Fulfilling the Mission of the Church

What is the mission of the Church? What does God want to see from us as Christians? The church has withstood many adversities throughout its history, and there have always been true followers of Jesus that have carried His message to the world. God has always had a remnant of people who have carried the faith further.

Listen as brother Trent shows how God has faithfully kept a remnant throughout history to show his glory to the world. We need not be discouraged because of hard times. We need to see that there is a glorious opportunity for us as Christians to portray Gods glory and honour, especially in times trouble and persecution.

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Well, good morning to each of you. I think I do want to say this as we begin, and I want to speak mostly to the younger people that are present here. I think we scarcely realize the reality of the goodness of God, in some of the preaching and some of the teaching and some of these worship services that we are so blessed to partake of.

You know, one of the things that I love so much about our Lord Jesus – maybe there are several things that I love so much about our Lord Jesus, but one of the things that is so dear, and this thought just blesses me every time, is that every time He spoke He never offered an opinion. It was not physically possible for that to happen. And if we were to sit and talk together with Him – and you know how it is. Sometimes we ask counsel of a precious brother, and we need direction for life. Oftentimes we or they can say something like this: “Well, in my experience, it has proven itself to be this way.” But Jesus can only use that for an example of the truth that He would then speak. Does that make sense?

I’ve often thought, if I could sit at His feet and listen to His Words, and understand and drink from that fountain, how different life perhaps would be. It would be such a beautiful thing. But you know, Jesus spoke these words to us in Matthew 16:18, and there are no ideals in these words. There are no lofty thoughts that are unattainable for God’s people in these words. He said, “Upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

And you can read on the front of your brochure – you can read those beautiful words about there being a cloud and a smoke by day, and you can read about there being a fire by night above the assemblies and the local brotherhoods and the local churches that are around. But every time there is a visage like that, rest assured, dear people, there is a Rock underneath your feet. That is just as real, perhaps more real, than what appears in the sky above.

I’ve asked people several times in the last several months this simple question: “What is the mission of the church?” It’s been interesting to hear people’s replies. I don’t know what you would say this morning, if you could clearly articulate that in a few words to someone that asked you – I don’t know if that would just come clear to the top of your mind. A young man this morning sat beside me on a bench, and I asked him. And he just flowed out and told me all manner of things that the church is called to do. And it just blessed my heart, because there have been some older brethren that I’ve asked, that could hardly answer that question.

I don’t intend to answer that question for you so much this morning, but I do want to highlight two things, as we go through these meditations. One thing that is the mission of the church to do, is to move faith forward at least one or two more generations. And this affects our evangelism. This affects our homes. This affects everything that we do, that it is our mission that when Christ returns, whatever point that is, that He will find faith on the earth. And He is our Commander, and the battles that He fights, I fight. The issues that He sees that are primary are my issues.

But there is another – probably a broader – mission, you might say than even that. The devil will be absolutely defeated and humiliated one day, and there will be a victorious people that raise their hands and say, “Praise God for Jesus Christ and this great salvation.”

I’d like you to turn to the book of Malachi, the third chapter. We’re going to take our text primarily out of these several verses from this chapter, and it’s perhaps a little bit of an unusual place to begin, when speaking about fulfilling the mission of the church. The prophet Malachi – it was his lot to stand for God around 400 BC in a time of great apostacy and great transgression. There were a lot of things – and that was just among God’s people, not to mention the great atrocities that were happening across the world. The Persian Empire was the largest empire the world had every known. Alexander the Great conquered that about 100 years or 75 years after the prophet Malachi was ministering these words to His people. But God’s people were lax; they were lukewarm. The priests, the shepherds, were making a mockery of God’s holy truth, and there was great immorality happening in the land. The Jewish men were forsaking their wives for the heathen girls that were around. And the offerings were neglected. You can find all of these things, the sacrifices being dreadfully inferior to what God had laid out or ordained for them.

