Church Matters!

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  January 6, 2013
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For most of church history if you were a Christian your life revolved around the church. Everything in your life revolved around and found its place in relationship to the church. But that's no longer the perspective of many perhaps most professing Christians in America.

This morning I want us to look at this issue though not from the perspective of most professing Christians in America, I want us to look at it through different eyes. I want us to look at this issue through God's eyes. And from God's perspective the church matters. Now let me be clear from the start what I mean by the church. When the New Testament uses the word church, it is of course the Greek word ekklesia there are two primary meanings of the word church. First of all there is the universal church. It's used this way about 17 times in the New Testament out of the some 109 times the Greek word ekklesia is used of church. It refers to all believers everywhere in all times. It is the whole body of Christ's redeemed.

Theologians sometime further divide the universal church into two categories. There is the visible universal church. By that they mean the church as you and I see it. And as we see it there are in the church both true believers and false believers. So it's a mix. That's the visible universal church. The second category is of universal church is the invisible universal church. This describes the church as God sees her. And in His in this case it includes only true believers. So the universal church is one of the primary meanings of the word ekklesia or church, in the New Testament. A whole body of Christ's redeemed. But the second primary usage of the word ekklesia and the most common one is to refer to the local church; a local assembly of people who profess faith in Jesus Christ.

The word ekklesia is used this way in the New Testament when its refers to the church it's used this way about 92 of the 109 times it occurs, far and away the most. So just to summarize that for you, the word ekklesia or church is used of the universal church in the New Testament some 17 times it is used the same Greek word is used 92 times of the local gathering of believers. That means your relationship to a local church matters.

And when we're talking about the local church, understand that we're not talking about the building we're sitting in. Sometimes we talk about going to church, well that's not really true. We're the church on the way to meet. Nor are we talking about an organization, the church isn't like a local retail business that you just come to to get something you need. So when we talk about the church, I'm not talking about a building, a place. I'm not talking about an organization, an entity, like like a business. I'm talking about the people. You are the church. This is just where we meet. Now the point I want you to understand this morning is that the local church, that is the people who form a local assembly of believers, this church if this is where you regularly attend, the local church should be the center of your life. Now let's begin by answering why that's true. Let's consider why the church matters.

My dad was a music director. He was saved uhh before I was born, saved out of the life of a night club entertainer. He played the base fiddle for a big band there a night club band. The Lord saved him and before I was born and so when I came along he was the music director of a church. Literally my earliest memory is of being in a church and of life in a church. Essentially if the doors were open, we were there. There was never a time in my life when I wasn't connected to a church. I came to Christ as a senior in high school, and when I went off to college I continued to consistently attend church. However, while I attended faithfully I cannot say that through those years of my student days and and twenties that the church was truly a priority in my life. I think it's more accurate to say the throughout those years I was married to school and then to my wife and then to my work, but I just kept on dating the church. It was in my early thirty's that I began to see the biblical priority and critical importance of the church.

Let me share with you some of what I began to see through a number of influences that God began to bring to bear on my life. Why does the church matter and why should the church matter to you? Let me challenge you to consider just a few of the biblical reasons why the church matters. First of all the church along with Christ Himself is at the center of God's plan of the ages. The church is at the center of God's eternal plan. Turn with me to Ephesians chapter 3, this issue is addressed in a number of places in the New Testament, but I think nowhere more profoundly than in Ephesians 3.

This is a passage I eluded to last week. We touched on it in a different connection. Ephesians chapter 3 verse 8. Paul is explaining, back in verse 2 the stewardship of God's grace which has been given to him. In verse 8 he gets to what that stewardship is.

"To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,"

Paul was given the responsibility to take the message of the gospel to Gentiles. That was part of his assignment, part of his stewardship. But that isn't all, verse 9 gives a second aspect.

"and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery"

Now in Biblical terms a mystery is something that was not revealed in the past but now has been revealed. He said I've been given the assignment of telling people about this mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things. What's the mystery?

"so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places."

Those are angelic beings.

"This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which God carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Folks that is one of the most comprehensive statements in all the Bible about God's purpose in the world. The key that unlocks our understanding of it comes in verse 11. Look at the words, 'the eternal purpose.' Literally the Greek text says 'the plan of the ages.' The plan of the ages. God has a plan, conceived in eternity past among the council of the Trinity and it is a plan for the ages. And at the heart of that plan is Jesus Christ. Notice verse 11,

"the eternal purpose (or the plan of the ages) which He carried out in Jesus Christ our Lord."

