The Church—the ekklesia—the “called out ones” of God. Called out of sin to salvation, self-centeredness to service, hatred to love, resentment and bitterness to understanding and forgiveness, called out of death to life.
The Church—not a building but a belief—not a place, but a people. “Called out”—separated by God—not just to be different, but to serve. I We are not separated—set apart—saved just to be saved. We are separated, set apart, saved to WITNESS.
The Church—gathered together for worship, for support and strength, for encouragement and growth.
The Church—called out of the world to be God’s own, gathered for support, encouragement and growth in the ways of God.
There Is More…
There are many who would stop there in their definition of the Church. Even the first century followers of Jesus would have gladly stopped there. They were content to be called out by Jesus and set apart as His special followers. They were content to sit at His feet and absorb His teachings. After the crucifixion, they were content to lock themselves in the upper room. Even after the resurrection, Peter and James and John and the others would have gladly ignored the world and hid themselves away to worship and remember the Master.
But Jesus didn’t want it that way. He had called them out. He had gathered them together for a purpose. In the upper room on the first night of His resurrection, Jesus made clear the ultimate purpose of the Church. In the twentieth chapter of John, we read these words of our Lord: As the Father has sent me, even so send I you. (John 20:21)
The Church is called out by God, gathered together for worship and fellowship and THEN sent forth. But sent forth for what? We are called out of the non-believing world. We are gathered together for worship, fellowship and growth. But why are we sent forth? What is the purpose behind our being sent?
To Represent God
The obvious answer is that we are sent forth to be God’s representatives in the world. As Christians, we are sent forth to tell others about God’s love, about Jesus’ death on Calvary and His resurrection. We are sent forth to preach and teach about Jesus Christ. We are sent forth to fulfill Jesus’ final commission to His disciples
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-20
Now, just a minute, Lord! That’s fine for preachers and missionaries. They are called to ’make disciples.’ But I’m just and ordinary believer. I can’t stand in a pulpit and preach. I can’t leave my family—my job—to go charging off to Africa or China or the Middle east to tell others about You. Surely, You aren’t trying to send me somewhere”
How often we get this mistaken notion that God only sends missionaries to foreign countries with what appears to us as strange customs. Or that He only sends preachers to churches or evangelists to areas that need revival! Yet, if we examine the Scriptures carefully, we’ll find that EVERYONE who names Jesus as Lord is not only “called out” from the world, but is sent forth as well—if not across the sea, then at least across the street or across the room!
To Season and Preserve
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His followers from the first century to the twenty-second century, “You are the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5:13). Salt in Jesus’ time had two primary purposes, seasoning and saving. Salt either spiced things up, which changed and enhanced its flavor, or it preserved things, which prevented decay.
Every Christian who is called by God is sent forth as God’s salt in this world. By our presence, we should “change the flavor” of the world around us. In a world torn by anger, strife, misunderstanding and hatred, our presence should inject God’s love, peace and calmness. In a time of anxiety and frustration, it is the Church’s task to provide certainty and security. When dissension and resentment are rampant, it is up to us as the “called out ones” of God to be peacemakers, to provide stability in a confusing time.
Because we are God’s called out ones, we are sent forth to change our world just as salt changes the flavor of the dish to which it is added. As the presence of salt improves the taste of our food, so our presence should improve our world and the life situations in which we find ourselves.
In Jesus’ day—even in the early days of this nation—salt was also a preservative. Meat that was not smoked or dried was heavily salted to delay the process of decay. We are sent as salt into the world to halt the spiritual, moral and emotional decay and disintegration that is so evident. As God’s ambassadors in the world, it is our task to inject a sense of rightness, morality and truth into a world that has been twisted and distorted by half-truths, evil and self-centered sinfulness.
To Expose and Direct
Jesus also taught that, as Christians, “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14). As God’s light in the world, our purpose is to expose that which is wrong and point the way to what is right. As God we become more familiar with God’s Word, we become increasingly aware of our world around us. We see not only obvious sins, but become more sensitive to hurtful attitudes, painful words and inconsiderate actions that torture and crucify people around us. The more we want to bring them to the light that they might be forgiven, healed and transformed.
As lights in the world, we are not only to expose the wrong, but also to illuminate the right—to point people to God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also taught his followers “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). By our words and actions, we are to encourage others to believe in God and to accept Jesus as their own. We are to live in such a way that our example will reflect the love of God so that when people see us, they will see God at work in us and they, too, will believe in Him and want to serve Him.
We have help
Now, that’s a tall order—to be a reflection of God, to live and speak and act in such a way that people will believe in our God who has called us out, gathered us together, and sent us forth. But, thank God, It is not an order that we have to try and fulfill in our own strength!
The Key phrase in this morning’s Scripture is the twentieth verse—”we are ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us”. (2 Corinthians 5:20). God working through us enables us to have an effect on our world even as salt has an effect on the food it touches or light has an effect on the darkness.
There is no guarantee that we won’t make mistakes—no promise that we won’t stumble and fall down or fail in our attempt to be Christ’s ambassadors. We are still human beings with the power of choice. We still have the right to say, “no” to God and His will for us.
But we also have the promise that we are not alone, that we don’t have to serve God in our own strength. When Jesus sent His disciples out into the world in the twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew, when He commissioned them as His ambassadors and sent them forth, He promised, “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. Matthew 29=8:20b
The ekklesia, called out of the world to believe in Jesus, to receive Jesus, to share Him with those around us. Gathered together in groups of two or three—in groups or places like this—for fellowship, encouragement, support and growth. Sent forth in His strength to be the salt and light of the world, to be His ambassadors, and the representatives of God in the world.
Called out…Gathered together…Sent forth.