But I want to tell you this morning, that in spite of every circumstance that has ever happened, in spite of every dark period that has ever taken place in the course of world history, that God is extremely interested in moving a line of faith across those dark periods. And His heart broods over those people whose hearts are steadfast toward Him. And when He sees them, He moves. And when He hears their cries, He responds. And He does not allow the adversary to remain superior in any fashion.

I want to explain this to you. Do you remember one time there was a man named Noah, and there was an ark. One of the darkest periods that the world has ever faced. And faith was dwindling, and it was moving downward, down to where eight souls got on a boat one day. And the rains began, and the waters came up. And it could have looked like to the spiritual realm that Satan had won a great victory, that there was this great destruction of God’s holy plan. But as those waters rose, and as those people climbed to the tops of the mountains, and as perhaps their hands disappeared one by one, across the span of water, and as that boat floated there, the worship and the devotion and the adoration and the commitment to Satan that existed in the world that day fell silent one – by one – by one. And those bodies began to float. And I don’t know what happened in the heavenly realm that day. I don’t know how quiet it was, but all of God’s truth was buoyed above that terrible Flood. Amen?

And we see it happen again in different times in the history of the world. You think of men like Daniel. You think how they stood. And Daniel stood supreme and victorious over the elements that defraud us so many times – this power, this glory – this perhaps sexual temptation that was available in the Babylonian kingdom, and God raised that holy man up, and changed the course of this earth.

And now we come down to the prophet Malachi’s time. And he’s seeing a vision of God like this. And I would like somehow today before we end, to give you a picture of the Holy One of Israel, whose heart is after His people in days like hours. God has always preserved faith in difficult hours against insurmountable odds, under extreme circumstances, and in unique ways that men cannot always understand.

We’re placed in a troubled age, brethren. We are seeing the signs on the horizon of a dark hour. We’re seeing the armies of hell gather themselves against the God of heaven and against the truth of the Bible, and against God’s own people. And yet I want to tell you this morning that this is not intended to be discouraging in any way. I would like, if there were nothing else, for God to impress upon your mind, that in the darkest and deepest and most despairing hours of human history, there is more glory available. There is a holier possibility that is waiting. There is a God who will rise up and shake His arm, and make His name great, and make Himself known, if we can find ourselves somewhere near to Him.

I’d like to read a few verses together. Malachi 3. (I don’t know where to start. There are so many blessed verses here.) Verse 11:

11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.

12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.

And now there’s a change in the attitude of these words:

13 Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?

14 Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?

15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.

16 Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.

17 And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.

18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.

4:1For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

The last words of those precious verses (before we read chapter 4) are filled with promises and glories that strengthen the heart of a Christian and a child of God through all time. I found it interesting, you know, verses 14 and 15 show us a context that’s eerily familiar to us – seemingly a common strain among both the heathen and perhaps among people who call themselves children of God. And you know, it’s an amazing thing to discover that human nature is so absolutely consistent, that down across the ages, you can almost read a description of what was taking place, and automatically you can see the result that God fully expects to develop out of that situation. And every time the arrogant are exulted, and every time those that are lifting their names and their heads against the Lord Christ and against His holy truth are considered to be happy, and they are lifted up, and they are blessing the wickedness, you can expect a certain result to come out of that. It is so absolutely predictable. It is just simply a rehearsing of reality. And this is eerily familiar to us in these days, and we might cringe, and just kind of say, “Wow, I just wish this wasn’t happening!” But brethren, it is. And it gets too near to us sometimes. God help us!