God's only Son is dead center in that eternal plan that plan of the ages.

But Paul also makes it clear here in this text that the church has also always been central in God's plan of the ages. Look at verse 10

"so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church"

Verse 11,

"in accordance with the plan of the ages."

You see the church as well as Jesus Christ is at the center of God's eternal plan. Let me put it to you a different way, the church is from God's perspective is the center point of human existence and human history.

One author puts it this way. "Secular history", that's what you studied about and read in your classes in school, "concentrates its attention on kings, queens, and presidents, on politicians and generals, in fact on VIP's. The Bible concentrates rather on a group it calls the saints. Often little people, insignificant people, unimportant people who are however at the same time God's people and for that reason are both unknown to the world and well known to God." You see to God and to the thousands of angelic beings who hover over this world, the people of God are the real heroes. In the first century they watched Paul and Peter, Pricilla and Aquilla and they watched thousands of other Christians whose names were not told and whom we'll never know until we get to heaven. But now you and I as members of the church are the focus of their attention and they're straining to watch.

The church along with Christ Himself is at the center of God's plan of the ages, that's why it ought to matter to you. In fact the church and Jesus His Son are the primary stages on which God is putting His glory on display in the world. Look at the last verse of this chapter, Ephesians 3:21. To God be the glory. How does God get the glory to Himself?

"in the church and in Christ Jesus"

and just in case you think this is a temporary thing? He says

"to all generations"

God will be getting glory to Himself, not only in your lifetime and in the lifetime of your children, and your children's children and their children, He'll be getting glory to Himself in the church and in Jesus Christ throughout human history. But it doesn't stop there. He says,

"to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations"

Literally 'of the age of the ages.'

"forever and ever."

God is always going to be getting glory to Himself on these two primary stages, His eternal Son and His Son's bride.

In light of that one author says, "If the church is central to God's purpose, it must surely also be central to our lives. How can we take lightly what God takes so seriously? How dare we push to the circumference of our lives what God placed at the center?" Church matters because it's at the very center of God's plan of the ages.

Secondly, the church is God's family. A second reason why the church matters is that the church is God's family. In Second Corinthians 8 or excuse me 6:18 we read,

"And I will be a father to you. And you will be sons and daughters to Me." Says the Lord Almighty."

And where does that work itself out? In the church. In Ephesians 2, near where you are there in the text, Paul talks about the church, he talks about the reality that we have all been brought together, verse 15, in one new man, Jews and Gentiles brought together into a new entity called the church and then at the end of verse or the end of chapter 2 I should say, he gives several illustrations of what the church is like. In verse 19 one of those illustrations is we're like a kingdom over which Jesus is our King. But notice the end of verse 19,

"you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are of God's household."

You're part of God's family. That's what the church is like. In First Timothy 3:15, Paul writes to his young son Timothy in the faith, who was stationed in Ephesus, he says,

"in case I am delayed, I write to you so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God,"

in the family of God

"which is the church of the living God."

Now clearly in First Timothy 3, Paul is talking about the local church in Ephesus. And he says that is a local manifestation of the family of God.

You understand that the church, this church, us sitting right here together that we are an assembly of those who have been adopted by God, we have become His sons and daughters and we have all become part of one family which is the church? For some Christians the weekly gathering of the church has become little more than a really well done music concert and that's why it's chosen, or a special conference that just happens to happen every Sunday. And throughout the week there's very little connection. Listen the church is much more than that. The church is God's own family and that's why it matters.

There's a third reason it matters, the church is God's dwelling place. Now we're all familiar with the fact that God says through Paul that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit right? We quote that often. But did you know that far more often than that Paul says that the church is a temple? Let me show you an example, turn to First Corinthians chapter 3, First Corinthians 3 Paul is talking about the divisions in the church in Corinth and he uses a couple of analogies for the church one of them is is that of a field and the workers in that field in the first part of the chapter. And basically he says, 'I planted, Apollos watered, but God causes the growth.' Verse 9,

"For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field."

Then he changes images and then develops it.

"you are God's building."

