December 2018   
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Upcoming Events
DEC

11

TUE
Men's Bible Study
8:00 AM
Every Tuesday at the downtown McDonalds, 8:00 a.m.
DEC

12

WED
Midweek Activities
6:00 PM
Preschool, Children, The Mission (Youth Worship) and Adult Bible Study, Weekly Worker's and Officers Meeting
DEC

16

SUN
Mission Ardmore
6:00 PM to 6:45 PM
Outreach to Newcomers to Ardmore
DEC

18

TUE
Men's Bible Study
8:00 AM
Every Tuesday at the downtown McDonalds, 8:00 a.m.
Bible Search
Reasons to Love the Church
I Love My Church Series
Reasons to Love the Church
Ephesians 5:25-5:32
 
It doesn't take much research at all to find all kinds of information about why people don't go to church.  Generally, the reasons given are that church is no longer relevant, it's full of hypocrites, the sermons are boring, people aren't friendly, it's difficult to get connected, someone got their feelings hurt, it's easier to just watch on TV or live stream,  and on and on the list goes.
 
I promise you, anybody who has spent any time at all around and in a church can put together quite a  collection of all the things that are wrong with a church.  As a matter of fact, I've got quite a list myself!  Decisions are made we don't agree with, people frustrate us, things go on that we have a problem with, one of my personal pet peeves is how long the preacher preaches!  But despite all of its warts and faults, the church is something we should love.
 
In fact, if you do a Bible study on religion, you’ll find a lot of negative information.  Jesus regularly tanned the hide of folks who were religious.  But if you do a Bible study on the church it’s almost always positive and we are told, point blank, that Jesus loved the church.  Religion regularly gets a bad rap in the Bible, but the church doesn’t.
 
 
 
Even when people in specific churches are a mess such as in Corinth, when you study all the Bible verses with “church” in them, it adds up to a glowing review.
 
The "church" verses show us people who send missionaries, care for travelers, share everything they have, encourage the hurting, care for the poor,
teach God’s Word, confront sin, support the weak and pray for each other.
 
The only real negatives I can find are in the letters in Revelation 2 and 3 that Jesus sent through John to the seven churches of Asia Minor.  But even there, with only one exception, in spite of their problems, He finds much for which to praise the church, and the rest of the New Testament church verses are practically a Valentine’s card to God’s people.
 
This is especially surprising since the Bible isn’t shy about showing the warts of its heroes. But the church comes through, not only almost unscathed, but with praise reserved for no one else but Jesus himself, especially in the ‘bride of Christ’ passages.
 
Certainly, the New Testament writers never shied away from criticizing members of the church when they needed correction. We’d barely have a New Testament without that. But Paul, John and the others make a very real distinction between individual members of the church and the church itself. 
 
Even when they offer scathing criticism to individual believers, church leaders and local congregations, they are overflowing in their expressions of love for the body of Christ.
I will confess to you that I am biased because throughout my life, the church has meant a lot to me.  And I am sure that many of you can identify with me.  The church has been very good to me and very special to me. And my personal opinion is that many of the problems people have with the church is because they tend to look at the faults rather than the good the church has to offer.
 
So what I wanted us to do today is spend some time looking beyond the warts, beyond the problems, and beyond the frustrations and see the church in the way that God sees the church.
 
I believe when we start to truly and sincerely love the church it changes the way that we interact within the church.  It changes the way that we participate; it changes our motives, and changes our priorities.
 
We can talk all day long about what God expects of us, and how much we should be doing within the church, but until the people that make up the church love the church and stand behind the mission of the church people will never to motivated to serve through the church.   
 
There are many people, both Christians and non-Christians, who do not love the church. They prove it by rarely attending, rarely giving, and rarely doing any real work to advance the church. They prove it through their negative comments and bad attitude. 
 
Others say they love the church, but I want to remind you if we love the church, then that love will be demonstrated through what we choose to do and how we choose to live our lives.
 
