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Do You Love the Church?
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Do You Love the Church?
Ephesians 5:25-27
I want to begin this morning by reading to you from a book entitled, "Stop Dating the Church" written by Joshua Harris. This book is subtitled, "Fall in Love with the Family of God." This book begins with the following story, ...
Jack and Grace met through a mutual friend. From day one they seemed to be the perfect match. Grace was everything Jack had always wanted. She was beautiful, outgoing, and caring--always there when Jack needed her. For the first five months they were inseparable. Jack could hardly think of anything but Grace. He didn’t need to look further, he told friends. "She’s the one."
Now almost three years have passed. Jack still enjoys the comfort and familiarity of being with Grace, but the spark is gone. Grace’s flaws seem more obvious. He’s not sure he finds her as attractive as he once did. And he’s beginning to resent all the time she wants to spend with him.
One night, when she asks if they can define the nature of their relationship, Jack blows up. "We’re together, aren’t we?" he asks angrily. "Why isn’t that enough for you?"
Obviously, Jack isn’t ready for commitment. And it’s unclear if he ever will be. ...
Have you ever been in a relationship like this? I’m writing this book because I believe God has something better for you. He wants you in a relationship defined by both passion and commitment. But before you can take hold of this wonderful plan, you need to know something about this couple. There are millions of Jacks walking around today. And Grace isn’t a girl. Grace is a church" (pp. 11-12).
For the next three weeks, I want us to think about our relationship with the church, and I want to begin this morning with a single question:  "Do You Love the Church?"
For some of you, this may seem like a strange question. This may be the first time that you have ever thought about this question in your life. You may have always seen the church as some activity that you do each Sunday morning. You may have always seen the church as a place to be involved. You may have always seen the church as a place, where there are many good activities in which you can participate. But, you may have never considered having a love relationship with the church.
For some of you, it’s like asking "Do you love your gas station or grocery store?" You drive up to the gas station and get out of your car. You fill up your car with gas. You clean the windshields. You pay what you owe, and then you go on your merry way, satisfied that your car will run for the next week or so.
Or you go to Homeland, take your list, get you some of what you need, and go home. 
Chances are you would never say, “I love Homeland” or “I love the gas station”, and yet that is exactly the relationship that many have with the church. 
Every week (or so), you come to church and fill up with some good worship experience and a good sermon. You confess your sins, and feel a sense of cleanness in your soul. You check out and pay what you owe when the offering plate comes by and go on your way, satisfied that you have been helped in your walk with Christ for the next week (or so). But, regarding a love for the church, there is none.
So this morning, I’m not asking you whether or not you are involved in the activities of the church or if you show up fairly consistently and pay your bill. I’m asking something much, much deeper than that. I’m asking "Do You Love the Church?"
Down through church history, there have been many who have loved the church. Timothy Dwight, grandson of Jonathon Edwards, wrote those great lyrics,
I love Thy Church, O God! Her walls before Thee stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye, and graven on Thy hand.
For her my tears shall fall; for her my prayers ascend;
To her my cares and toils be giv’n, till toils and cares shall end.
Beyond my highest joy, I prize her heav’nly ways,
Her sweet communion, solemn vows, her hymns of love and praise."
I would say that those are the words of a person in love with the church of Jesus Christ.
I read this week of one of the church reformers, who name was Menno Simons. His followers became known as the Mennonites. He labored long and hard through his years for the church. On his deathbed, he said that "nothing on earth was as precious to him as the church". Menno Simons loved the church.
I will say to you with all the emotion and feeling of my heart, “I love the church of Jesus Christ.” My heart as the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church is to see all of you come to love the church of Jesus Christ as well. This is the purpose of my message this morning. But I will also say to you that as much as I love the church, as much Menno Simons loved the church, as much as Timothy Dwight loved the church, there is none who loved the church as much as Jesus Christ!
Please open your Bibles to Ephesians 5. We are going to look at three verses, 25 through 27. These verses will be our focus for the next three weeks.  In these verses we find as clear an expression of the love that Jesus had for the church as is found anywhere in the Bible.
Now in the context of this passage, Paul is obviously speaking about husbands loving their wives. But, in communicating how a husband ought to love his wife, Paul describes the love that Jesus has for His church. The love of Christ for the church sets the standard for a man’s love for his wife.
Listen to what Paul records:
Ephesians 5:25-27
Zero in on verse 25.  What a simple phrase!  “Christ loved the church.”