And he talks about the leaders of the church being the builders and how they need to be careful how they build. Now what are they building? What kind of building? Verse16,

"Do you not know that you"

And in the Greek text the word you is plural. He's talking to all the members of the church in Corinth. He says,

"Do you not know that you"

The church there in Corinth

"are a temple of God and that the spirit of God dwells in you?"

You understand that our church, this church is a temple of God. By the way, that's why we better be careful what we do with it. Look at verse 17,

"If any man destroys the temple of God"

If you wreck the church

"God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy; and that is what you are."

A temple of God.

Paul comes back to that same image in Ephesians chapter 2 after he talks about our being part of the a kingdom and being part of God's family as the church. He says we're like a building

"fitted together growing into a holy temple in the Lord."

Ephesians 2:21. Peter alludes to this in First Peter 2:5,

"you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house"

So both the invisible universal church, and the local church, in this case Corinth, are like a temple built by God Himself to be His dwelling, to be His address. Just like the Old Testament temple was His address.

The image of a temple emphasizes one primary reality about the church and that is the priority of worship because the temple had one primary function and that is approaching God in worship. You understand that when we come together in corporate worship as we are doing this morning we are entering the presence of God just as surely as the Old Testament worshiper who went to the temple came into the presence of God? Not because God dwells in this place where we meet, you know some people mean it what meaning well, speak of this as the house of God. This isn't God's house, we are God's house. We are the temple where He dwells. Second Corinthians 6:16,

"We are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God and they will be my people."

The church matters because it is the place where God has specially chosen to manifest His presence on this planet, just like He did the temple in Old Testament Israel. Today it's every true church scattered around this planet including this one. It's a temple for God.

Now in the interest of time let me just list some of the additional reasons that the church matters. I'm just going to bring these to your attention and you can think about them and meditate on them later. Very briefly, number four the church is the only entity Christ promised to build. Matthew 16:18,

"I also say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock"

That is the rock of your confession of Me as Messiah,

"I will build My church;"

Listen, no person or group of persons is responsible for this church. Christ is building His church and we don't want to be in competition with Him. After the first service Ken Sarles came up to me and he said you know it's interesting, imagine if we had, if we had discovered a piece of woodwork that Jesus had built when He worked as a carpenter. Imagine if you found something like that, it was in your possession. Imagine how much you would treasure something Christ made. Well look around you. He's building His church. You need to treasure it in the same way.

Number five, the church is the only entity on earth that is under the immediate, and by that I mean, without a mediator, the immediate loving leadership of Christ. Ephesians 5:23 says, Christ is the head of the church in the same way that the husband is the head of his wife. As a man a a Christian man committed to Christ lovingly leads his home in the same way Christ lovingly leads His church, including this church. In fact in the book of Revelation, I love that picture of Him walking among the lamp stands which represent the churches. Seven real local churches and Jesus is pictured as walking among them. Listen Jesus inspects His churches. He is intimately involved with His church. I love that He even describes having the messengers of the churches in His hands. There's no other entity like that on earth.

Number six, the church is the supreme object of Christ's love. Ephesians 5:25, Christ loves the church so much that He gave Himself for her. You know what is the goal of the Christian life? Obviously, ultimately the glory of God, but I mean the process of sanctification, what is the goal? It's being like Jesus Christ. That means growing in Christ likeness is hating the things He hates and loving the things He loves in addition to being like Him. So to be like Christ is to love His church. I've had people tell me they really love Jesus, in fact they love Jesus so much that they just really don't have time to be involved in the life of the church, for whatever reason. Listen folks, that's impossible. You cannot love Jesus Christ and not love what He loves. In fact let me put it to you this bluntly. You can evaluate your own spiritual maturity based on how much you love the church. He loves the church supremely and when we become like Him, we love what He loves.

Number seven, the church was the purpose behind His death. Ephesians 5:25, He gave Himself up for her. Jesus gave His life for the church. Number eight, the church is being cleansed and purified by Christ Himself. Right now, God is at work on us corporately and on each of us individually. Our Lord is at work on us in order to sanctify and purify us. He's intimately involved in the life of His church. Number nine, church matters because most of the New Testament was written to local churches or to the leaders of local churches. When the apostles wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit to believers they did not write their letters for the most part to individuals. We benefit as individuals. But the New Testament Epistles weren't written to individuals, they were written to churches. Now what's the implication of that? Since every believer needs the Scripture, like babies need milk, they're expectation was that all genuine Christians would be connected to the church. In fact the last communication that we have from Jesus Christ, the book of Revelation, was addressed to seven local churches in Asia Minor.