We learned last week that Jesus loved the church, and I am here today to tell you that I love the church that Jesus bought with his blood and I hope you do too.  I want us to return to the same text we visited last week.
 
Ephesians 5:25-32
 
Let me give you some reasons to love the church.  Reason #1, I love the church because of  
 
1.  Its Savior
 
When we love someone we tend to love the things that they love. That is why family heirlooms are so treasured and valued. Most likely you have some family heirloom that has been passed down to you from someone you love. To anybody else, they are nothing special.  But you treasure it because of where it came from and someone you love loved that item.
 
One of the reasons why I love the church is because Christ demonstrated that he loved the church. And maybe before we get too involved, we ought to clarify what we mean by the church. 
 
When we talk about the church we are not talking about the physical building with the name church on it.  We are talking about the people that gather in that building.  They are the church.  Long before the building existed and long after it’s gone, the church was and will be there. 
 
 
 
In fact, it’s a shame that too many times we show more concern for the building than we do the church.  Let someone dirty up the carpet or damage the furniture and we’re all bent out of shape.  But we will injure tender children or hurt people by our words and deeds and never think a thing about it. 
 
We’re much more worried about the mess they may make rather than the mess that they are or the mess in which they live.  I’ve heard some of you be harsh with children who want a donut to eat.  I can imagine what it will be like someday when a preacher visits one of those children and invites them to church as an adult. 
 
If I were them I’d say, “Forget it!  I went to church when I was a kid and they wouldn’t even share a donut with me.  I’m not interested in your church!”
 
So just keep in mind that the building is important only to the extent that it helps us to reach people to grow the church.  We use the building, but we love the church.
 
So why are we to love the church?  One of the main reasons is because we are commanded to love the church.  Listen to
 
John 13:34-35
 
Did you catch that?  We are not just encouraged to follow the example Jesus gave, we are commanded to be like Him.   In other words, in the same way Christ has loved us, He commands us to love others. 
And He says this is a "new" commandment.
 
 
So what made that commandment “new”?  It was not necessarily new in principle.  The idea of loving your neighbor is a principle that God has taught from the very beginning.  What was new was the application of that love.  God has always expected His people to love others, but now for the very first time, we had the example of Christ.  And the command is now to love as He loves. 
 
It is to be unconditional and far-reaching and unbiased.  As we saw last week, His love is sacrificial in that He gave Himself for the church.  He went through all of the experience of the cross, motivated by His love for us.  He cherishes us!  But His love didn’t stop there. 
 
Our text reminds us in verse 29 that He also nourishes the church.  That means He takes care of the church.  Not only does God promise to provide for our physical bodies he also promises to nourish and take care of those that make up the church spiritually.
 
It’s heart-breaking to hear from time to time of a child being neglected by its parents.  They are stuck away in a closet or kept without food and treated worse than animals.  Just recently, a father and mother were arrested in California for neglecting and abusing their children when one of the girls escaped through a window and went to police.
 
Sheriff's deputies said they found the couple's 13 children ranging in age from 2 to 29 years old, some of them chained to furniture, all of them thin and malnourished. The 17-year-old girl who escaped was so tiny that deputies initially mistook her for a 10-year-old.
I don’t know about you, but I always wonder what is it that would make a parent act like that toward their own children?  Why don’t they love their kids?  The truth of the matter is, they may say they love that child, but their actions speak much louder than their words.  To abuse and misuse someone or something that is dependent upon us for its care and nourishment and protection is inexcusable. 
 
That is the nature of the relationship the church has with God.  The Church is dependent on Christ for its spiritual nourishment and he takes care of the church.
 
I’ll tell you something else His love means:  He hurts when the church hurts.  God has always taken it personally when His people are mistreated or when they are hurt.
 