But I want you to look at something. And this is really where we want to go from here. But the communication begins to flow. God’s people began to recognize the realities. And those that fear the Lord begin to assemble. They begin to encourage each other. They begin to sing those beautiful hymns of worship. They begin to have events like Kingdom Fellowship Weekend. And I’m not suggesting that this just happens on a whim, but over time, this crescendo begins to build, and the urgency begins to come, and God’s people begin to realize that grace must flow, that somehow I must fortify myself with God’s people, and those who are hungry for Him, and those who have an enthusiasm for Him. And I’m willing to sacrifice my work, my job, my whatever it is, to just get there and drink in that beautiful fellowship. And God sees it. The Bible says that God sees it. And grace begins to flow, and His Spirit begins to move from heart to heart, and house to house, and He begins to baptize His people with the strength that they did not have before.

When there is some type of confirmation that big things are about to happen, we should not be surprised, but to encourage each other that these worldly things – these lands, these houses, these establishments that we love so dearly, are not eternally important, and are a diminishing commodity in this economy. Amen?

We don’t have time today. I wanted to go into Hebrews 10 and look at some beautiful verses there that just go down and talk about the boldness with which we approach the throne of grace with an understanding like this, and how we encourage one another, and how we unify, and how we work to strengthen the hands that are hanging down, and how we lift up those feeble knees, and how we do not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is, but increasingly, as we see these evil days approaching, we find ways to get together. We find ways to have those prayer meetings in our houses. We find ways to assemble in congregations like this. And it’s just such a beautiful beautiful beautiful reality.

(Sigh) I wasn’t sure I wanted to say this. But you know, a lot of us are in a lot of trouble. I want to be so tenderhearted to the struggling ones and to the congregations that are in terrific turmoil right now. But oftentimes people will come to me, and they will be trying to sort all of these things out, and they’ll be telling me about all of the problems that exist in their brotherhood, and I listen. And sometimes I will say things like this: “Thank God you’re a real church!” [Crowd chuckles]

I didn’t get any “amen’s” on that one. [Crowd chuckles again.] I want to ask you how victorious your church will be if you never experience any trouble. Has there ever been a mighty victory won without serious struggle and strife and working, and humbling ourselves, this gelassenheit coming into our assemblies? And taking down my ideals, and replacing them with God’s, and saying, “I don’t have a choice anymore. I want the one that chooses, and brings this life back into this assembly. But brethren, sometimes we’ve got to take heart, and we’ve got to realize that we will face opposition. And you would be dreadfully embarrassed this morning if the devil had no interest in disarming your church. If you have no trouble, look out! Because we’re not dangerous enough to him.

You know, there will always be people whose love will grow cold when iniquity abounds. But it is our responsibility to be the other type. It just simply is. I hardly know how to say things like this, and I don’t want to really spend too much time on it, but I want to ask you a simple question, and we want to get to “How are we going to fulfil the mission of the church?” but I think this is somewhat critical. How has your devotional life grown? With the advent of all of the Bible apps and the online tools, and all of the things that are available to the children of God today, is that really drawing you closer to the Lord?

I don’t want to cast a negative reflection on that. I praise God for those things, but I want to make a specific point, that we dare not let ourselves grow cold. Because far too often – and I said this last night, and I want to say it again: Far too often we’re going to bed, and the last thing we see in front of our faces is this flickering screen. And the first thing we see when we wake up in the morning is another one. And I want to tell you that the last thing that should be on your heart as you go to bed is breathing a prayer to the Son of God, and whispering to yourselves words of calm and quietness. And the first thing on your heart in the morning is to wake up and just drink a little bit of refreshment from God’s Holy Word, and just get on your knees, or however you do that, and talk to Him, and get strength and grace for the day. I just bring that up, that if we’re going to talk about fulfilling the mission of the church, we’ve got to identify some key areas where we really have kind of a struggle. I have it. I’m not just throwing this at you. It is a decision that I must make.

