Let us begin with a prayer:
O gracious God and most merciful Father, you have given us the rich and precious jewel of your holy Word. Assist us with your Spirit, that it may be written in our hearts to our everlasting comfort, to reform us, to renew us according to your own image, to build us up into the perfect building of Christ, and to increase us in all heavenly virtues. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the same Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
God’s covenant of grace is given to us by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone. And yet we know that while we are justified through faith alone, the faith that saves is never alone but accompanied by other graces. That while the fruit of saving faith happens at different times in the lifetime of an regenerate believer, nevertheless, it surely occurs to each one of them. All of God’s people when justified by Christ’s atoning work will truly be sanctified by the Spirit.
Sanctification, just like justification is wholly by God’s Grace. And yet when we live under God’s grace as responsible disciples of his Kingdom. We serve one another according to the measure of grace God supplies. This is what Jesus explains in the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14-30. Jesus wants us his disciples to live with the perspective of eternity and anticipating his immediate return. He teaches to become responsible and productive stewards of his grace.
How are we going to live in the light of eternity and Jesus’ imminent return? We live in the presence of God or in Latin “Coram Deo”. As proper stewards of God’s gifts, we serve one another the provisions Christ gives his church. And as members of Christ’s church we are called to responsible membership. Unlike the lazy servant who was given a talent and refuse to put it into good use, we are call to diligently apply God’s talents in our lives for the benefit of others.
This is applied in two ways in the church. First is for those called in the special office as pastors, elders, and deacons. Second is for those called in the general office of believers. We will focus on the second.
As our officebearers lead and teach the church, we who are its members are called to bear some responsibility in line with their ministry. And what are those?
In sum, there are three area of ministry namely Worship, Nurture, and Missions and we are exhorted to attend to the various responsibility membership entails. In worship, we are called to prepare and to respond in the preaching of Word and administration of the Sacrament. At the same, we are to praise God in thanksgiving when responding to his Word. Then in nurture, we are called to attend to each other’s need both physically, financially, and spiritually. Finally in missions, we are called to live as God’s agents in this world bring about his glory.
This is what we will hear preached this Lord’s Day morning. They are listed as three points: 1) Worship and Church Membership; 2) Nurture and Church Membership; 3) Missions and Church Membership.
Worship and Church Membership
Participation in Worship means listening attentively during sermons, examining oneself during when partaking the Lord’s Supper, and joining wholeheartedly the prayer and praise of the congregation.
It is the responsibility of every member to join the public gathering of believers every Lord’s Day and prepare both body and soul to hear God’s Word preached.
To worship God means to love him with our whole being and setting aside the Lord’s Day every week is our public acknowledgement of God’s Lordship over our lives (Exodus 20 and Hebrews 10). As the true and one King summons us in his Word to gather and worship him, we respond in humility and become part of a believing and worshipping community.
Every member is expected by God’s grace to participate in the worship of God’s people and our worship as a reformed church centers on the preaching of God’s Word. So as members we are called to actively participate when receiving it. Paul reminds Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2-4:
“…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
The exhortation to Timothy is to faithful preaching and it is implied here the exhortation to members which is faithful listening.
Listening attentively during preaching comes with the power of God’s grace and it is my prayer every Lord’s Day for God to supply us continuously with it. Because the temptation to drift away from it is a real spiritual battle so we, as part of our mortification and vivification in Christ, are called to fight particular sins and cultivate the godly practice of listening. Particularly speaking we need to fight the temptation to coming unprepared every Lord’s Day.
Taking a good night sleep every Saturday and physically preparing every aspect of arrangement involved in travelling, food preparations, and etc are important and we cannot neglect. No Christian “accidently” plan to not come to public worship. This decision to cancel the Lord’s Day is a pre-meditated decision that happens the night prior Sunday. Under normal circumstances with the exception of sickness, works of mercy and necessary, we plan to come every Lord’s Day. There are 52 Lord’s Day every year and Scripture exhorts us not to neglect this habit of coming to God in worship every Christian Sabbath.
Intentionally removing distractions tempting us to shift attention to the tasks at hand needs mortifying. The mind is the always the first battleground. When we distracted bringing with us matters that fights for any mental space will eventually take over so we must fight it. Focusing our attention to the subject matter of our preaching helps. Our officebearers make sure we know the sermon title, verses, and points that is preached every Lord’s Day. To prepare for it we can also study them ahead and fill our minds with it. This will help our minds not to wander and drift towards our daily worry and concerns. It will help us focus on the matter at hand.
Together with physical and mental preparations, we are also called to spiritually prepare when partaking the Lord’s Supper. This monthly service of the Lord’s Table encourages us to examine ourselves and remind us of our responsibility of teaching and leading our own families to the Lord.