Now, let me ask you, "If something is precious in the heart of Jesus, ought it not to be precious in your heart as well?" As believers in Christ, we are called to love the things that Jesus loves.
In verse 23, we read that Christ is the head of the church. This means that the church is to be subject to Christ in all things. This goes far beyond externals. It deals with the heart as well. It means that the church is to gladly submit to the Lord in all things. The only way to fulfill the true intention of this verse is to so love Jesus that His affections become your affections. You love what He loves.
Your life is gladly lived in subjection to Jesus, because you are doing what you love. To love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength means that you love Him. It means that you love everything about Him. It means that you love the things that He loves. It means that you seek "to be pleasing to Him" (2 Cor. 5:9).
There ought to be nothing that He loves that you don’t love. There ought to be nothing that He hates that you don’t hate. There ought to be nothing that He desires that you don’t desire. And there ought to be nothing that He wants you to do, that you aren’t willing to do. This is nothing more than seeking the will of God.
And here in verse 25, we have this  clear statement that tells us that Christ loves the church. What about you?  Do you love the church as well?
I guess there are a lot of reasons why people don’t love the church. For some, they simply haven’t been taught about the church, and thus, they think that it is not so important for their own lives.
For others, the church has never been the focal point of their own spiritual growth. Perhaps they were saved through some exciting campus ministry or through some nationwide Bible study program or through listening to some preacher on the radio. And the source that caused them to come to faith continues to nurture them in their own spiritual growth so there is no vital connection to the church.
For others, they may have had a bad experience in the church that has left a bad taste in their mouths. They used to love the church, but their experiences have turned their love sour. Somebody at the church said something and it hurt their feelings.  Or they may have been unfaithful to promises which they have made. People in the church may have been silent in times of great need. Some people in the church may have proved themselves to be hypocrites.
If that’s your situation, think about his.  Remember, we are told that Christ loved the church.  Question:  "What did the church look like when Christ loved it?" was the church filled with righteous, sinless people?
More to the point, what did you look like when Christ loved you?  You may not realize it, but you’re not that easy to love!
That leads to my first observation.  The love that Jesus has for the church is a love that
1. Sacrifices
verse 25
We read at the very end of verse 25 that Christ Jesus "gave Himself up for her." I trust that you know what this means. It means that Jesus sacrificed Himself for the church. It means that Jesus Christ came down from heaven to live among us, and to offer His perfect life in the place of our sinful lives.
He died for us. He died in our place. This wasn’t easy for Jesus to do. It cost Him greatly. It cost Him His life. He purchased the church with His own blood.
Why did Jesus go through such incredible sufferings?  Simple!  It’s because He loved the church! It’s not because the church was lovely in His sight. It’s not because the church was especially deserving of such a sacrifice. It's not because the church never hurt Him. Rather it is because of His love for the church!
If you want to see the love of God illustrated, read the Old Testament book of Hosea.  It tells the story of a prophet of God who was told to take a wife from the world, a harlot, a common prostitute.  Hosea did as he was told.  He took for his wife a women named Gomer. 
After giving birth to three children, Gomer walked out on the marriage and the children and returned to a life of prostitution. 
The LORD returned to Hosea and told her to continue to love her, so he went and purchased her from the auction block with a little bit of money and some grain. 
What was the point of the sotry?  God was illustrating through the true-life experiences of Hosea His relationship with the nation of Israel.  Even though Israel had turned her back on God and acted like a whore with other gods.  Even though she was unfaithful to God, the LORD remained faithful to her.
And this is the kind of love that Jesus has for His church. The church isn’t made up of people who deserve for the LORD of the universe to come to earth and die for them. On the contrary, the church is made up of undeserving people, nothing more than common prostitutes who refuse to be unfaithful, who deserve to perish in their sins. And yet, the love that Jesus Christ has for the church compelled Him to come and to die in our place motivated by a love that sacrifices.   
When you think of your own heart toward the church, do you know anything of sacrificial love? Are there things that you do among the church body that is a sacrifice for you? Or, is your commitment to the church one based on convenience? Are you involved in the church to the extent that it will help only you? Or, is your involvement in the church based upon a desire to be others-centered?
The root of sacrifice is being others-centered. Jesus offered Himself upon the cross for others. Sacrificial service has others as its focus. Are there things in your life that you willingly choose not to do, because in doing them, you would miss an opportunity to give to the people of the church? This is the sacrifice that I’m talking about.
Is this not what true love is about? It is about delighting in the object of your worship.
