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How the Church Glorifies God

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Introduction

Building on the Foundation

I want to talk with you this morning about the construction of this church. I have been thinking a lot recently about the construction of the church. Não fico pensando sobre a construção dessa igreja só. Mas, fico pensando. Quando digo que fico pensando sobre a construção dessa igreja, não falo sobre a fundação físico, ou as paredes ou as grades. I'm talking about the spiritual foundation.
Maybe you are here and you are thinking, "bem, I know what the spiritual foundation of this church is. This church has never changed its doctrinal statement. We are the same as we have always been." But you know, spiritual foundations are not like physical foundations. We cannot take our spiritual foundations for granted. We need to always be paying attention to them. That means we as a church need to be very intentional in every aspect of our church.
says that the church has "been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."
In the Ancient Near East houses were built - and the temple was built - by cutting large pieces of rock into cubes. These rocks would be laid down as a foundation, with one rock in particular functioning to give direction to the rest of the foundation. This rock is what was called the "cornerstone." If it was moved, or if it was weak, the whole building would have problems.
Paul says that Jesus is that cornerstone for the church. He is the one who orients the whole church. And the foundation is the "apostles and prophets." God gave special revelation to the Apostles and prophets. We call the written record of that revelation, "Scripture." So that means Christ is building His church on the foundation of the Scriptures, with Jesus Himself as the first stone that establishes and gives direction to the church.
Paul continued this illustration in . Speaking as a missionary or pastor he tells the church in Corinth what his role is in the church. In this passage he says,
For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Paul is here talking about the work of a pastor. As a church-planting missionary Paul says he laid the foundation of Jesus Christ. And now there is a pastor in this church. And the pastor is building on the foundation. And one day that pastor will give an account for how he builds.
You see, it matters to Jesus how we build our church. It matters that our church stays on the foundation of Jesus Christ. It is our desire to build this church in a way that pleases Jesus. Because this church doesn't belong to you, or to me, but to Jesus.

The Structure

So let's spend a few minutes and think about what our church looks like. Let me ask a question which will help orient us. Why are we here? What is the point of gathering together as a church? There are various answers given to this question. But the answer we give is important to understanding who we are and what God expects of us.
To maintain a Gospel witness in the neighborhood. Continue ministries begun by those before us.
To worship God in the services.
To sing songs
To celebrate the Lord's Supper
To hear preaching
To have fellowship with one another
Because that is what is expected of me. God expects me to be here. It is my duty.
But these answers are all inadequate. While they might be part of the main reason, in themselves each of these answers is insufficient.
In reality, the only reason to gather together as a church is to glorify God. Every part of the church, every ministry, every service, everything must have as its goal to glorify God.
But what does that mean? That sounds like a very easy, simple answer, doesn't it? So if it's so important, what does it mean?
This morning I want us to study two verses from 2 Corinthians. This is what Paul says:
For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ…But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
That was and 3:18. And in these two verses we get a picture of what it means for the church to have as its purpose to glorify God. I want to take a few minutes and make some observations about this text, and how it applies to us as a church.
Notice how the church glorifies God. Paul says God revealed His glory to us "in the face of Jesus Christ." So let's start with this thought: we glorify God by looking into the face of Jesus, because God revealed His glory in the face of Jesus.

God glorifies Himself in us by shining light into our hearts.

Let me start where Paul starts, and ask a question. Can you, by trying really really hard, believe? Do you shine light in your own dark heart? Look at this verse again. "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts." Paul compares our ability to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus with the act of creation.
At the story of creation, did the sun first shine of its own will, by trying really hard? No, it was God who said, "let there be light." In the same way God shines light in our hearts. So we glorify God by seeing His glory in the face of Jesus. But God first glorifies Himself in us by shining His light into our hearts.
Don't forget, we are talking about why we are here together as a church. And the point is that we are not here because of ourselves. There are many churches that gather together and worship their own way. Paul calls this "culto de si mesmo." But if we are a genuine church, we are here because God called us together. We are here because God shone His light in our hearts. God glorifies Himself in us. Our glorifying God begins with Him. Without His work in shining the Gospel in our hearts, we are lost.