Do you remember what happened to the Apostle Paul when he encountered Jesus? He had been persecuting the church, and one day he was stopped dead in his tracks and heard the voice of Jesus saying, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
 
Why did Jesus say “me”? The reason is because as His people were being hurt, He hurt as well. When you are heart-broken, stressed, struggling in life, offended, or mistreated, Christ hurts with you.  In Jesus we have Someone who understands and sympathizes with us. He is a sympathetic High Priest.  He doesn’t just leave us alone and not care for us.  He hurts when we hurt.
 
And one of the reasons I love the church is because I know that there are people here who, just like Jesus, care enough about me to get involved in my hurts.  No other club, group, or organization on the face of this earth has the kind of support structure that does the church.  No one else can offer you the hope that the church does.  No one else can provide the kind of resources that the church does. 
 
Every so often I run across someone who claims to be a Christian but they have nothing to do with the church.  They say, “I love Jesus, but I do not love the church.” This is not possible!  It is like severing the head from the body, because the church is the body of Christ and He is the head.
 
Notice what verse 22 says.
 
Though there is no sin in the head we are a body with flaw and faults, but regardless Jesus loves the church so much that he gave himself up for her, and we too should love the church because of his obvious love for the church.
 
Reason #2,  I love the church because of
 
2.  Its Family
 
My church family is God's family.  I would be willing to bet that if we went down each aisle, every one of us have some family secrets we’d rather not share in public. Every family has some secrets; some things that they would never tell anyone about.
 
It might be an old event from your past or an embarrassment because of a family member.  Perhaps it was a financial problem or a moral failure.  And you do your best to keep it a secret to protect your family who you love.
 
I think that the church should be the same way.  It is unfortunate that the first thing many want to do when they have a problem at the church is blab it all over town.  They start running to their friends and talking about someone else.  It gets plastered on Facebook or Twitter and before long, everybody's talking about it. 
 
Listen:  even if someone is wrong and in sin, it’s not the world’s business.  It’s the family’s business and the proper response is not to broadcast it all over town, but to help our brother or sister who sinned to have victory over it. 
 
The church is family, and even more to the point it is God's family.  As God’s children we have been washed in the blood of Jesus and made a part of God’s family. We are all children of God.  We are brothers and sisters with Christ. As we recently studied from Romans 8, we have been adopted into His family.  We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus.  And as family, we are to love one another.   
 
Some things simply need to stay in the family and our love for one another, as a spiritual family needs to be unconditional. After all, the next time there is a problem, it may be you who has failed.  How do you want to be treated?  The Golden Rule is always apropos.  It is always right to do unto others and you would have others do unto you!
 
Now the idea of loving unconditionally and as you want to be treated hard for you to grasp.  Maybe you didn’t grow up in a loving home.  Maybe there was always arguing and fighting.  Maybe your dad didn’t spend much time with you.   But the church makes that all different. 
When it comes to the family of God, I'm not talking about who your daddy was or how he treated you.  I'm talking about who your Father is and how He treats you.  The thought of having an eternal Father Who loves me and an eternal family who really cares about me makes me glad to be a part of the family of God.  That's one of the reasons I love the Church!
 
Here’s a third thing.  I love the church because of : 
 
3.  Its Relationships
 
The Church is unlike anything else in the whole world, in that special relationships can be formed between those who have a common bond in the church. and those relationships are eternal. You can and may have dozens of friends in the world, but no friendships or relationships can compare with those that you can develop within the church.
 
You cannot find friends in the world like those that you will find in the church that care about your soul, that will pray for you, that will desire you to be a better person, that will encourage you when you are down, will love you unconditionally, will forgive you when you mess up, and will care about where you spend eternity.  
 
The fellowship that we can have within a church is a special thing that is unique to the church. In fact, the relationship that we share as brothers and sisters in Christ is longer lasting even than that with our spouse.  That is extremely significant since the way God chose to picture His love for us is through the picture of marriage. 
 
And yet, the relationship that God chose to make eternal is not the marriage vow.  It is only binding until death parts us.  Instead, God brings us into His family, establishes Himself as our Father, makes Jesus Christ our big brother and joins us together as siblings and determines that the relationship will last forever.
 
