Individuals are saved into a community. St. Paul refers to this community as a temple of the Lord. This temple is unfinished. It’s a work in progress.
It’s an ever-expanding renovation project, acquiring new people, new tribes, new lands and new areas of human culture – sanded, refitted, resurfaced, polished and repurposed – without end – from the rivers to the end of the earth.
It’s messy but this building is being shaped into something beautiful that houses the Triune God.
But like all renovation projects, in which you are still trying to live in it – it strains patience, strains belief, strains our ability to envision the final product – it requires a lot of faith and hope.
We all know that.
People sin. Circumstances of life are difficult. People move away. People in church are not perfect. Resources are strained.
The people being repurposed into this building, the church, are delicate and difficult, they require specialized tools. And those tools are you and me.
I don’t know if you know this – but you – with all your attributes, life experiences, frailties and character traits – complete me. Without you I am a foot without a leg, an ear without a head.
You were born to have a significant role in my life. To play the part of sandpaper and duct tape. Pry bar and finishing hammer. Veneer and scrub brush. Congratulations. But I also complete you. This community is not the elders. This community is not a select clique.
You need everyone in this community. Not just the folks whose company you enjoy most – who are the most compatible, likeable, lovable and the least work.
I instill a lot of patience in people, by nature, because it takes a lot of patience to be close to me. Ask my wife. There is a fruit of the spirit that you are most adequately equipped to encourage in me. Trust me.
And by not hiding from it, by not building walls around little ghettos of self, family, and church cliques – I will be worked on the way I need to be.
This community is not for the worthy, the finished or the Christ like – but for those who are being transformed into Christ’s likeness on earth. We aren’t there yet, we’re a renovation project – and we are a project.
I need a lot of work. I need a lot of ministry. Ask my wife.
But, so do you.
This church is not a giant fig leaf to hide behind. It’s a construction site, where the unfinished material of you and me is becoming we – becoming us – with one faith, one baptism, one Lord.
The elders alone are not responsible for ministry – Jesus is equipping you through us– through sermons and calls to worship, through discipleship class and socials, through prayer meetings and service projects.
Ephesians 4:11-16 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
The saints do the work of ministry, building up the body of Christ in maturity, in love, growing organically through real community until we are one body working properly.
And what is the proper work of the body?
Isaiah 49:6 “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
We are not called and equipped to be a walled-off secluded community of the uber religious, away from the world, out of sight.
We are not saved to build a ghetto. We are the commonwealth of Israel called and equipped to Go and bear fruit by loving one another. Letting the light of Christ shine from our faces toward the world, spreading this renovation project to the four corners of the earth.
Its time we get out of the ghetto because God has real work for us to do. He has called and equipped us to do it. So where do we go from here? How do we get out of the ghetto? The ghetto of self and the ghetto of our families? Do you feel Isolated? Do you feel overwhelmed, overtaxed and under resourced?
Ministry within a church and ministry in the city are hard in the area in which we live. Ghettos are easier to build than kingdoms….but you don’t have to build it alone. We build walls around our ghettos and the world is all too eager and happy to assist.
The cost of living is big. The distance separating us is big. The sins of others, once you begin to become vulnerable with one another, are big. Our own inadequacies and sins, once we become vulnerable with one another, are big. The population opposed to our God and His kingdom are big.
There be giants in the land. And the urge and temptation to dig in and defend ourselves with high walls is potent.
But the God of our salvation is bigger. Jesus is bigger than the distance of land that separates us. Jesus is bigger than your bills, Jesus is bigger than the sins of others. Jesus is bigger than your inadequacies. Jesus is bigger than your fears.
You are called to bear fruit. You are equipped to bear fruit. With the weapons of our God no giants can overcome us and as we step out in faith and in prayer, the grace of our God fills us with all that is needed to slay giants. To tear down strongholds. The gates of hell and hell bound sinners cannot stand before the army of faith, the hosts of heaven.
Do you feel isolated? Do you feel under resourced? Do you feel ill-treated by life?
Because that may be how you feel, but the reality is that the name of Jesus is upon you, the throne of the Father is open to you, the Spirit of God is within you and the Gospel is for you, your children and the world.
It isn’t till you believe that Jesus has called and equipped you that you will be able to go and bear fruit.
Believe that He has called and equipped you, step out of your ghetto and open your eyes, your hands, your heart…… We aren’t waiting for the Lord – he’s already at work…waiting for us. So, let’s get out of the ghetto and join Him.
2 Corinthians 6:1–13 “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.”