I AM A CHURCH MEMBER
Treasuring Church Membership
Most of you know how a pearl is formed. A foreign object, like a piece of sand, gets caught inside the shell of an oyster. Because the oyster doesn’t have hands and can’t sweep the item out of its shell, it begins to cover it with nacre. This is the substance that creates a pearl. The irritant for the oyster eventually becomes something that is smooth and round and doesn’t cause the oyster pain and suffering anymore. It’s something that takes time and effort on the part of the oyster.
My favorite Disney park in Florida is Epcot Center
There are fascinating things to see and do there
They always try to stay on the cutting edge of technology in their exhibits on the front side of the lake
But my favorite part of Epcot Center is what is on the backside of the lake – it’s all the foreign country exhibits
I could spend the whole day or week just exploring all the various countries and what they have to offer
Two times ago, when we were at Epcot Center, we spent some time in the Japanese exhibit
One particular thing caught my eye
They had a display where live oysters were kept
You could purchase an oyster and the Japanese lady would carefully open it and remove the pearl that had been growing there
Levi and I spent several minutes watching as different individuals purchased an oyster and waited expectantly to find out how big the pearl was that was inside
Of the ones we saw, they were about the same size – they were mid-range
They were not the smallest and definitely not the largest
God’s creation is incredible!
He made the oyster just this way to be able to transform something that’s an irritant into something beautiful and valuable
You and I are His incredible creation too!
It’s not hard to identify the person at work that irritates the other employees
If you are having a hard time thinking of whom that person is, it’s probably you!
In your neighborhood
When a new neighbor moves in it can be scary
What are they going to be like?
Will they be friendly, angry, or distant?
Will you get along with them?
Will they be irritating to you and your other neighbors?
For a time, the houses on either side of us were vacant and I was concerned that maybe we were the irritating neighbors
It can happen within the church as well
Certain people can irritate you
They can get under your skin
God’s work, God’s institution
God is the one who instituted the church
He has created you and I with the incredible ability to transform something that is an irritant into something valuable
The nacre He has given to us, is love – unconditional/sacrificial love
Christ sees the church as a valuable treasure, a pearl of great value
He is again our model for exercising and expressing sacrificial love as we’ll see in Matthew 13:44-46
Let’s commit this message to the Lord in prayer
BIG IDEA – Make love your nacre.
GOD (Matthew 13:44-46)
In the 13th chapter of Matthew Jesus shares seven parables about the kingdom of heaven
Four of those parables He shared with a crowd of people
The last three He shares with only His disciples in a house
He begins His time of sharing with the disciples by explaining the parable of the weeds
His explanation is very important for our understanding of the meaning of the other six parables
The person who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man – Jesus!
The field is the world – all humanity
The good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom – believers/followers of Jesus Christ
The weeds are the sons of the evil one – those who are not believers/followers of Jesus Christ
The enemy who sows the weeds – the devil
So, keep Jesus’ explanation of the various parts and players in mind as we look at two of the parables He shares with His disciples
Hidden Treasure (v. 44)
Jesus is again trying to help us understand what the kingdom of heaven is like
He talks about a treasure that is hidden in a field
If we follow Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the weeds, then we would identify the field as all humanity/the world
So, there’s a treasure that’s hidden within all humanity that is obviously very valuable, because the man who found it hides it again and goes and sells all he has and purchases the field
What is the treasure that’s hidden in all humanity?
It’s not a hard question
It can either be the church or better yet the Israelite people
Exodus 19:5-6, Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.
Psalm 135:3-4, Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant. For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.
God set aside the Israelites in order that they would be a showcase of theocracy to all the other nations of the world [Stedman, 4]
The Israelites were supposed to demonstrate what a relationship with God looks like, but they failed
They were supposed to show what glorifying God looks like
They were to model for all the other nations this incredible relationship, so the other nations would be drawn to God, but instead they kept it to themselves, they focused inwardly
They were a nation hidden, a treasure not being invested to produce dividends for God [Wiersbe, 47]
Israel was an obscure, tiny nation for hundreds of years
There was no voice of God in their midst
God was not speaking to them through the prophets during this 400 year period
Who is the man that hides the treasure again and sells everything to purchase the field?
The man would be Jesus Christ
When He came from heaven to earth, He briefly uncovered the glory that was Israel
You know what happened though
Most of the Israelites rejected Him
They didn’t believe He was the Messiah
He couldn’t be if He died on a cross, because He would have been rejected by God
Jesus eliminated this misconception when He rose from the grave
He won over sin and death
Even though they rejected Jesus, God still has an important role for the Israelites to play during the end of times
Romans 11:11-14, Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgressions, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.
