The Gospel Church

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ALAN GILES – September 27, 2009

Intro … Well it has been almost 3 months since we looked together at Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome so I have to ask. How has the battle been?

If you remember, if you were here, we spent that 4th of July weekend talking about what we called The Gospel War. It is a war unlike any earthly war. It is a personal war, and a war that is actually waged within ourselves.

It is a war that caused the Apostle Paul himself to cry out “what a wretched man I am,” and yet, just a few verses later to be able to say “Thanks be to God.”

If you missed that sermon than I would sum it up by saying that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God… but Christ.

Christ has once and for all paid the penalty for sin… bringing about victory once and for all, and not only providing for our justification, or right standing before God, but also providing a means for our continual sanctification, or our making to be righteous.

But this war… This Gospel War… is a believer’s battle … meaning 2 things.

1 – Non-believers do not fight this battle. They can’t. There is no spiritual life in them with which to fight the flesh. It is not until the inner being is brought to life that it can even begin to war against the flesh… and secondly, the Gospel war is a very personal war.

2. It is fought within. It takes a different shape and form for every believer. You might even say that Satan engineers uniquely prepared attacks for each one of us.

So last time we talked about this war and I kind of tied it in with my life and my journey through the halls of Annapolis, the battles within that I faced, and the sanctifying work that God did in my life over those 4 years.
Now, that being said… I came to a place in life… and maybe you have been here before as well… where I had actually come to peace with who I was as a man… not knowing it was well short of what God had planned for me… but nevertheless, I was happy… sort of.

I was newly married. I was an officer in the Navy. Cassie and I were living an adventure, having just moved to Charleston, South Carolina for a year of Nuclear Power School. We had a big house (by our newly-wed standards), a dog, money in the bank, and even a mustang.

Cassie was a strong Christian woman, and I was what I would call a man who had a good personal relationship with Christ.

That meant that He and I were good. I knew where He stood, and where I stood, and I knew that as my life progressed we would continue to grow closer.

I also knew, or thought, that things were much better as long as I stayed in a personal, almost private, relationship with Him.

That meant that I really didn’t need to talk all about our relationship, didn’t really need to go on telling people all about our relationship, and certainly didn’t need to gather around with other people who are also supposedly enjoying this same relationship with him and play the game that every one called church.

I’m not actually sure where my dislike for the church began, but I know that it was fully fleshed out over the course of the 4 months that I worked for the Navy chaplain corps.

It had been my first assignment as an officer, sort of a temporary duty assignment, and it had been terrible. I still say to this day that
it was like living in the land of the Pharisees.

It was a phony, political, popularity driven game that fully fleshed out in me a complete disdain for the church, and everything associated with it.

I couldn’t stand the politics, the fake smiles, the watered down sermons, none of it. But more than anything, I really couldn’t stand the military chaplains, at least not the group that I was under the influence of.

I don’t know why. I don’t know if I was just cynical about all leaders or if it was just that certain profession of leaders, I don’t know. But I do remember this. I was determined to never go to church again… no matter what.

But then… Cassie.

One day, while I was in class, Cassie, on the recommendation of my mother, attended a Bible Study Fellowship Session in Goose Creek, South Carolina. And there, Cassie met Amber. And Amber was a Navy wife as well. And Amber was new to the area as well. And Amber’s husband, Tyler, was an officer in the nuclear pipeline as well. And Amber was so nice. And Amber was so kind. And Amber was so funny… And Amber invited us to church!

So there it was. My beautiful bride, not more than 5 months removed from our wedding day, asking me if we could go to church with Tyler and Amber.

“Well what time is it at?” I asked… furiously storming through my mind, trying to find an excuse for every time of the day.

“Sunday School is at 9, and then Church is at 10:30.” Cassie replied.

And there it was… my out. My escape. “Well,” I replied, “I’ll go to one or the other… but we’re not going to both. I am just too busy and really I should be studying that day so really I can probably only go to the Sunday School thing.”

