“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God”
Romans 15:7 (ESV)
Last Sunday I began a series of sermons here at Memorial Presbyterian Church on the New Life in Christ, focusing then on Ezekiel 36:26-28, how we recieve a New Heart from God to replace our hearts of stone. In God’s mind-blowing way, and with no contrivance on my part, the sermon tied in so well with the “Midweek Message” which I wrote about being a loving congregation. One of the reasons why the church has a hard time being the kind of loving community that Christ intends for us to be is our cold and wandering hearts. This week, I am preaching on what it means to receive a New Mind from God, a mind not fixed on the things of the flesh, but on the things of the Spirit (Rom 8:5-8). (You can listen to the sermons at www.cmpres.com.) If we’re honest, our old minds are another reason why we are not always the kind of community Christ has called us to be.
If you’ve done any reading on Church Growth, Mission Development, or just plain Church Management (though I can’t imagine why you would have), you’ll find most of the literature is written from a corporate or sociological perspective. After all, if the business models work for corporations and non-profit agencies, shouldn’t they work for the church? So many attempts have been made to model the church after the world, to judge the success of the church by the world’s standards – have we forgotten what it means to be the church?
If we are to really be the church, the body of Christ in the world, shouldn’t we look different from every other business model that the world offers? We are not a corporation who gathers to put on a good show to entertain our audience. We are not an organization that exists to serve its members.
We are a community called by God, and when we come together, we are to renew and re-commit ourselves to the God who has covenanted to be with us. We are a community marked by the cross, and when we come together we remember the calling of Christ to die to ourselves, our passions, our goals, and to follow Him. We are a community filled with God’s Holy Spirit, and when we come together we need to listen to the Spirit’s teaching in God’s word, sing and pray in the joy of the Spirit, and go into the world to serve God in the power of the Spirit.
Too often, the worldly mind, the mind that is “set on the things of the flesh” can creep into and overwhelm the church. When we start thinking about church in worldly ways, in ways that lead to death as Romans says, the life and joy of what the Christian community dies. The church will not survive if it operates like the world, and the world will not survive without the church.
If the church cannot be a place of forgiveness, what can?
If the church cannot be a place of peace, what can?
If the church cannot be a place of grace, what can?
If the church cannot be a place holiness, what can?
If the church cannot be a place of purity, what can?
If the church cannot be a place of love, what can?
If the church cannot be a place of service, what can?
What we need, once God renews our hearts, is for God to renew our minds as well. We need to come to church, to do church, with our minds set on the things of the Spirit. Letting the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) guide and direct our every word, our every decision, our every action will dramatically transform the church from a gathering of man to the community of Christ.