The Measure of a Church

THE MEASURE OF A CHURCH

(Pastor Lee Jackson – FFWC)

I)  INTRODUCTION – WHEN SOMEBODY ASKS YOU HOW YOUR CHURCH IS DOING, WHAT DO YOU SAY?   WE TYPICALLY SAY.  WE HAVE A WONDERFUL CHURCH, WE ARE GROWING OR THAT THE PASTOR’S SERMONS ARE INSPIRING  OR THAT THE MUSIC IS WONDERFUL.  IF THAT QUESTION IS ASKED OF A PASTOR OF A CHURCH, ANY CHURCH, HE IS APT TO TALK ABOUT 1) CHURCH ATTENDANCE 2) EXCITING NEW BUILDING PROJECTS  OR 3) NUMBER OF NEW MEMBERS OR 3) THE INCOME OR THE BUDGET.  IN THE CHURCH WORLD THE MEASURE OF SUCCESS IS TOO OFTEN:  ATTENDANCE, BUILDING PROJECTS AND CASH IN THE BANK.   SHAME ON US.   EPHESIANS TELLS US THAT CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH AND I CAN TELL YOU ON THE AUTHORITY OF HIS WORD THAT THESE THINGS DO NOT EVEN ENTER INTO HOW HE MEASURES SUCCESS IN HIS CHURCH.

I WAS GOING THROUGH OFFICER TRAINING SCHOOL AS A YOUNG MAN IN MY TWENTIES A PART OF OUR TRAINING WAS TO KEEP OUR ROOMS, BEDS AND LOCKERS READY FOR INSPECTION.  ONE OF THE THINGS MOST FEARED WAS THE UNANNOUNCED WHITE GLOVE INSPECTION.   THIS IS WHEN UPPER CLASSMEN WOULD COME INTO YOUR ROOM UNANNOUNCED, CALLED THE WHOLE BARRACKS TO ATTENTION AND PROCEEDED TO INSPECT OUR ROOMS FOR DUST BY WIPING ACROSS THE FLOORS AND FURNITURE WITH WHITE GLOVES.   IF THEY CAME UP DIRTY, WE WERE IN TROUBLE.

IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION, THE APOSTLE JOHN HAD A VISION, OF JESUS ON AN INSPECTION TOUR OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES.   IT WOULD SERVE US WELL TO UNDERSTAND WHAT JESUS WAS PLEASED WITH AND WHAT HE WAS NOT PLEASED WITH BECAUSE HE HAS NOT CHANGED, HE IS LOOKING FOR THE SAME THINGS TODAY IN HIS CHURCH AS HE WAS LOOKING FOR THEN.  (REVELATION 2)

II) JOHN’S VISION OF CHRIST AS HEAD OF THE CHURCH (REV. 1:12 – 19)

A)       JESUS SPOKE TO JOHN FROM AMONG THE SEVEN GOLDEN LAMPSTANDS, WHICH REPRESENTED SEVEN CHURCHES (Vs 19)

1)    HE WAS ATTIRED IN HIS KINGLY GARMENTS, AWESOME IN HIS APPEARANCE

2)    HIS FACE WAS LIKE THE SUN SHINING IN ITS BRILLIANCE

3)    HE THOROUGHLY INSPECTED EACH CHURCH, COMMENDING THEM FOR THE THINGS THAT THEY WERE DOING WELL, WARNING THEM WHEN THEY FAILED TO MEASURE UP TO HIS STANDARDS AND CALLING FOR THEM TO QUICKLY REPENT.

4)    HE ADDRESSED HIS MESSAGE TO THE SEVEN STARS OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES: EITHER A LITERAL ANGEL ASSIGNED TO PROTECT EACH OF THE CHURCHES OR THE ANGEL REPRESENTING THE PASTORS OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES

5)    OUT OF HIS MOUTH CAME A SHARP TWO-EDGED SWORD  – THE WORD OF GOD, WHICH DIVIDES BETWEEN THAT WHICH IS SOULISH AND THAT WHICH IS SPIRITUAL, THERE IS A LOT OF SOULISH ACTIVITY IN OUR CHURCHES:  EVER LEARNING THE WORD BUT NOT PRACTICING IT, BEAUTIFUL SINGING THAT APPEARS TO BE WORSHIP BUT IS NOT BECAUSE OUR HEARTS ARE NOT RIGHT, MAKING THE SUNDAY MORNING MESSAGE SOME SORT OF SHRINE LIKE IT WAS SIMPLY A SPEECH THAT CAN BE ENJOYED AND THEN IGNORED, NEGLECT OF OUR PRAYER LIFE AND FAILING TO PURSUE HOLINESS AND INTIMACY  WITH CHRIST.