Number ten, the church matters because the church is the primary reason Christ will return. Ephesians 5:27, He comes to present to Himself the church in all her glory. Listen the primary reason Jesus is coming back is for His bride. Those are just a few of the reasons why the church matters to God and should matter to you. Now that raises the question of so what? How do we respond to those facts? Let's look secondly not at why the church matters, but because the church matters. In light of the fact that the church really does matter to our Lord and therefore should to us, what difference should it make? If we're going to share our Lord's love for and commitment to the church what should it mean in our daily lives? Well I would submit to you that when you look at the New Testament, it means there are several commitments to the church that you and I must make.

Commitment number one, you must commit to a particular church, you must commit to a particular church. You must determine to truly be a part of a local church. You must intentionally join yourself to a church or as we often describe it you must become a member. Now although the churches of the New Testament did not handle membership exactly like we do understand this, the concept of making a commitment to officially belong to a particular church is very much a New Testament idea. In the early church to come to Christ was to become a part of the church. In Acts 2:41 when when the day of Pentecost and Peter's great sermon, when people repented and believed in Christ, they were added to the church. In Acts 16:5, because of a mighty work of the Spirit, many were being saved and it said because of that the churches were increasing in number daily. To be saved was to be added to the church.

They didn't simply live out some sort of private commitment to Jesus Christ. Some sort of personal communion with Jesus Christ, they joined formally with other believers in a local assembly. There even appears to have been an official list of members that was kept by the church as people were saved. You see that in Acts 2 where we're told that three thousand people believed and were baptized and were added to the church. Apparently there was a list kept, there were names kept there was uhh an accounting for who belonged to that flock. When a believer in the first century moved to another city, often his home church would write a letter of commendation to his new church. Paul did this on several occasions. Romans 16:1, Colossians 4:10 and in Second Corinthians 3:1 and 2 he talks about letters of commendation that were typically written. He's saying look I, you know I helped birth the church in Corinth, I don't need letters of commendation to you, but he uses them in a context where it's clear that was a common practice.

I think what the New Testament commands of elders also requires a definable membership. Think about what the New Testament commands elders to do. Elders are commanded to shepherds God's flock among them, to have charge over them, to keep watch over their souls. Hebrews 13:17 tells us that we as elders will give an account to God for the individual souls allotted to our charge. Those responsibilities that Christ has given to elders demand an identifiable membership, we can only shepherd the flock if we know who belongs and who doesn't. You need to commit to a particular church.

I know that's contrary to the spirit of the age. Sadly Christians sort of drift in and out of churches and really have no connection whatsoever. It's not a problem unique to this age however. It was a problem even more than a hundred years ago. Listen to the description of Charles Spurgeon in his inimitable way, he says, "I know there are some who say, well I've given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to the church. Now why not? Because I can be a good Christian without it. Are you quite sure about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord's commands as by being obedient? What is a brick made for? To help build a house. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in a house. It is a good for nothing brick. So you rolling stone Christian's" and that's not a reference to an aging rock group, "so you rolling stone Christians, I do not believe that you are answering your purpose. You are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live." Because the church matters we are to commit ourselves to a local church. Frankly for some of you what this means is, next Sunday when the attendance pad comes by is you need to check the box that you're interested in pursuing membership.

Because the church matters there's a second commitment we must make, we must make the church a priority. One of the books I'm reading right now, and I say that deliberately it is one of the books I'm reading, if you saw my nightstand you'd see these two towering stacks of books which I'm afraid at times endanger our little dog. Uhh, but I'm reading, one of the books I'm reading is the third volume of William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill. Manchester wrote the first two volumes but then he died before he could finish the third volume and he he gave that task to another man and gave all of his notes to him and I was given that book for the the third volume for Christmas and I'm I've begun to read it. The other night I came across a quote that describes how many people come to think about church. Listen to Churchill, he was asked if he was a pillar of the church, of course the church of England. He said, "I'm not a pillar of the church, but a buttress" speaking of those flying buttresses of the great cathedrals, that help support it from the outside. He said, "I'm not a pillar, but a buttress, I can support it better from the outside." I'll do better supporting it without being too involved.