Because you see… Sunday School wasn’t church. She had said so herself. Sunday School was at 9, and then Church was at 10:30. So theoretically, I could go to this Sunday school, satisfy Cassie, and then leave after that and not really have had gone to “church.” Plus, we all know that Sunday School is just where you sit around, eat doughnuts and drink coffee, and go through some workbook where every other answer is Jesus or God right?

So no problem… and off we went. And nothing was the same again.

At Remount Baptist Church, God lit in me a fiery passion for His Bride, The Church. God used that little church in South Carolina to spark a fire in me that has steadily burned for the last 5 years.

You see, through my experience there, and at a couple of other churches, combined with what has been a nearly exhaustive study of The Church, God has placed in my heart a longing to no longer fight alone… but to fight alongside warriors just like me… in A Gospel Church.

So today, I want to unpack for you a chunk of what God has shown me about His church over the past 5 years.

Now normally, I prefer to find one section of scripture and just sort of park there for the entire sermon, but today I just can’t do that. There is just too much, in too many places, a lot of which we will touch on today, and some of which we will look at in our cell groups this week.

But first, when we talk about Church, we have to ask, what are we talking about exactly?

What is Church?

You see, to have a Gospel Church… we have to somehow have this thing called church. But what is it?

Would you believe me if I told you that a church… is not a place, and it is not a building, but it is… a people. Or more specifically… a called out people…

Or as I have it on your note sheet;

A Called-Out Body of Witnesses

The New Testament word for church is the word Ekklesia, which comes from two greek words, “Ek,” which means out, and “kaleo,” which means calling.
The two words combined forms the word Ekklesia, or a “calling out,” which in New Testament times was actually more of a political word than it was a religious word.

In classical Greek “ekklesia” meant “an assembly of citizens summoned by the crier, the legislative assembly.”
In Roman times, if there was a city state that found itself too corrupt and oppressive, the Roman government would call for an ekklesia, an assembly outside the civil authority of the city, and yet with the responsibility to represent Caesar and restore the city state back to a peaceful existence.

So there would be a breakdown in the way things were being down, a recognition of the breakdown and a desire to restore things to the way they were. An assembly of people would then be called out, to represent the King, and through them, with the authority of the King, or Caesar behind them, peace and prosperity would be restored once again.

So now with this understanding of Ekklesia, verses like Matthew 16:18 can be seen in a whole new light. Christ asks His disciples who do people say I am and then who do you say I am and Peter professes in verse 16, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God,” to which Christ replies that on this rock, on this acknowledgment that He is Christ, He, that is Christ, will build his church. Or in other words, on this profession that Jesus Christ is the son of the living God, Jesus will begin to call together His Ekklesia.

You see, everybody knew there was something wrong. There had been since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, but the Ekklesia had not yet been called out… That is until Jesus comes.

So now we read something like Colossians 3:15 where Paul says:
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as
members of one body you were called to peace.”

And we start to see this in a whole new light. Not only are we called, but we are called together as one body… one Ekklesia.

And then verses like Romans 12:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 start to really drive it home because Paul says:

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Rom 12:4-5)

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and
we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

And so we have Christ who calls us out, and forms us not into millions of groupings defined by race, or gender, or political affiliation, but He calls us out into one body.

And not only does He call us out, not only does He form us into one body, but he then gives us a directive. He says in Acts 1 …

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you;
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and
Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

And so He tells the very first ekklesia that we are to be His witnesses. Starting in Jerusalem, and continuing on to the ends of the earth.

So the Gospel Church, starts first of all with a Called-Out Body of Witnesses.

Called by Christ. Formed by Christ. And witnesses to the one and only savior, Jesus Christ.

So it only makes sense then, that if Christ does the calling, and if Christ does the forming, and if our witness is to the power and glory of Jesus Christ, then the true church, the Gospel Church, must not only be a Called out body of witnesses, but the Gospel Church, must be a:

Christ-Centered, Called-Out Body of Witnesses.