6)    TO EACH HE SAID: “HE WHO HAS AN EAR, LET HIM HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT SAYS TO THE CHURCHES.”  WE MUST HONOR AND NURTURE THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN OUR CHURCH, SO THAT HE WILL TELL US WHAT PLEASES HIM AND WHAT DOES NOT PLEASE HIM.   I BELIEVE THAT THE SPIRIT OF GOD IS OFTEN GRIEVED AT WHAT GOES ON IN OUR CHURCHES.

B)      TO HE CHURCH OF EPHESUS (2:1 – 7)

1)    COMMENDED FOR

(a)  (GOOD) DEEDS, HARD WORK & PERSEVERANCE

(b)  DID NOT TOLERATE WICKED MEN CLAIMING TO BE APOSTLES

(c)  ENDURED HARDSHIPS BECAUSE OF THEIR FAITH IN CHRIST AND HAD NOT GROWN WEARY

(d)  HATED THE NICOLAITANS, WHICH JESUS HATED.  THESE FOLLOWERS OF NICOLAS, WHO IN THE EXPLOITATION OF THEIR NEW FOUND FREEDOM TAUGHT ISRAEL TO EAT THINGS SACRIFICED TO IDOLS AND LED THEM INTO SEXUAL IMMORALITY, MUCH LIKE BALAAM OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

2)    THIS I HOLD AGAINST YOU.  YOU HAVE FORSAKEN YOUR FIRST LOVE

3)    CORRECTIVE ACTION: THEY WERE TO REPENT AND DO THE THINGS THEY DID AT FIRST (WHEN THEY FIRST CAME TO LOVE JESUS CHRIST)

C)      CHURCH OF SMYRNA (2:8 – 11)

1)    HE KNEW THEIR POVERTY AND AFFLICTIONS YET THEY WERE RICH BY HIS ASSESSMENT.

2)    THEY WERE NOT TO BE AFRAID OF THE THINGS THAT THEY WERE TO SUFFER, IT WAS ALL A PART OF GOD’S PLAN.

3)    URGED TO BE FAITH TO THE POINT OF DEATH AND HE WOULD GIVE THEM THE CROWN OF LIFE

D)      CHURCH OF PERGAMUM (2:12 – 17)

1)    LIVED NEAR SATAN’S THRONE, YET THEY REMAINED TRUE TO CHRIST

2)    DID NOT RENOUNCE THEIR FAITH EVEN WHEN ANTIPAS, HIS FAITHFUL WITNESS WAS PUT TO DEATH FOR HIS FAITH

3)    NEVERTHELESS HE HAD SOME THINGS AGAINST THEM: THEY TOLERATED THOSE AMONG THEM (IN THEIR CHURCH) THAT HOLD TO THE TEACHING OF THE NICOLAITANS AND BALAAM WHO ENTICE THE ISRAELITES TO SIN BY EATING FOOD SACRIFICED TO IDOLS AND THOSE WHO ARE SEXUALLY IMMORAL AND CONDON SEXUALLY IMMORAL PRACTICES AMONG THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH

4)    THEY WERE TOLD TO REPENT OTHERWISE HE WOULD FIGHT AGAINST THEM WITH THE SWORD OF HIS MOUTH

E)       CHURCH OF THYATIRA (2:18 – 28)

1)    COMMENDATION

(a)  HE KNEW THEY DEEDS, LOVE AND FAITH

(b)  HE WAS PLEASED WITH THEIR SERVICE AND PERSEVERANCE

(c)  THEY WERE DOING MORE OF HIS WORKS NOW THAN AT FIRST

2)    THEY TOLERATED JESEBEL, WHO CALLS HERSELF A PROPHETESS, BUT MISLEADS THE PEOPLE INTO EATING FOOD SACRIFICED TO IDOLS AND LED THEM INTO SEXUAL IMMORALITY (CONDONING SEXUAL IMMORALITY)

3)    GOD WAS GOING TO DEAL WITH HER BY CASTING HER ON A BED OF AFFLICTION.  HER CHILDREN WOULD DIE AND HER FOLLOWERS WOULD BE JUDGED UNLESS THEY REPENT

F)       CHURCH OF SARDIS (3:1 – 6)

1)    HE KNEW THEIR DEEDS:

(a)  THEY HAD A REPUTATION FOR BEING ALIVE BUT THEY ARE DEAD!

(b)  THEY WERE TOLD TO WAKE UP AND STRENGTHEN THAT WHICH REMAINS AND IS ABOUT TO DIE

(c)  THEIR WORKS AND DEEDS WERE FOUND TO BE INCOMPLETE (LESS THAN PERFECT)  (WRONG MOTIVES?)

(d)  THEY ARE TO REMEMBER WHAT THEY HAVE RECEIVED AND HEARD AND REPENT.