We often find ourselves deep in the temptation of thinking we do not need to repent daily of our sins. Every Lord’s Day we are asked to confess our sins as a congregation and more so every Lord’s Supper we are called to examine our faith. The apostle Paul and Peter exhort us:
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:10-11)
Sanctification means to grow in holiness and it means we become increasingly aware our own sins and this gives us every opportunity to fight them. So positively speaking the habit of publicly worshipping God every Lord’s Day with believers is cultivated during personal and private worship with our families. This means it is also our responsibility to make sure we attend both to the private and public worship of God.
Then lastly, we are called to sing praises to God as a congregation. As we participate in the worship of God when we hear God’s Word attentively and receive the Lord’s Supper conscientiously, we are also called to join the wholehearted praising of God as God’s people.
Responding to God’s grace comes from God’s grace and yet it is our daily responsibility as part of God’s gracious work in us to mortify sin and vivify righteousness. This means we need to always watch ourselves against the temptation to become passive spectators in worship but instead participate to it actively. And particularly speaking, this means we are called to sing in gratitude to God as we sing praises to him during congregational singing. Scripture reminds us:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
Listening to preaching attentively, receiving the Lord’s Supper conscientiously, and singing praises to God wholeheartedly are the responsibility of members in worship.
Nurturing and Church Membership
Nurturing is the ministry of the church that ensures spiritual oversight in the church and that while it is the primary duty of officebearers to teach and lead their congregation to live our these examples of good works, individual members of the church are encouraged to do the same. Participating in the ministry of nurture simply means we bear one another’s burden and this involves both physical, financial, spiritual and emotional needs. Scripture again reminds us:
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:2-10)
The law of Christ means the responsibility of every believer as enabled in us by the Spirit. The primary responsibility listed here by Paul is bear one another’s burden. This means the Spirit will continue to sustain us as we perform these duties before God and he ensures to supply these needs in the body of a congregation.
Now several items were mentioned here that points to our responsibilities as members of Christ’s body in our particular church. Paul calls us to support the needs of the Word-based ministry of the church (its ministers, church construction projects, and etc) and it implies financial responsibilities. Now there are several ways to help financially as this means those who are capable will eventually contribute more but it does not mean those only with financial means are the only ones expected to contribute. No, we sow what we reap. We are called to carry each of our own loads and then look out for opportunities to help each other.
For in the end, Paul reminds us to help those in the household of faith. It means that aside from helping one another to support the financial needs of the church’s Word-based ministry but at the same time help those in financial needs. Those who are sick, needs help in getting a job, and etc need nurturing in the body of Christ.
So in sum we help each other physically and financially to support the ministry of the church and they are the financial support of the minister, and the members who are in need.
Lastly, we are called to support the spiritual needs of one another. Yes, it is the primary duty of every officebearer to nurture its members in the faith but it is also our calling as individual members to encourage one another in the faith. Spiritual and emotional support offered by one another exemplify our unity in one mind as explained last week in Philippians 2. I will not anymore dwell on it extensively but I want us to simply acknowledge our responsibility to pray for one another.
Donald Withey wrote:
Believers are commanded in James 5:17 to “pray for one another.” In the immediate context of that passage, the mutual intercessions include “that you may be healed.” It’s a paragraph about praying in faith for those who are sick. But the rest of the New Testament makes it clear that the responsibility for Christians to pray for one another isn’t limited to prayers for the sick. Repeatedly, the Apostle Paul pleads, “Brothers, pray for us” (see, for example, 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1). His letters to churches testify of his prayers for them (see Eph. 1:15–23; Col. 1:9–14). Even Jesus Himself asked for the prayers of Peter, James, and John in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:38, 40–41).
So as members of the church, it is our responsibility to help in the nurture of each members by attending to each of our needs both both body and soul.
Missions and Church Membership
Finally, we are called to glorify God as Salt and light of the world in our own vocation and stations. I know as Christians we are called to proclaim the gospel in every opportunity we have and this true. However there is one aspect of our mission to the world that needs emphasis as well and that is our vocation.
As fathers, mothers, children, siblings, co-workers, colleagues, friends, and neighbors, we are all called to fulfill our calling in glorifying God in everything we do. Scripture reminds us, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)”. And then in Philippians 4:8 Paul exhorts us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
This means our lawful stations and callings in life are valid vocations God placed us in to perform our duty to glorify God in everything we do. That while we serve one in the church, we also serve the world and our neighbors. We do not isolate ourselves from the world but we serve as servants of Christ in the world. Yes we are called by Christ separate ourselves from this fallen sinful world but we are also called to engage, not separate ourselves, but live out our vocations as salt and light of this world. We are in the world but not of it and until the Lord comes we will serve another and our neighbor.
ZCRC(Imus), God calls us to become responsible members of the church. He enables us by the Word and Spirit to perform these responsibilities afforded to us by his grace. May the Lord continue to sustain us in his grace. Amen.