If you were put into prison tomorrow, how much of God’s Word is internalized, memorized, and so much a part of you, you can spend the hours in sweet fellowship with Him? There’s a dreadful assault going on against the education system in our country. How long, brethren, are they going to allow us to teach our children the ways of truth without opposition? And are we taking action right now to fortify ourselves and to make sure those dear little ones (like Moses) have what they need, in case they are taken from us? And you think it won’t happen to us, but we watched this happen some years ago, and society applauded, and perhaps you did, too, when they went down to that compound in Waco, Texas, and pulled all of those children away from their mothers because of polygamy among the Mormons. And certainly I’m not suggesting that all of that was wrong, but it dawned on me, how easy that would be to come to our own setting.

What are we doing today? What kind of burden do we carry on our heart to make it a priority to make sure that we are carrying out the mission of having a godly home in spite of every circumstance? Where are the Moses’s in our congregation that are being raised up to be sent into very desperate circumstances like he had to face and come out leaders of God’s people?

So really, what I’m talking about is a deep-seated commitment to the eternal unchanging truth. And when we go clear past the form, we get clear past the beautiful externals that our culture puts around us to help us, and when we get past the personas that we want to present to the people around us, what is alive in us? What is really at the bottom of it all? Because in those kinds of days, that is going to be the truth of the matter. So it is our call, our prerogative, to strengthen ourselves in the day we live in.

“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.”

Malachi 3:16

The Bible repeatedly authenticates this union between God and man. This noticing, this attention that God is putting on His people and on His church. And it talks about it in different ways, that He is writing a book, and He is recording names, and here are the faithful, and here are the ones. And you can go back into Revelation 20, and you can read about how there comes a time when the books are opened, and the names are read, and in almost every case there, there is a separation at that point between the goats and the sheep, between the wicked and the righteous. And we get the opportunity to decide which side our name is written. We get this grace of God to put us there, and keep us there, and help us through some of those difficult experiences.

But I just love this passage right here that as God heard and God watched, and God understood that these people feared the Lord, and they are taking notice of what is happening, and they’re looking to Him by faith, He is writing that down. And I want to assure you that in that day, there will not be anyone forgotten. It is such a blessed holy truth of the Christian experience. I don’t think any one of us ever has to die and wonder, “Will God forget about me? Will I get put into the wrong place?” No. It’s not like that, praise the Lord!

So perhaps we could say the first mission of the church is to be so united with God that evangelism and all the beautiful and holy things that come to us, and the Great Commission, the disciple making and the teaching, and the exuberance and the vibrancy and all those things are the most natural thing that ever should happen to us. It ought to be just an automatic response, brethren. Because there’s something deep inside that is internally vitally connected to the Vine, and there is no way, no circumstance, not anything that can tear it away from us. And we can’t help it when we see the poor and needy – we must reach out. We must do something for those weak and vulnerable. We must invite them into our home. We must do something. We must tell them about the Gospel. We must do anything we can, because this Great Day of the Lord is coming, and they’re not ready, and we have the truth, and God is with us.

Now I would like you to turn with me to the book of Isaiah, chapter 59. This might be a little bit of a jump around in thinking. I want to encourage you this way. One of my prayers this morning, as it often is when I preach, I said, “O God, let the words of the Bible be the most potent words that are spoken this morning. Don’t let some elaborate thing that I have to say about it be more important than that.”

Isaiah 59:19-21 Please just listen to these words:  

19 So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.

20 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.

21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.

And then we know what it says in Isaiah, chapter 60. It says, “Arise, shine, for thy light has come.”

But I want to make a very simple point from this verse, and you young people, listen very carefully to what I have to say here. We look around, and this pop-up theology like we talked about last night that is not invited, but it’s popping into our experience, and we see all of the world news, and we see everything that is going on, and we’re struggling under the reality of smart phones and internet, and all of this stuff. The money is flowing into our bank accounts, and we hardly know how to handle it. I want to tell you, it is something that should not alarm us, because every time – and I tried to just in a few minutes give you a cap sheaf of that. Every time the darkness gathers itself against the people of God and against God Himself, the Spirit of the Lord does not allow that to stand. We dare to look to God, and we dare to say, “O God, will you open up a way in the Red Sea to help us find our way out of Egypt?” And we dare to expect that He will rise.