Now it just seems to me if we are in an eternal relationship as brothers and sisters and we are going to be together for all eternity in heaven, we are just as well to figure out how to get along now! After all, you can pick your friends, but you are stuck with your family.  
 
We do that by cultivating the relationships we have in the church family.  We are actually rehearsing for heaven!  And in the meantime, we are demonstrating to the world the love that God has shared with us, making it so attractive they want some of it for themselves.
 
Is that not what we read a moment ago for John 13: 35?  He commands us to love one another as He has loved us so that anyone who comes in contact with us will know we are His disciples.  We are to be so much like Him, so closely united in the bond of love, that the family resemblance is unmistakable.
 
I have heard that giant redwood trees in California actually have really shallow roots. How then can they stay strong and not topple over without deep roots?
 
It is because they are connected together by their roots. Since they are connected together at the roots they are able to stand strong and withstand the storms and the wind.
As Christians when we are rooted together in Christ we are able to withstand a lot of difficulties because we are connected together.
 
Listen to 1 John 1:7
 
Christian fellowship is distinct from worldly friendships and is different from just spending time with friends. We've become so commonplace with the word "fellowship" we think it is nothing more than sharing a meal or spending at hour together as a class.  Somebody brings a bag of Doritos and someone else a bottle of Coke and we have a "fellowship"
 
But real Christian fellowship results in spiritual growth. It is the very nature of our relationship as the family of God.  It is the thing that causes us to be there for one another and encourage one another and build up one another in the faith. 
 
And down through the years, I have heard many people share that the church and the relationships with the church have meant the world to them.
 
The cards written by brothers and sisters in Christ, the visits from those who care, the waits at the hospital when someone is sick, the prayers that are offered on someone’s behalf. Those things mean the world to people!  Like many of you have said, and I've said as well, I don't know how someone can go through the tragedies and storms of life without the Lord and a church family to be there for them.  Even more bewildering is why anyone would want to do that!
 
What could be better than to have deep and strong relationships with people that share the same faith and have the same values that we do?  There is no other place in the world like the church!  I tell people all the time, especially those that are looking for a church home, "Everybody needs a church family!  And you never know when something's going to happen that you will need someone to be there with you!"
 
I could not imagine going through this life without the love, care and support of friends within the church. I have no idea how non-Christians deal with death and sickness with no one to fall back on. I have seen the church do amazing things for people.
 
I have watched, when a loved one dies, as the church comes alongside a grieving family, takes them in their arms, prepares food for them, showers them with cards and love, visit them, and checks in on them and shares the grief and heartache they are experiencing.
 
I have seen people diagnosed with disease prayed over, cared for, loved, and physical needs being met. Not everyone in the church can teach, or preach, but everyone can love each other.  That is what is unique about the church; the relationships that are formed because of a common bond and a common hope that we have in Christ.
 
The fourth reason I love the church is because of
 
4. Its Impact
 
 
There are a lot of clubs and social groups that do amazing things and I am thankful for those groups. Many of them raise money for medical research and build hospitals.  There are those who feed the hungry and  provide gifts for children that cannot afford it.  Others lobby for moral issues that are important to society. 
 
But for all the good they do, those groups will never make the impact that the church has. As much as a liberal society hates to admit it, the church has greatly impacted the world in which we live in.
 
Do you ever wonder where the world would be if it wasn’t for the influence of the church? Without even considering the spiritual influence, the church has made an unbelievable impact through hospitals and schools and humanitarian help.  When disaster strikes, it is very often the church who is first to respond.
 
And certainly we have the church to thank for holding the line down through the years against evil and immorality.  Watch what happens when there is a moral issue in the news.  Who speaks out against it? The Christians do.
 