2)    THIS CHURCH HAD BUT A FEW PEOPLE WHO HAD NOT SOILED SPIRITUAL GARMENTS

G)      CHURCH OF PHILADELPHIA (3:7 – 13)

1)    HIS COMMENDATION

(a)  THEY HAD A LITTLE STRENGTH YET THEY HAD KEPT HIS WORD

(b)  THEY HAD ENDURED PATIENTLY AND HE PROMISED TO KEEP THEM FROM THE HOUR OF TRIAL THAT WAS COMING ON THE EARTH

2)    THEY WERE TOLD TO HOLD ONTO WHAT THEY HAD SO THAT NO ONE WOULD TAKE THEIR CROWN

H)      CHURCH OF LAODICEA (3:14 – 22)

1)    NOTHING THAT HE COULD COMMEND ABOUT THIS CHURCH

2)    THINGS THAT HE FOUND WRONG IN THIS CHURCH INCLUDED:

(a)  “I KNOW YOUR DEEDS, THAT YOU ARE NEITHER COLD NOR HOT”, BUT LUKE WARM – HE WISHED THAT THEY WERE HOT OR COLD.   HE WOULD SPIT THEM OUT OF HIS MOUTH.

(b)  YOU SAY “I AM RICH; I  AM WEALTHY AND IN NEED OF NOTHING” BUT JESUS SAYS YOU ARE WRETCHED, PITIFUL, POOR, BLIND AND NAKED.”

(c)  HE COUNSELED THEM TO BUY FROM HIM GOLD REFINED IN THE FIRE SO THAT THEY WOULD BECOME TRULY RICH, AND WHITE CLOTHES TO WEAR TO COVER THEIR SHAMEFUL NAKEDNESS AND SALVE FOR THEIR EYES THAT THEY COULD SEE.

(d)  I BELIEVE THAT THE GOLD SPEAKS OF THE HIS DIVINE NATURE THAT ONLY COMES THROUGH CHRIST AND THE WHITE GARMENT SPEAKS OF HIS ROBE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, PURE AND SPOTLESS THAT COVERS OUR SHAME AND NAKEDNESS.

(e)  THE SALVE WAS NEEDED FOR THEIR EYES, TO STOP THE INFECTION OF SIN THAT HAS BLINDED THEM TO THEIR OWN SINFUL CONDITION, TO ENABLE THEM TO SEE ONCE AGAIN WITH CLARITY AND SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT.

(f)   HE TOLD THEM THAT THOSE WHOM HE LOVES HE REBUKES AND DISCIPLINES.

III)           CONCLUSION – WHEN WE SUM IT ALL UP WE SEE THAT GOD FOCUSES ON THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF THE CHURCH, WHILE WE OFTEN FOCUS ON THE PHYSICAL.   GOD’S ORDER IS FIRST THE SPIRITUAL THEN THE PHYSICAL, WHICH IS AN OUT GROWTH OF THE SPIRITUAL.   WHAT IS THE CHURCH:  IT IS THE ECCLESIA, THE CALLED OUT ONES.  THIS WORD REFERS TO A LOCAL BODY OF BELIEVERS.   SO WHEN WE TALK ABOUT THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF THE CHURCH WE MUST TALK ABOUT THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF ITS MEMBERS AND LEADERS.   WHAT IS THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF OUR CHURCH?

A)       HAVE WE FORSAKEN OUR FIRST LOVE AND PASSION FOR CHRIST THAT DROVE US TO DO HIS WORK SIMPLY BECAUSE OF OUR LOVE FOR HIM?

B)       DO WE TOLERATE AND CONDONE SEXUAL IMMORALITY AND SEXUAL IMPURITY, IMPURE THOUGHTS AND PRACTICES?

C)      IS OUR WORK FOR CHRIST BASED UPON PURE MOTIVES – OUR LOVE FOR HIM RATHER THAN A PRIDEFUL THING TO GAIN THE ACCLAIM AND RECOGNITION OF MEN?   ARE WE COMPETING AGAINST ONE ANOTHER OR ENCOURAGING ONE ANOTHER TO TAKE THEIR PLACE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST AND TO DEVELOP THEIR GIFTS?

D)      ARE WE LUKE WARM, NEITHER HOT NOR COLD IN OUR COMMITMENT TO CHRIST?

E)       DO WE THINK THAT WE ARE RICH AND LACKING IN NOTHING WHEN IN FACT WE ARE WRETCHED, PITIFUL, BLIND AND NAKED?

F)       IS OUR CONVERSATION PLEASING TO GOD?  Matthew 12:36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.  ARE WE SPEAKING AGAINST THE LEADERSHIP OF THE CHURCH AND ENCOURAGING  DIVISION AND DISUNITY IN THE BODY OF CHRIST?

1 Peter 4:17 For the time [is come] that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if [it] first [begin] at us, what shall the end [be] of them that obey not the gospel of God?

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