...and the house that is to be built for the LORD must be exceedingly magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all lands...
First Chronicles 22:5
The story goes like this...rescuers finally arrive after years of fruitless searching. They find the man on a deserted island and notice that he's constructed 3 buildings. After enquiring, the man tells them, "Well the first building is my house and the building near it is my church." "But what about that third building?" they ask. "Oh that's the church I used to go to!" It appears that church disruptions can happen in churches of even one person!
Naturally this (hopefully) made-up story is a little nonsensical. Because 1 person alone does not constitute "church"...
God loves it. Satan detests it. It's not merely a physical housing - but something of eternal substance:redeemed believers. When someone believes in Christ, they become united to His body, the Church - expressed locally by the gathering of believers under authority, to worship together, to partake of Communion, to be instructed, to encourage one another and to introduce people to Christ. Believing in Christ is not a solitary exercise! Not only did Jesus say that He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) but He simultaneously stated He came to "build My Church" (Matt. 16:18). God loves the local church. Satan abhors it!
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul could write to the Corinthian church, who we know were a messed up lot - with complex baggage brought into their walk with Christ and is the reason Paul wrote to them in the first place, yet he take God's perspective and write-
2Corinthians 7:16 I rejoice, because I have perfect confidence in you.
Church is like the Quarantine for Heaven. In one respect, you can't leave this life on earth and go directly to Heaven. You obviously have to come to Christ in this life because He is the only means of having our spiritually contagious cancer healed. But in normal circumstance, He doesn't take you straight to Heaven, rather, He places us in "spiritual quarantine" (the local church). It is in this Spiritual Quarantine that we are prepared for Heaven.
In Heaven we will serve Christ. Therefore, in Christ's Spiritual Quarantine He calls us to serve now. Read the teaching of Christ in the Gospels and you can't miss the emphasis Christ placed on this and the supreme example He set for it. Before we get to Heaven we must practice serving here on earth, but firstly in the Spiritual Quarantine of Christ's local church.
In Heaven we will sing our worship. Therefore, in Christ's Spiritual Quarantine He calls us to worship now. Christ sang with His disciples because He loved to worship His Father (Matt. 26:30). Before we get to Heaven, where we will sing our worship to our God for eternity, we are called to practice now in the gathering of the local church. Our worship is of course not just done by singing. In Heaven we will be to talk with God face-to-face for eternity. In the meantime, we are called to practise this now by praying together. In fact, if Christ's Spiritual Quarantine smells of something, it smells of the sweet fragrance of prayer. This is why one of the most important things we do as a church is to pray together in our Sunday night service. As a shepherd in the Quarantine, I can tell whose hearts God has touched and anointed for leadership within the church by observing our Sunday night prayer times. Godly leaders love God's House (the Quarantine) which Jesus angrily cried out was to be: "a House of prayer!" (Mark 11:17).
In Heaven we will discover things about God through the revelation of His Word to us. Therefore, we are called to give our minds to the teaching of God's Word in the Spiritual Quarantine of Christ, the local church. This is why we place so much emphasis on the sound teaching of God's Word, the Bible. There is a major trend today in some "trendy" churches to dismantle the Quarantine aspect of church and avoid the serious topics and teachings of the Bible in the pursuit of being "relevant". But as Ravi Zacharias says, "It is the truth that makes what you say relevant. If what you say is not grounded in truth - no matter how relevant you sound - you are irrelevant!"
But there's two matters that the Spiritual Quarantine must also deal with because we won't be able to deal with them in Heaven.
Firstly, in Heaven we will beholding the Omni-generous God, who has given all. He calls us to give in this life. He has ordained that His provision is given through His Quarantined people. Our giving enables the Quarantine to operate more effectively by increasing its capacity. Christ wants more Quarantines and He wants the existing Quarantines to cater for more people who want to be made fit for heaven.
Secondly, in Heaven we will not be able to witness to the lost about the Saviour. Christ calls us (read: "commissions us") to unashamedly bear witness to not-yet-Christ-believers and to pray that our witness will be fruitful and effective. It is my daily prayer that Christ use me to bring people to belief in Christ. Throughout each day, I pour my energies into doing whatever I can to either bring people to Christ, or to assist others who are also trying to do this. When I was a teenager, I had a powerful encounter with God. I was so deeply moved after I was baptised in the Holy Spirit with a profound burden for the lost that I dedicated my life to God to reach as many people as I could for Christ. This led me to the streets of Geelong each Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights where I would hand out Gospel tracts and preach to whoever would listen. I could never have imagined then that I would be preaching to thousands each week through radio and the internet. But in the midst of all this, I'm still praying for my neighbours, my students, my tennis buddies and those that I come into contact with and strike up a conversation with. Added to this I am extremely sensitive every Sunday when we have visitors and I am preaching perhaps the last time they'll ever hear the Gospel.
Psalm 84:1 ¶ How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
Christ loves His church. The Devil despises it! The Church is a living reminder to the Devil that Christ rose from the dead and is continuing His two-fold mission of saving the lost and building His church! Little wonder the Devil does all he can do to undermine the church. The local church is not an optional extra for those claiming to be a believer. Even a light reading the New Testament will leave the new believer realising that the 22 epistles refers to "one another" over 40 times, and "together" over 20 times. It employs these precious terms in one of its last epistles when it says-
Hebrews 10:25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
What a glorious reminder that the Church is not a sterile duty - no, it's a Quarantine of health and life that fits us for Heaven and places us in partnership with Christ as He seeks to win the lost of our Valley. This is why we meet each Sunday to worship, witness, and receive the Word. It's why we meet Sunday nights in particular to pray, testify and minister to one another. It's why we meet through the week in homes to study and reflect on God's Word, to share with each other our needs, and to support each other. By doing this we are helping to build not just a Holy, healthy life-giving Quarantine, but a "house that is to be built for the LORD must be exceedingly magnificent." This is what I have given my life for.
Ps. AndrewFather, help me to pastor your House with Your wisdom and Your strength. I pray that I might use every available means to spread Your life-saving Gospel. I pray that we as a church might have a great burden for the lost and do all we can by prayer, church-building, and personal witnessing to help bring these people to Christ, in Jesus' Name, Amen.Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.