This promise from God is not only for the Israelites today
It’s for you as a follower of Jesus Christ
Have you temporarily turned away from God and giving in to your own selfish desires
Are you struggling in your relationship with God right now
Everyone goes through those times in their lives where they feel distant from God
Maybe you’re questioning today whether you’ve gone too far and are beyond recovery?
The answer Paul gives is for you – Not at all!
2 Chronicles 7:13-16, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
It’s not too late, you haven’t gone too far
God is ready to forgive, just cry out to Him
My Next Step Today Is To: Claim God’s promise to forgive me by crying out to Him and confessing that I’ve temporarily turned away from Him and have neglected my relationship with Him.
He has hidden them once again until His second coming
Until He returns, the privilege of demonstrating the grace of God has been given to the church
Matthew 21:43, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
Jesus was overjoyed when he found Israelites and gave everything He had to purchase humanity, which included them
John 11:51, He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation
Isaiah 53:8, By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
Pearl Merchant (vv. 45-46)
Who is the merchant?
In the other parables the main character is represented as Jesus Christ
He is the sower who went out to sow
He is the one who scattered the sons of the kingdom throughout the world
He is the one who planted the mustard seed in the field
So, the merchant is Jesus Christ
Who is the pearl?
It is the church
Why a pearl to represent the church instead of another gem?
“. . . the pearl is the only jewel which is the product of living matter.” [Stedman, 2]
“Unlike most other gems, the pearl is a unity – it cannot be carved like a diamond or emerald. The church is a unity (Eph. 4:4-6), even though the professing church on earth is divided. Like a pearl, the church is the product of suffering.” [Wiersbe, 47]
There are times when you and I suffer through some difficult things at church – most of those are related to relationships with other people
Paul tells us how God desires for us to deal with those difficult relational situations
We are to use the nacre of unconditional/sacrificial love
John Oxenham wrote a poem that expresses this principle perfectly:
He drew a circle that shut me out,
Rebel, heretic, a thing to flout.
But God and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
Sanctification is a continual growing process, it’s not a one and done kind of thing
You and I have to work at it
We can’t ignore the problems within our church – they won’t just go away
You and I have to step out of our cultural norms and comfort zones in order to sit down together and lovingly and patiently work out our differences
Is there someone within the church that’s irritating you right now?
You need to take time this week to meet with them and patiently and loving talk it out
My Next Step Today Is To: Ask God to give me the strength to meet, this week, with the individual(s) within Idaville Church that I’m struggling with.
When you and I truly grasp the great value that Christ places on the church and why it’s being formed, it should motivate us to treasure the church in the same way He does
Jesus is making for Himself a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any blemish (Eph. 5:25b, 27)
The church has been given the task of pointing the rest of the world to Jesus
The church is to be demonstrating what a relationship with God and Jesus looks like
“A pearl grows gradually, and the church grows gradually as the Spirit convicts and converts sinners.” [Wiersbe, 47]
Is Idaville Church doing that?
Are you doing that?
My Next Step Today Is To: Look for ways this week to demonstrate to my family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers what a relationship with Jesus Christ looks like.
What did the merchant do to obtain this pearl?
Jesus gave everything He had in order to obtain the church
He considers the church something of great value
The church is the vessel He is currently using to demonstrate to the rest of the world the kind of relationship He desires with them
He willingly sacrificed the glories of heaven to come to earth
He took on the form of a human being and suffered just like you and I do, yet without sin
He fulfilled God’s purpose for Him on earth by being falsely accused, beaten, and hung on a cross to die, to take your punishment for sin
We’re all born with a desire to have our own way (Romans 3:10-12, As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”)
Because God is just, He cannot allow sin to go unpunished (Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.)
God’s not only just, but He is also loving (Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.)
He made a way for you to be in a right relationship with Him (2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.)
My Next Step Today Is To: Believe in Jesus and His ultimate sacrifice to purchase me, so I can be in a right relationship with God.
Jesus modeled love
It was love that motivated Jesus to give everything He had to purchase humanity so that He will be able to use Israel, an incredible treasure, when He returns again
It was love that motivated Jesus to sacrifice everything in order to purchase the church, which is the pearl in humanity that points to Jesus
It was God’s great love for us that motivated Him to fulfill His plan of redemption through Jesus Christ
Love is our nacre
1 Peter 4:8, Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Make love your nacre.
God showed grace towards us – He didn’t give us what we deserved for our sin
We also should extend grace to those around us, which is an expression of love
When we allow love to be our nacre, it can cover over the irritation that we may be feeling toward our coworkers, neighbors, family, friends, and fellow believers
The Sixth Pledge
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.