And by Christ Centered, the New Testament is very clear that The Church, or Ekklesia, is not only called together by Christ, but as Colossians 1:15-18 tells us we are led by, and held together by Christ.

Paul writes;
“He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over
all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven
and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or
rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church;”

And then in Ephesians, one of my favorite books of the Bible, we are told that it is Christ, the Head of His Ekklesia, who we are to grow together into the fullness of.

Where again, Paul writes …

“It was he [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and
there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is
the Head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-15)

So now we are getting somewhere. Now, we have something very special.
We have something more than a building or a time, or a fancy name… now we have a people. A people who have been called out by the Son of the Living God, formed together as one body, called as witnesses to the Kingdom of the most high God, held together, and led by Jesus Christ himself, who is the Head of this body.

Now… we have church … We have Ekklesia.

But the Bible doesn’t stop there. If we keep digging, if we keep looking at what the Bible calls church, we quickly see that there is an aspect to this church, this Christ Centered, Called out Body of Witnesses, that is again, very different than any other calling in the world. It is a …

Fully-Committed, Christ-Centered, Called-Out Body of Witnesses

If we stay in Ephesians, and we move one chapter to the right, Paul paints for us a beautiful portrait of the church, and he uses marriage
to do it.

He says;
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the
head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body,
of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ,
so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:22-27)

Now I know that this set of verses is almost always used to talk about marriage. And most pastors will read about wives submitting to their husbands, and all throughout the congregation husbands will be nudging their wives in the side to make sure they are listening, and then the pastor will talk all about how husbands are to love their wives, and all the wives will subsequently give the loving elbow right back and then all the couples go home, act civil to each for about 2 hours, until some sort of divisive issue comes up and the husband will tell his wife to submit to him and let him watch the game and the wife will say something about him not loving her like the pastor said he is supposed to and the real gem in the verse will have gone completely untouched. You see the real jewel in this text, actually has very little to do with us, and how we are to act, but in fact has everything to do with Christ, and His commitment to us.

On one hand Paul is saying wives submit and husbands love, but look at the example he gives… Christ.

Christ so loved us, His bride… His Church… that He GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER.

The Son of the Living God, loved his church so much, that he gave up everything for it.

And Paul says… Do likewise – Submit to Christ… He is the Head of the Church. And then fully abandon yourself… for the sake of Christ… and
His Church.

Don Grant said just this past week at shepherd’s meeting, “Can you imagine what it would be like if all believers woke up in the morning and thought, ‘What can I do for Christ today?’”

Can you imagine that? What would The Church be… if we were all as selfless… as Jesus Christ was for us.

Cassie and I just had our second child… Abigail. And I’ll tell you, if you have ever been with a woman in labor… a woman who is going through absolutely excruciating pain, on your behalf then you’re probably like me in the fact that there is nothing you wouldn’t do for that wife of yours.
She wants a pillow, she gets a pillow. She wants you to push on her back, you push on her back. She needs a nurse you get a nurse…

Why? Because you love her… and she is in absolute pain… on behalf of your family…

So can you imagine… the pain… the suffering, the sun blackening torture that took place when Cross abandoned Himself for us… His Church?

And then can you imagine… committing ourselves to Christ, and to each other… in the same way… with the same passion… with the same love…

Then… we would be a Fully Committed, Christ Centered, Called Out
Body of Witnesses.

Last piece. The Gospel Church… Is Gospel Driven

Gospel-Driven, Fully-Committed, Christ-Centered,
Called-Out Body of Witnesses

It is a, Fully Committed, Christ Centered, Called Out Body of Witnesses… Driven…that is fueled or empowered by… the Good News The good news that Jesus Christ… The Son of the Living God… The creator of all that was and is and is to come… gave Himself up… for us.

You see, in the beginning… God created everything… in perfect shalom… that is in perfect rhythm and peace with itself and everything around it, and everything works like it’s supposed to.