Some people may see that as offensive, intolerant and fundamentalist, but I see it as being a voice of truth. I see it as being the salt of the earth, I see it as speaking out against what is contrary to what is good and right, I see it as being a conscience and a voice in a society that without the voice of Christians would be an immoral and chaotic place to live.
 
In fact, I’m offended when Catholics or Mormons are getting all the headlines for voicing their opposition to some moral issue. 
 
I want to be the voice in those fights!  I believe it is the church that has kept America from being far worse than it is today because there are still people with morals and convictions willing to stand up for what is right and they are found within the Lord’s Church.  
 
I want the world to know where we stand and why we stand where we do.  That's not all I want to be known for, but I believe we are called to be the voice of God in a dark and dying world, the voice that speaks with compassion and courage against those things that will destroy and kill and devalue human beings for whom Christ died.
 
That's why, at the same time the church has held the line by what we are against, it is the church that has been there to show love and compassion. It is the church who has prayed for America and blessed her with hospitals and charities and programs that edify and build up and strengthened homes and families. It is the church that has offered a helping hand when there are national tragedies and disasters. 
 
It is the church who has been there for the underprivileged and deprived.  It is the church that has defended the fatherless and widows and the unborn and the sick and maintained the sanctity and dignity of human life. 
 
 
 
And it is the church that has preached the gospel to sinners and offered forgiveness to the fallen.  The greatest impact on the world through the church has come through sharing the gospel.
 
And she hasn’t been stingy with it.  All over the world today, there are Christian ministries alive and well because the church has taken seriously her mandate to go into all the world and be the body of Jesus. 
 In our own Southern Baptist Convention, God blessed us with a wonderful tool called the Cooperative Program.  Its genius is found in churches of every size and in every location voluntarily pooling their resources to do together what we could never do by ourselves. 
 
In our church, 10% of every undesignated dollar we receive is sent on to the Cooperative Program.  That money is received by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and 60% stays here in Oklahoma to fund our work, while 40% will travel around the world to support the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, six seminaries and ministries that are so diverse and widespread you would be amazed at what we do.
 
Closer to home, our church is involved in missions and ministries that begin at our own front door and extend to Africa, Mexico, Ecuador and all over the United States.  And through your support and involvement, you are a part of making an impact on the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
And because of that, I love the church. 
 
It is at the church where sinners are able to find forgiveness and experience the grace of God.  It is at the church where those who are saved can be discipled and developed. loved and supported, and have opportunity to be a witness for the Lord.
 
What an impact on society! What an example of Christ’s love! I love the church because the church shows love and compassion and grace and conviction and mercy and tenderness. 
 
How many lives have been impacted because of the church and what she stands for? Only God knows!
Only Christ can take a sinner who is headed for hell and change the heart of that person and make him or her into a child of God.  And it is that Christ that the church unashamedly preaches and proclaims.  That's what we do!  In fact, that is our primary responsibility. 
 
One person at a time the church has been an influence on society and by individuals changing their lives and making Christ their Lord it has shaped our world to be a better place. And because of that, I love the church! 
 
In Wheat That Springeth Green, author J.F. Powers has one of his characters say, "This is a big old ship. She creaks, she rocks, she rolls, and at times she makes you want to throw up. But she gets where she’s going. Always has, always will, until the end of time. With or without you."
 
Come to think of it, that's a pretty good description of the church!
 
Are there some reason to be down on the church?  Are there some no-count preachers and bad churches?  Have some had bad experiences at the church? Does the church have any hypocrites?  Certainly!  But let me remind you, she's going to get where she's going! 
 
And the truth is, in spite of all the bad, there is so much good and so much right and so much positive, it's hardly worth mentioning when you evaluate the whole.
 
I love the church! Don’t you?  Don't you love the church for whom Christ died?  Don't you love your church?  Why not let that be heard and seen by those with whom you come in contact? 
 
They've heard enough of the bad and the negative.  Let's make sure they hear the good and the positive as well.  And above all, let's make sure they hear the gospel.
 
Let's pray.
 
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