Perhaps it has to do with your time. To be sure, we are all busy.  But when you step back to look upon how you spend your time, is there any sacrifice of your time that you give to the people of the church? Or, is all of your time based upon what you want to do, and any church-related activity gets the leftover -- only what’s convenient!
Perhaps it has to do with your finances. If you would take out your checkbook and ask yourself, where does my money go, does it always go for yourself? Or, are there things that you sacrifice, so that you can give to the church? When you see someone in need, do you give to them or, do you spend on yourself alone?
The truth of the matter is for most of us, if we’d really be honest, we don’t know much about sacrifice do we?  If that’s true of you, I am going to offer some strange advice.  You might expect that I would say, “Get bust and start sacrificing!”  But that’s not what I’m going to say at all.
If you’re sitting there saying, “I guess I don’t sacrifice much for the church!" my counsel to you is fall in love with the church because when you love the church, you’ll sacrifice. 
In fact, I'm not interested in seeing all of you sacrifice greatly for the church of Christ without a love for the church. The Scripture reminds us that God hates external sacrifices that are not motivated by love. 
Psalm 51:16 says, "You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering." The next verses follows up with the true sacrifices that please God, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise" (Ps. 51:17).
True sacrifices to God are the sacrifices of a heart that is rightly aligned with God's purposes. "Then," David continues, "You will delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offering and whole burnt offering. Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar" (Ps. 51:19).
It’s love for an object that will cause you to sacrifice greatly for it. What other than love will cause a mother to go through the pain of childbirth?  What is it that causes a parent to change thousands of diapers? To prepare thousands of meals? To clean up thousands of messes? To spend thousands of dollars for food, clothes, school, and other necessities? To consume thousands of hours in activities? It’s only love that will do such a thing. Parents who love their child will willing do this.
When you love someone or something, there is no sacrifice too great to satisfy that love!
Likewise, when you love the church, the sacrifices will willingly and eagerly come. You will have great joy in sacrificing in this way, because that’s what you want to do! Your sacrifices will be acceptable to God, being offered with proper motives and proper hearts of affection toward God!
Certainly, there will be times when you find the people in the church not to be lovable. But that doesn’t matter!  Just think abouit the way Jesus loves you!  It was His love for sinners that gave Him reason to die for the church.
Tthe next time that you are hurt by someone in the church, or witness someone being a hypocrite in church, or are disappointed by someone else’s actions, simply remember that Jesus loved the church when it was sinful and rebellious.  If we’re going to love like Jesus loves, then we must remember love sacrifices.
Then there is something else:
2. Love Purifies
verse 26
His loving us enough to die for us produced a purified church.  Our sins are cleansed by His blood!  Through faith in Jesus, we are sanctified, we are justified, we are cleansed, we are made righteous, we are forgiven, we are righteous in His sight.
Now we are told that this cleansing comes "by the washing of the water with the word".
There is all kinds of discussion about what this means.  Some say it’s baptism. There are some who say that this is the same as Titus 3:5, the "washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit."
I think it is a reminder that any cleansing we have it is made possible only through the blood of Jesus Christ.  That is accomplished through the forgiveness of sins and I am immersed into this brand new relationship with God.  That is pictured through water baptism as I am buried with Christ and raised to walk in a new way of living. 
And what we hear Paul saying in this verse is that the one who loves will work to purify those he loves.
Have you ever had to clean up a child who had gotten in the mud or even worse has been sick? 
Why will a parent do that?  It would be a whole lot easier to just make another one!  And yet it is your love for another that will seek to clean them.
That is exactly what Christ does for us.  He loves us enough to clean us up!  But how does that express itself in the church as we think about the interaction among the members of the church? 
Obviously we cannot atone for the sins of others. Only Jesus Christ and His sacrifice is sufficient to atone for sins. However there is a way that we can act that can deal appropriately with the sins of others.
Think about this:  Suppose someone in the church sins against you.  How are you going to respond?
Look over at Ephesians 4:32
In other words, just as Christ has forgiven you and cleansed you and purified you through the gospel, so also are you to forgive others who wrong you. When you act this way, you demonstrate your love for the church.
Notice the connection in the next two verses
Ephesians 5:1-2
Remember, if you love Christ, you will love what He loves!  And it is our love for others that will seek to purify them. There are some other passages in the Scripture that speak to this issue.
Perhaps the clearest of all passages is 1 Corinthians 13.
Now a lot of those characteristics are really put to the test when someone sins against us. For instance,
Love is patient
Your patience is tested when someone is irritating you.