We had plants and animals, but not waste and abuse. We had grapes and wine, but not drunkenness or alcoholism. We had food, but not gluttony, sex but not lust, marriage but no In-Laws… but most importantly… we had unbroken fellowship with God.

But then comes the fall. Adam & Eve sin, fellowship with God is broken and the entire earth is thrown out of perfect Shalom, and into this downward spiral.

Now in this spiral God shows up to a man by the name of Abraham and essentially tells him that through him He is going to bring forth a nation of people, a called out nation, that will be a nation representing, or bearing witness to the one true God.
And so from Abraham we get Isaac, and from Isaac Jacob, who is later named Israel, and from the 12 sons of Israel we get this nation of Israel, this called out nation, that bears witness to the Kingdom of God.

But God doesn’t stop there. Remember He tells Abraham that He will not only bless him by bringing forth this nation but that through this nation all nations will be blessed.

And so then we get, from this nation of Israel, this man called Jesus… the Messiah… the Savior.

And we learn as we watch Him minister and heal and teach and preach and fulfill one prophesy after another, we learn that He is indeed the Son of God, and that He has come as a fulfillment to God’s promise to restore shalom to the world once again.

It is then through the sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus that The Gospel, or good news is made clear to us, that Jesus Christ, God the Son, has borne our sins, and provided for us a path back to God, and back into the unbroken fellowship with him that the first humans once enjoyed.

Then Jesus, right before He ascends back to heaven tells us in
Matthew 28:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Jesus essentially says “you have been called out, formed by me, to be my witnesses to all the world… now go, pray, wait for the Holy Spirit… and then be my church.”

So from this moment all the disciples and apostles and close followers of Christ go back into a room and they lock themselves in and they begin to pray, and on the day of Pentecost Peter preaches the first post ascent sermon, and 3,000 men become believers in Jesus Christ, and they too join this Ekklesia, and bear witness to the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God has taken away the sins of the world.

This all happens in 33 A.D., and from here on out history tells the story of the Ekklesia, or the church, being driven by the Gospel.

By 39 A.D. Paul, who was once Saul has already begun to take the gospel to gentiles.

In 42 A.D. Mark goes to Egypt.

In 49 A.D. Paul goes to Turkey, and then in 51 A.D. to Greece.

In 52 A.D. Thomas arrives in India, In 54A.D., Paul heads on his third missionary journey. By this time he’s writing the book of Romans, and he says that wherever he goes, the gospel advances and drives and changes lives. More and more bodies of witnesses are called out, and formed right before his eyes.

In 174A.D., the first Christians are reported in Austria.
By 280A.D., there’s the first written knowledge of rural churches emerging in northern Italy.

Let me tell you why that’s a big deal. Christianity, for the first 200 years, was completely urban. It was not rural at all. In fact, the word “pagan” basically means someone outside of the city. So Christianity was completely an urban religion. And then by 200A.D., we start having rural churches.

By 350A.D., 31.7 million people claim Christ as Lord. That’s roughly 53% of the Roman Empire.

In 432A.D., Patrick heads to Ireland. We celebrate this every year by getting smashed and pinching one another.

In 596A.D., Gregory the Great sends Augustine and a team of missionaries to what is now England to reintroduce the gospel. The missionaries settle in Canterbury and baptize 10,000 people in the first two years.

In 635A.D., the first Christian missionaries arrived in China.

In 740A.D., Irish monks reach Iceland.

In 900A.D., missionaries reach Norway.

By 1200A.D., the Bible is available in 22 different languages.

In 1498, the first Christians are reported in Kenya.

In 1554, there are 1,500 converts to Christ in what’s now called Thailand.

In 1630, there is an attempt made in El Paso, Texas to establish a mission among the Mason Indians.

In 1743, David Brainerd starts a ministry and a mission for American Indians.
In 1845, the Southern Baptist Convention organizes its mission board.

In the early 1900’s Ursula Poates plants 3 apple trees in her yard to help convince prospective land owners that fruit could be grown in this part of the Mojave Desert.

