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