From the Pulpit Article: Gospel People. Gospel Community. Gospel Joy.
Gospel People. Gospel Community. Gospel Joy.
If you walk into any number of churches within the local area, what do you expect to find? A traditional service? Contemporary? Maybe a choir singing hymns out of dusty books or individuals peering up at bright lights and projector screens singing along to lyrics you’ve recently heard on the local radio station. What makes one church different from another? Is it the aesthetic or way the service is presented?
Dare you stay long enough after service and talk to someone in the church. A question one might ask is, “What is this church about?” It would seem a presumably important question.
For quite some time the very nature of convictional faith within the local church has slowly eroded as almost non-essential. Statements of faith have obscured and the nature of what a church believes has given way to other things. That may be social justice or any number of issues. We should not diminish the importance of helping the poor, the defenseless, or standing for ethical matters. The church, however, at its very foundation is to be a people of faith, belief, and of conviction. So it’s a presumably important question. The reasonable question that follows then should be: Belief in what?
Go back, in your mind, and picture the different churches again. The traditional with dusty hymn books and the contemporary with bright lights and a stage show. What type of people might you find? Are they all the same? Are they joyful?
What I would commend to you is that the Bible gives a great portrait of what a true church is and why that church experiences joy. Moreover, that it is a church which experiences greater joy because of what it is grounded in. And that is the Gospel: The good news that Jesus Christ came into the world to bear the punishment for sins in our place so we can be given eternal life if we have faith in Him.
Paul on his second missionary journey comes to a town called Philippi after getting a vision of a Macedonian Man (Acts 16:6-10) to come and preach to them. His usual routine was to find a synagogue and go share the good news that the Messiah, Jesus, had come. But this town didn’t have a synagogue. Historically it took 10 men to have a synagogue. Paul heard of a small group that met outside the town near a river to pray. Him and his friends went down to the place and found a small group of women. Paul sat down and preached to them. And the first 3 people Luke introduces us to tells us a lot about a local church.
As Paul sits and teaches there is a God-fearing woman named Lydia. A wealthy, affluent, high class, rational business woman. She was a dealer of purple cloth from Thyatira which was a high valued item. She had homes in different areas. She believed there was one God and was likely moved by the moral character of the Jewish women. As Paul is teaching, the Lord opens up Lydia’s heart to believe this good news (Acts 16:14-15). She’s sitting, thinking, and understanding what Paul is saying about Jesus as the Messiah. That He came and died for the sins of those who would believe in Him. That he rose from the grave on the third day. Lydia believes the gospel message. She becomes baptized, confessing her faith publically then, in her joy, begs and pleads that these men would come to her home so she can show them hospitality. The gospel message brought her salvation and consequently brought her great joy. Lydia becomes the first church member in Philippi.
As Paul continues to preach through the next week the second person Luke cameos to us is a demonically possessed slave girl (Acts 16:16-18). This girl is enslaved to her owners who cart her around town as she tells the future to people. While some claim mystical power, Paul and Luke call it for what it is: demonic possession. Ironically, this slave girl is crying out saying Paul and these men know the one True God and have the message of salvation. Paul becoming fed up with her distraction turns and commands the demon to leave her and she is exorcised. The Bible isn’t explicit that she came to faith, though many believe she did. Consider if she had. A demonically possessed slave girl now the second member of the church at Philippi.
The last cameo we get is the well-known story of the Philippian Jailor (Acts 16:26-31). The man who has seen the best and worst of humanity. The retired soldier who’s guilty of being too harsh on Paul and Silas. A great earthquake rumbles and shakes the prison to it’s foundation. And the jailor contemplates suicide for likely losing his inmates. But Paul admonishes him and the Jailor asks the question, “How can I be saved?” And we get the third church member at Philippi.
So we have the first three members at the church at Philippi. You walk into service and you see an affluent, rational business woman, an ex-demonically possessed slave girl, and a recovered Philippian jailor. No lights or show. No miserable people. Three people who came face to face with the power of the gospel.
It’s a compelling community to visualize. Seeing these three from completely different circumstances together experiencing great joy in their lives and together because of the good news of Jesus Christ. From the most affluent to the most afflicted, they became a community centered upon one thing: The Gospel message.
They were Gospel people in Gospel Community experiencing Gospel Joy together. That’s what church is about. That’s what real church community is about. The Gospel creates community and joy beyond what the world gives. That’s what you should see as you walk into doors of the local church. You should see people gathered around God’s Word experiencing joy as they worship and fellowship together in community. This supersedes barriers and it provides eternal, lasting joy.
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