Apparently that's the perspective of a lot of Christians, because when you examine where the church falls on their list of priorities, they're on the outside far more than they're on the inside. Understand that the early believers were devoted to the church, to their church. Let me show you this. Turn back to Acts 2. Peter teaches that great sermon on the day of Pentecost, verse 41,

"So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added"

To the church there in Jerusalem

"about three thousand souls."

Now notice what these newly joined members of the church in Jerusalem did, verse 42.

"They were continually devoting themselves"

To first of all to the study of the Scripture,

"to the apostle's teaching and to fellowship,"

With one another, fellow members of the church

"to the breaking of bread"

That's the taking of the Lord's Table,

"and to prayer."

Both individually and together with other Christians. They cared for one another. Verse 44,

"all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;"

By the way this isn't Christian communism, notice verse 45, they still owned their property they just chose to sell property they didn't need, possessions they didn't need to share with those who had need. Verse 46,

"Day by day they continued with one mind in the temple,"

Going there for prayer and the daily sacrifices,

"and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart."

Notice church was not a once a week deal. Church is a commitment, it's a priority. They were devoted to being a part of the church. You must make the church a priority whatever your life circumstances might be right now. If you're a student and I know there are a number of students in this service, if you're a student don't you dare consistently put your extracurricular activities ahead of your involvement in the life of the church. And when you choose a college you'd better first find a place where there's a good church in which you can be involved and then choose where you're going to go to school. If you're no longer a student but you're in your career years, let the priority of the church shape your de your career choices. Don't pursue a job that will consistently make involvement in a church impossible. And don't take that promotion if it means moving your family somewhere where's there's not a good church in which you can be involved. And whatever your age and circumstances let the priority of the church determine your daily and weekly choices. Don't make consistent choices daily or weekly that place other priorities ahead of the church. And you just sort of toss God a bone now and then to keep Him happy.

Parents, let me speak directly to you. We tell our children don't we that God is the most important thing in life? That following our Lord is the most important thing? And that's right, we should tell them that. But if you tell your children that and then you consistently neglect involvement in the life of the church for their sports and their academics and your families fun then your message is coming across loud and clear and they're getting it. And it's not what you've said; it's what you've done. Make the church a priority because it is Christ's priority.

Number three, serve in the church faithfully. Someone said long ago that the church is made up of pillars and caterpillars. Pillars support the church and the caterpillars just crawl in and out every week. When you really come to understand though, how important the church is to our Lord, you can no longer in good conscience just be a caterpillar. Over and over again the New Testament stresses the importance of using your giftedness, and if you're a Christian you've been gifted to serve, of using that giftedness in the context of the local church. Let me just show you a couple of examples. Look at Romans chapter 12, Romans chapter 12 Paul ends verse 3 talking about God allotting to each Christian a measure of faith, and he's talking here about spiritual giftedness. Verse 4,

"For just as we have many members in one (physical) body"

You've got, you've got arms and legs and hands and fingers and a liver and all these different members of your body and they each have a function, they don't all have the same function, but they all have a function,

"so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another."

We have a function, you have a function

"since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly:"

Use your giftedness in the context in the church there in Rome Paul says.

In First Corinthians 12 verse 7, he says 'to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit' again in context talking about spiritual gifts, 'for the common good.' Ephesians 4:7, 'to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.' Look at First Peter chapter 4, First Peter 4 verse 10, Peter says, 'as each Christian has received a a charismata' that is a a special gift of God's grace, again talking about spiritual giftedness. 'Employ it in serving one another' because that's the way you'll be a good steward of what God has given you. Verse 11, maybe you have a speaking gift, 'whoever speaks is to do so as the one, as one who is speaking the utterances of God;' Maybe you have a serving gift,

"whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength by which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen."

Listen you want to glorify God? Then you use that individual giftedness you have been given by Christ in the context of the church where He's placed you. So serve in the church faithfully.

