i-love-our-church-010

Chuck Allen, Pastor
chuck@sugarhillchurch.com
@achuckallen

I Love My Church
Ephesians 5:25-5:32

 

Some of you may have seen the movie, “Marley and Me”.  It was the story of a 97-pound Labrador retriever.  He was reported to be the world’s worst dog. He crashed through screen doors with alarming regularity. He went berserk during thunderstorms, destroying everything in his path. He stole food off the dinner table, slobbered incessantly, drank from the toilet bowl, and ate bath towels, sponges, socks, used tissues, plastic toys, furniture, speaker covers, paychecks, even an expensive gold necklace.

He was incorrigible. And utterly lovable.

How could a master love a dog that had so many bad qualities? The reason why is because though the dog had many bad qualities it also had some good qualities.

In many ways, the church is the same.  We can point out the faults and problems within any church. We can talk about how there are decisions that we do not agree with, people that frustrate us, things going on that we have a problem with, but despite all of its warts and faults, the church is something we should love.

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. I think that many of the problems people have with the church is because they fail to see the good that the church has to offer.

So let’s 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 not do anything.

There are a lot of folks that don’t love the church. They prove it by rarely attending, rarely giving, and rarely doing any real work to advance the church. We can say we love the church, but if we love the church, then we will show it through what we choose to do and how we choose to live.

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.  Let’s take a look at Ephesians 5:25-32
25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.

28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.  29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body. 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. Let me give you some reasons to love the church.  

I Love the Church because Jesus Loves the Church

When we love someone we tend to love the things that they love. That’s 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 Jesus 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.  You 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 buildings, the programs and the history of the denomination more  than we do the church.  Let someone dirty up the carpet, leave a light on, or  or damage the furniture and we’re all bent out of shape.  But we will injure hurting people by our words and deeds and never think a thing about it.

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, we schedule and prepare the programs, we visit the sick,we counsel the hurting, we care for the family of faith, we sing and we have camps for kids, programs for children, families, students, and so much more  —- but we love the church. 

Why?  Why are we to love the church?  One of the main reasons is because we are commanded to love the church.

John 13:34-35 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

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 sacrificial and far-reaching and unbiased.

Back to Ephesians 5, in verse 25 – 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.

In verse 29 – He also feeds 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.

To care for, to nourish, to sacrifice for – 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 Jesus hurts with you, and His church is to be there for you.

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.   Every now and then 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 don’t love the church.” It’s simply not possible and is like severing the head from the body, because the church is the body of Christ and He is the head.

Then think about this: I Love the Church because the Church is God’s Family

I would be willing to bet that if we just 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.  Listen:  even if someone is wrong and in sin, it’s not the world’s business.  It’s the family’s business.

The church is family.  As God’s kids we have been adopted through Jesus and made a part of God’s family. We are all children of God. We are brothers and sisters 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?

That may be 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.  The thought of having an eternal family who really cares about me makes me glad to be a part of the family of God, I love the Church!

Here’s a third thing:  I Love the Church because of 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. You can 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 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.

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?

The reason is because the Redwood trees 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 Followers of Jesus,  when we are rooted together in Him we are able to withstand a lot of difficulties because we are connected together.

Listen to 1 John 1:7 –  But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

Christian fellowship results in spiritual growth. 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, and it is beyond me how and why someone would be able to go through the storms of this life without Christian friends to be there for them.

I couldn’t 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 seen when a loved one dies, the church take up a grieving person in their arms and come together for them, make them food, shower them with cards and love, visit them, and check in on them. 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.

I love the church because there, we are able to find acceptance.  I am thankful that people in the church do not hold the things that I have done against me and force my past to dictate my future. I am thankful that people who have done awful things can find love and acceptance.

Aren’t you thankful that in the church we can be accepted for who we are?  You don’t have to have a great career, a large bank account, you don’t have to fit the perfect image, you don’t have to look a certain way, dress a certain way, you don’t have to be limited because of what you have done. The church should accept people from where they are, they way Christ accepts us.

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.

Just here at Sugar Hill Church – this year, we’ve:

  • Counseled hundreds of church members in everything from marriage, to children, blended families, addictions and mental health challenges
  • Made hundreds of hospital and bereavement visits.
  • Serve our middle and high school students, all 225 regular attenders with mission trips, leadership development, highly relational experiences, camps and spiritual development…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
  • We moved to a new structure for equipping our children to make wise biblical decisions with high energy, fun experiences, and biblical teaching 52 weeks a year!
  • Provided Parent resources through the Parent Cue
  • This semester of Groups for adults had 80% of our adult worship attendance engaged in a Sunday Morning or Weekday Group!
  • Given more than $43,000 to families and members in need.
  • Provided ministry opportunities for families
  • Created women’s ministry opportunities year round
  • Men’s Ministries through groups, Man Church, and more
  • Young adults fun and bible study.
  • The App to deliver Weekday Podcasts, BLOGS and church-wide information

And I could go on, and on, and on and on!

How many lives have been impacted because of the church and what she stands for? One person at a time the church has been an influence on society and by individuals changing their lives and making Jesus their Lord it has shaped our world to be a better place. And because of that, I love the church!  Don’t you?

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