Scripture: Romans 12:5
(6 of 6)
As most everyone knows, this weekend is Memorial Day weekend. It is a time designated by the government to give thanks for the men and women who have given their lives in service to their country. It’s important to be grateful for the blessings this nation provides. One of things that will grieve a veteran, and many other American citizens, is when people aren’t grateful for the sacrifices others have made so that they can enjoy the privileges they now possess. In this final message of God’s expectation of a church member, the focus is on gratitude for the local church. God expects you to be grateful for the local congregation of which you are a part. He is grieved if you aren’t.
Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Jesus loves this church dearly, so much so that He gave his life for it. Jesus is grateful for this church. Gratitude and love go hand-in-hand. Would it make sense if a husband said, “Well I love my wife but I’m not grateful for her.” Or would it make sense if a mother said about her children, “I really love my kids, but I really can’t give God thanks for their lives.” So if you’re not grateful for this church, you really don’t love this church. As a result you’re grieving the Lord, because He does love it.
“Well pastor, how can you ignore the problems this church has?” There is a big difference between ignoring them and putting them in a Biblical context. If you don’t look at church membership, as well as all other aspects of life, through a lens of gratitude to God, then your perception isn’t clear. There are three things I’d like you to grasp about church membership and gratitude.
First of all, God expects you to receive church membership as a gift. God has given you salvation as a gift. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So salvation isn’t something you deserve – you have fallen short of being entitled to it. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So salvation, new life in Christ, is a complete gift. 2 Corinthians 5:21 also says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Finally, Ephesians 2:8-9 reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Because your Christian life is a gift, your membership in the church is also a gift. If you feel you’re doing the church a favor being a member, you’ve got the wrong attitude. Being a member is not your gift to the church, being a member is God’s gift to you. 1 Corinthians 12:27 reads, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” So church membership is something to be received as a gift. From the moment you come to new life in Christ, you are given the gift of being a part of the body of Christ.
Then, God expects you to see church membership as a treasure. Romans 12:5 says, “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” You are a member of a connected body. You’re not just a member of an organization, you’re a member of an organism. That’s a miraculous thing. Think of it – when you find new life in Christ, you are made a part of Christ, you are joined with him. 1 Corinthians 6:17 says, “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” You’re not only joined to Christ, but you’re also joined to other people who have that same new life in Christ. Someone may say, “Well pastor, I agree, but I’ve never really been into church membership. Why do I have to identify with a local fellowship?” Biblically the church is mentioned in two ways. The first is the church universal. The church universal is everyone, at every time and in every place, who has come to new life in Christ. The church universal is huge. The church universal will be in heaven. There will be no denominational signs there, no church building signs, just one large body of people throughout all time who know Jesus as Savior. If you know Jesus, you are part of the church universal automatically. In the Bible however, the church is also mentioned as the local church. Whenever Paul wrote a letter to a church, he was not writing to the church universal. He was writing to local churches. When Jesus shared with the Apostle John in the first three chapters of Revelation, his words were directed to local churches, churches at Rome, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi and Colosse, among others. Jesus told John in Revelation 1:11, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” The local church is the tangible manifestation of the church universal. You really can’t participate in the church universal without participating in a local church. The two are linked. The local church is an amazing thing, it really is a treasure. First Baptist Church of Nitro is a treasure. There are so many dedicated people, so many diverse personalities, so many individuals who are near and dear to hearts. There is no other group like it. If you have been involved in another congregation, you’ve moved, and you’re looking for one just like it, you’ll never find it. Each congregation is uniquely special. If you move from here and try to find another church like FBC Nitro, you won’t be able to do it. There is no place like this place. This church body is a treasure. Each local church body is a unique treasure. Each local church is prized by the Lord Jesus. You should see this local church as a treasure as well, because it is.
Then, God expects you to give thanks for church membership through worship and service. Jesus said in Matthew 20:26-28, “…whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The best ways to show your appreciation to God for the local church is through worship, and then through service. Sometimes it’s tempting just to head straight to the service part and neglect the worship. Both however, are vital. You really can’t serve well without worshiping. Worship is a time of fellowshiping with God when you are filled. Service is a time of working for others when you are depleted. Often the two may overlap. You may serve through worship, and you may worship through service, but both things need to be present. It’s very possible to participate in worship and not have a servant’s heart. It’s very possible to serve to the point of not worshiping. You come to worship and you don’t give. You give but you no longer are blessed by it. When either of those two things happen, something is wrong. You either need to get your attitude right about worship, or you need to step back from service and focus on your relationship with Jesus. Worship with no service results in rusting out. Service with no worship results in burning out. God expects you to give thanks for church membership through worship and service.
In your bulletin is the sixth pledge for “I am a Church Member.” Please read it with me.
By the way, even though this sermon series is ending, you can still get a copy of the Bible study booklet, “I am a Church Member” and read it. Charles Mann still has several available. It’s a gift from this church to you.
I am a church member.
This membership is a gift. When I received the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, I became a part of the body of Christ.
I soon thereafter identified with a local body and was baptized. And now I am humbled and honored to serve and to love others in our church.
I pray that I will never take my membership for granted, but see it as a gift and an opportunity to serve others and to be a part of something so much greater than any one person or member.