Number four, love the church. You know some people excuse themselves by saying, 'look you know I understand what you're saying about the priority of the church and I do feel it's a priority, I attend regularly.' Well that's great, and that's right. We should do that. We're commanded to do that. But let me help you understand that that's not enough. It's not enough to attend the corporate worship. You must also engage in mutual relationships with other believers in the church. Remember the church is God's family. Ephesians 2:19, 'you are of God's family' God's household. Within the context of the church therefore, because we are family, we are commanded to carry out a long list of responsibilities to one another. Now if I had time I would take you to these passages, but let me just list them for you.

Here's what to happen in the context of the church. We are to love one another, be devoted to one another, honor one another, rejoice with one another, serve one another, carry one another's burdens, forgive one another, encourage one another, offer hospitality to one another, confess our sins to one another, pray for one another. Listen that doesn't happen at one service for an hour and twenty minutes on Sunday morning. It's not enough to show up at a service once a week. God expects you to love and to look out for the other members of His family here at Countryside. You have a responsibility before God to the other people who are here. The point of the church is not its programs, it's its people. It's shared life as a family under one Father. Pursue relationships and friendships with the people in this church. And oh by the way, don't wait for somebody else to do it. Don't say you know I I'll form those relationships as soon as somebody comes seeking me out. It's your responsibility as well. Take the initiative to she to seek out others to reach out to them.

Number five because the church matters share your passion for the Lord and His church by evangelizing. The church is a temple in which God is to be worshipped, but we are not to become ingrown and comfortable just with the people who are here already. Because the temple is not yet complete, there are still other stones that need to be added. Peter talks about this, alludes to this in First Peter 2:5, he says, 'you also as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house.' The language he uses here implies that the church is still under construction. The temple that is the church is still under construction. You and I are to share the gospel because there are other stones that God still intends to add to complete the building and the construction.

It reminds me of what God said to Paul in Acts 18 in a vision of the night as he was there in Corinth, he said, 'do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent for I have many people in this city.' You know what God was saying? He was saying Paul you just keep proclaiming the gospel because I have people I have chosen in this city and they're going to hear the gospel and at some point they're going to respond to it. That's why we share the gospel.

I grew up hearing churches talk about soul winning. Listen you can't win anybody's soul. You don't have that power. You just proclaim the gospel, the good news is that as you proclaim it there will be hearts that have been prepared either at the first hearing or at some point down the line and they will respond because God has many people in this city. So because the church matters, tell other people about the Lord and what He's doing in His church. The church matters to God. Let me ask you, does it matter to you? How would you describe the nature of your relationship to the church? Can you honestly say that this church is the center of your life and your family's life? Or frankly do you find yourself increasingly just fitting church around all the important stuff you have to do?

Let me ask you some questions to help you evaluate your own level of commitment to the church of Jesus Christ. Do you understand and are you committed to the Biblical priority of centering your life and your family's life in the church? Is the gathering of the church for worship the priority of your week? Outside of your own time with Christ and what God has commanded you to do and shepherd in your family, and the work he's commanded you to do to support yourself and your family and to be able to help others, outside of those responsibilities, does the church consume most of your available time each week? Is there any organization or activity that gets more of your time, more of your resources, or here's the big one, or that has more of your heart than the church has?

Make a brief mental list for a moment about for the activities you're involved in personally and as a family and then ask yourself which of those activities will best deepen your knowledge of God and your relationship with Him? Which of those activities is eternal? Which of those activities has God commanded you to be involved in? Which of those activities is the center of God's plan of the ages and which of those activities is Christ's highest priority on this planet right now? The obvious answer of course is the church of Jesus Christ. Why does it matter? Why should it matter to you? Because compared to everything else in your life, it matters most to God. It's time for God's people to stop dating the church, and to make a commitment to it. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for the many people in this church family who carry out these commitments on a daily and weekly basis. Thank You for so many who pour themselves out for the sake of Your people in this place. Encourage them Father I pray with what we've studied together and keep them committed on the same path knowing that You're pleased with that commitment. But Father I pray for those who like I did for so many years are really just still dating the church. Father I pray that today they would understand why the church matters from Your perspective and that they would determine to make those commitments. And Lord I pray as well for the person here today who isn't connected to the church because they've never really repented and believed in Your Son, in His life and in His death as their only hope of being right with You. Father may this be the day when they turn from their sin to Jesus. Commit to Him as Lord and Savior, experience His forgiveness and then are added to the church. We thank You oh God for Your word, use it, change us through it, we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.