In 1947 in a little town in Pennsylvania Sadie Mikels gives birth to a son named Mark.

2 years later, in 1949, the town of Apple Valley is officially recognized by the U.S. Post Office.

In the mid-1950’s Robert Dennis, the Father of our own Anita Olson, and Grandfather of Laurie Olson, as first director of the Southern California Conservative Baptist Association, oversees the planting of 1st Baptist Church
of Apple Valley.

In 1972 Mark, now Pastor Mark, graduates from Denver Theological Seminary and is ordained as a minister in the Baptist denomination.

In 1976 Apple Valley Christian School is founded as a ministry of the First Baptist of Apple Valley, with 19 students in Kindergarten and 1st Grade.

In 1987 my mom and dad enroll me in Apple Valley Christian School and we begin to attend First Baptist Apple Valley where 2 years later, on Valentines Day 1989 Pastor Mark Allen Mikels baptizes 8 year old Alan Micah Giles and impresses upon him the story of Samuel, and how as just a young boy he learned to listen to God, and to walk in his paths.

On September 18th, 1994, God uses Mark & Linda Mikels to plant Sonlife Community church.

14 years Later God brings Mark and me back together and a work that was began nearly 20 years earlier is brought one step closer to completion.

On and on and on I could go. What I just gave you was a remedial, cursory, small brush stroke of all that God has done in Christian history to get you and me in this point, in this place, and all of it goes back to exactly what was said in Genesis 12, exactly what was promised in Genesis 20, exactly what was spoken of in the prophets, exactly what was said in Jesus Christ, exactly what occurred in the New Testament. The Gospel continues to push itself forward over and over and over again.

This is history, this is what’s going on. Every government, every war, every plague, every bit of persecution, everything that has ever occurred in every corner of the world exists for one reason alone – God’s great gospel. It pushes and drives everything.

Do you know how the gospel left Jerusalem? Stephen was martyred. Do you know how Christianity got here? The Puritans were being persecuted. So they hopped on a boat and came over. Everything is about what God is doing. This is what we’re caught up in. This is what’s happening. We’re right in the thick of it.

In 1900, there were only 558 million Christians on planet Earth; in 2002, there were 2 billion.

If present trends continue, then by 2025 there will be 633 million Christians in Africa, 640 million Christians in South America and 460 million Christians in Asia.

This is what’s going on. This is the Gospel drive that we find ourselves in, and the Gospel will continue to press forward.

If we’ll see this, if we’ll get this, if we’ll understand this, if we’ll understand where we are in all of this, then the little details of life don’t toss us all over the place.
If we can see ourselves as what we are … a strategically placed players in God’s story, then in dark times we know God’s got this and somehow this plays into what God is doing.

If we can see this, get this, grasp this, then we’re tethered, then we’re anchored, then I think we are much more apt to play our part well.

And that is exactly what God asks of us… play our part well. He’s got the rest. He has done the calling, done the forming, and even provided the good news for us to bear witness to.

He has provided His son as our Head, our Leader, our Chief Shepherd. He has shown his commitment to us, and asked us to commit ourselves to Him, and then to each other, as His church.

Finally, He has not only promised us, but shown us, since the beginning of time, that His Gospel, His Good News of Salvation will drive us, and will propel us, as He builds His Church.

So as long as we remain faithful, and we remain committed, and our lives bear witness to the King… then we will enjoy, and our children will enjoy, and our children’s children will enjoy… this beautiful, marvelous, blessing from God…

Final Thot. And yes it should look familiar… I can think of no better way to say it than Pastor Mark said it last week.

Final Thot…
There Is No Greater Calling In All The World Than To Be A Responsible,
Reliable Member Of Christ’s Church; There’s No Greater Privilege
In All The World Than To Be Involved In Christ’s Church.
May We Recognize The Calling And Cherish The Privilege!

The Gospel Church… is Christ’s Church… not ours. It is all about Christ -not us – for we are merely one part of this incredible, unstoppable, two thousand year old, worldwide… Gospel Church.

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