And this verse is prophetic of Jesus Christ, actually. But I want to apply it to our day. The Redeemer will come to Zion, and there will be a way made for us to overcome these challenges, if we will just simply apply our faith to the living God, and put our faces to the ground, and think about it. Get together in your homes, brethren, and just get down and pray. You don’t have to say a lot. But just simply say, “O God, how do we deal with what’s happening?” We cannot ignore it. It’s not going to just walk away from us. But God can deliver us, brethren! And that holy union that we heard about, may result in a brotherhood agreement, but I want to tell you that brotherhood agreement will not deliver you from this thing. I want to just encourage us this morning that we are in healthy position to fulfil the mission of the church. But it requires us to look at God with eyes of faith and get serious with Him in this hour. And say, “O God, what are You doing? Where can I be found so that I can be close to the heartbeat of this Sovereign Everlasting God that is going to come one day, and He will not be disappointed?”

Don’t you be taken in by that idea that everything’s going to go completely haywire, and God’s just going to be like, I guess we’re just going to have to gather this thing up because it went completely off the rails. That is not true! Our God will be absolutely victorious, and the devil will be absolutely mocked, and people will look at this whole thing and say, “I can’t believe what happened with so little intervention from a Sovereign God.” Those verses from Isaiah will be so absolutely true. They will look at that, at that person, and say, is this he that troubled nations and did all this great wickedness? And they’ll laugh. But God will find faith when He returns to this earth, brethren, and we dare believe that we can be part of that!

You just read this beautiful little verse right here: “And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 59:20).  And you just remember this beautiful truth about the church that overcame Satan. “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).

But I want to tell you a little bit of something about why they loved not their lives unto the death. And we have gotten a little bit pulled away from this, I think, in our world of ease. The Christian has a unique power, and a unique perspective, and a unique ability to visualize and understand life far beyond today. And we don’t actually live for something that happens [today.] We don’t actually have to see a tangible result. We don’t have to see great wealth and great lands and great honor and great power beside our name, but we live for the tomorrow. And this is an intangible power that no religion, no secular worldling can ever wield, because there’s such great uncertainty there. But it’s those of us who stand back and say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”  (1 Corinthians 15:55). And the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, right? And they want to stop their mouths, and they say, oh, because the people are seeing tremendous things rise up out of those beautiful holy events, as God in His tender heart of love watches something horrific happen to one of His children.

It’s time to close. I’m sorry I’m transgressing our time. If you don’t mind, I would like to turn back to Malachi 3 and just read two more verses, and then we’ll close with another set of verses out of the book of Revelation. Verse 17 

17 And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.

18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.

4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven.

I don’t know about you this morning, but I think that each one of us would love to hear the Lord on that day come to us and say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of thy Lord.”

But you know, there’s one more thing that I want to say – that the mission of the church is not fulfilled completely in that day. I just want us to turn to Revelation 5, and we’ll read these verses and worship as we close. The mission of the church extends far beyond this finite space of time, this finite world that we are stuck in for some short period.

Let’s read these verses, starting at verse 9. We see a picture into the future, perhaps not so far distant.

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;

12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.

13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

And I just pray, dear brethren and sisters, in the middle of the lack, perhaps you might say, or the struggle that exists in your congregations, I just pray, with these words this morning you’ll take courage to lift up your eyes to the God of heaven, and look at Him with faith, and say, “I believe You’re able to make a beautiful and holy church out of the mess that we find ourselves in. And we’re willing to try, O Lord, to be a pillar in this church. We’re willing to apply ourselves to these dear precious people for whom You have died. And we’re willing to find this place of gelassenheit, and this holy beauty of absolute surrender.” And we’re willing to ask, “How may I help to be a part, and to help our dear people be part of this song which will be sung, because the gates of hell will not prevail against the church of Jesus Christ.”

God bless you.