Have you ever heard the children’s song,
"I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves, ...
You want to know something?  That song is a lot like some of you!  And if you’re saying, “I don’t know anybody like that”, it’s probably you that everyone else is thinking about!
But if you have someone like that in your life, is it not in that relationship that you can show love by patiently enduring their annoyances in the same way Christ patiently endures you?
I’m not telling you not to confront them and tell them that they are annoying. There is certainly a place for this. But, I’m encouraging you not to have a conditional love for those people, loving them only when they change their habits and behavior. Rather, when they continue to be annoying, be patient with them.
And with every characteristic of love given in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, we could look at them and show how they have a purifying effect upon the people of God. But, for the sake of time, let’s just look at one more. 
Love does not take into account a wrong suffered.
I would say that this is where we can become most like Christ in our attitudes toward other people. Someone does a wrong against you; someone hurts you very badly; but love overlooks the offense and does not bring it to remembrance to hold it against another.
Proverbs 19:11 says, "A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression." This is the very thing that Jesus has done with us! He has "overlooked our transgression."
Now, of course, Jesus doesn't simply sweep the transgression under the rug. He paid for the sins that He overlooks. And when we overlook a transgression of another member of the church, we aren't simply sweeping it under the rug either. We are believing their sin to be atoned for in Christ, according to their confession of faith in Christ.
Think about how Paul illustrates this at the beginning of 1 Corinthians. If you know about the Corinthian church, you will remember they were a wicked, sinful, and proud people. They followed personalities, rather than following Christ.  They boasted about an immoral situation that existed in their church that was absolutely horrendous!
They were suing one another and were involved with  sexual sins.  They were unloving toward other people and abusing their spiritual gifts.  Some even were denying the resurrection.
And yet, knowing all of the sins of those in Corinth, listen to the way Paul greets them.
1 Cor. 1:4-8
What an amazing testimony that Paul gives of these sinful Corinthians! He gave thanks to God for them. In spite of all their sin, he spoke highly of the evidences of God's grace that was manifest in them and was also confident of the Lord's confirmation in that final day of them. Such language is purifying of the church, as it overlooks a transgression.
One final thing.  The love that Jesus has for the church is a love that
3. Cherishes
 verse 27
The picture that we have here in verse 27 is that of a bridegroom awaiting his wedding day. Jesus is the bridegroom. Jesus is anticipating the day when He will finally have a chance to join with His bride in marital bliss.
In Revelation 19:7, we read of "the marriage of the Lamb". It's the day in the future when Jesus will come with great rejoicing to claim His bride.
As we think of this parable, who is the bride? The church is the bride! As Jesus anticipates that day, what sort of attitude does He have for His bride, the church?
I have found it difficult to find a word that exactly depicts His perspective so I am using the one found here in verse 27. Jesus "cherishes" the church, realizing who she is. There will be a day when Jesus will marry the church. With perfect love and devotion, Jesus is consumed with protecting and caring for His bride until that final day.
Men, do you remember how you treated your fiancé in the weeks and months before your marriage? The best word that I can come up with to describe your attitude is that you "cherished" her. You thought about her all the time and did whatever you could do for her. Your mind was so consumed with the things that would take place in the near future, that all else was helpless. You just wanted to be with your future wife!
Think about this:  Since Jesus will someday marry the church, He has a similar anticipation about you and me.  He is waiting for the day when the church will be His.
And we are called to have a similar perspective. I believe that kind of attitude toward the church would change a whole lot of our behavior.
The church will someday be presented to the world as "Mrs. Jesus". As such you need to realize that the church is worthy of your honor. So think about the church. The church will someday be married to Jesus Christ.
Do you cherish the church as Jesus does? It is a sad testimony that the church is often known for its quarrels, bickering, and disunity. These descriptions of the church are far more familiar than that of love, unity, and harmony.
Sadly, this is the testimony of the church. When such things take place, they provide evidence that those in the church have forgotten who they are! They are the loved bride of Christ. When the Church is not loved, it brings dishonor to Christ.
Such behavior is unloving toward the church. The church is glorious in the sight of God.
Do you long to be with the church? When you love the church, nobody will be able to keep you from the people of the church. When she gathers, you will find ways to be there. When she scatters, you will find her! Do you love the church? If you do, you will sacrifice for the Church. If you do, you will purify the Church. If you do, you will cherish the Church.



Jason Witcher
An excellent first class sermon!
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