We Glorify God by Looking into the Face of Jesus

Paul then turns to our response as a church to God's action. We as a church exist to glorify God. What does that mean? For starters, it means we look at the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Whatever else it means to glorify God, it begins with looking at the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But what does that mean? How do we look at the glory of God in the face of Jesus? How do we see the face of Jesus? Are the Catholics correct, and we need to build statues that look like Jesus? Or paint paintings? How does God show His glory in the face of Jesus?
Paul said a little bit earlier, in 4:4, "whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." Paul calls the Gospel which has saved us "the gospel of the glory of Christ." Then he said in our verse that God shone in our hearts "to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
We see the face of Jesus in the Gospel. God revealed Himself through Jesus in the pages of Scripture. So if we are going to glorify God as a church, our primary responsibility is to see the glory of God in Jesus in the Scriptures.
What that means for us as a church is that our primary responsibility when we gather together is to study the Scriptures. But not just study the Scriptures as an end in itself. As we study the Scriptures we are to see God's glory in Jesus in the Scriptures.
This is the most basic part of what we do as a church. We do not gather together as a church to maintain our traditions; we don’t gather together out of duty; we gather together to glorify God by seeing in the Bible the face of Jesus Christ.
Is it possible, when we are meeting together as a church, to be distracted from looking at the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures? What are some of the things that can distract us? What can we do to minimize distractions?
Let me ask another question. How do we "see" the face of Jesus Christ? I know it sounds like I'm asking the same question over and over, but I want us to think about this. Again, are the Catholics correct, and we need to build statues of Jesus to look at? Do we see Jesus with our physical eyes? How do we see Jesus? We see Him with our spiritual eyes. Paul talks about the eyes of our heart. We don't see Jesus with our physical eyes, but with the eyes of our heart. What does that mean?
We are talking about faith. We see Jesus by faith. If we see the glory of God in Jesus, it is by faith. "Faith is the substance" - firmness - "of things hoped for." The foundation of the church is built on the firmness of Jesus Christ as we look steadfastly at him by faith.

We glorify God by being transformed into Christ's image.

God's purpose for us in the church does not end with us seeing His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. We don't glorify God by simply seeing. There is more. Read with me again 3:18 - "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."
This verse says some pretty important things. First of all, Paul says we are "beholding as in a mirror." The mirror that He is talking about is the Scripture - and more specifically, the Gospel. We see the glory of God in the face of Jesus through the Gospel. We don't get to just invent a picture of what Jesus looks like. God shows us in the Bible what Jesus looks like.
But notice what God is doing about all that. Again, God did not just save us so that we could look at Jesus. This verse says we are being transformed into the same image. In other words, God is using that image of Jesus in the Gospel to change us to look more like that image. God saved us with the purpose of changing us.
How does God change us? Is it something magical? Does it just automatically happen? Notice what Paul says. "Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord." We are changed by our looking at Jesus. We are changed by our faith in Jesus. As we look at Jesus in the pages of Scripture, and see the glory of God in the face of Jesus in Scripture, God changes us.
What does it mean to read the Bible in faith? What does it mean that the Bible is a mirror? When we read the Bible, it shows us what Jesus looks like. But not only that, it shows us what we look like too. Sometimes it does that by showing us how different we look from Jesus. Sometimes it does that by showing us how much we look like other people in the Bible, who don't look like Jesus, who don't live by faith.
To read the Bible in faith is to read it and trust that the picture of us that it shows us, and the picture of Jesus that it shows us, is really true. In other words, when the Bible shows me that Jesus looks incredibly patient with people who mistreat Him, and then the Bible shows me that I am actually impatient with people who mistreat me, faith means that I believe what the Bible shows me about me and Jesus, and faith means that I confess that sin to Jesus and allow Him to change me to be more patient.
Maybe you are a very patient person. But we all have sins that we fight with. And God will make it clear in Scripture.
At the end of the day, what we are talking about here are values. We are talking about seeing and valuing Jesus Christ - and the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ - above everything else. And we are talking about allowing that vision, and that value, to change the way we "do" church.
How do we, in this church, show one another and this neighborhood that we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and we value that vision above everything else? This is the most basic question. Remember, we began by talking about the foundation of the church. What it means to have as the foundation of our church the seeing and valuing of Jesus Christ means that this vision, this point of view, affects the way we do ministry.
It is our desire - it is my desire - to put Jesus on clear display in this church so that we all see Him clearly, and in seeing Him clearly we value Him above all else. And when we do that, doing that is glorifying God. And doing that changes the way we live our lives. That's our purpose. That is why we are here. We are here to look faithfully at Jesus and be changed by that vision.

We glorify God by ministering the ministry of Reconciliation

There is one more part to this picture that Paul talks about here in 2 Corinthians. God glorifies Himself in us by shining His light into our hearts. We glorify God by looking at the face of Jesus Christ. We glorify God by being transformed into His image. And finally we glorify God by proclaiming to others the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Notice with me in chapter 5, verses 14-21:
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Paul begins this section by saying that Christ died so that we who are alive - we who are saved - should not live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us. We see Jesus, we value Jesus, then we live for Jesus. But what does that look like? How do we live for Jesus? Paul explains.
People who are alive, who are living for Jesus, have been given the "ministry of reconciliation." What is that ministry? "We implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." The ministry of reconciliation is the proclamation of that message; it is the proclamation of the Gospel. We glorify God by looking at the glory of God in the face of Jesus, then proclaiming that glory to a lost world - to our lost neighborhood.
Sometimes we think, "Oh, Pastor, that's the job of the missionary. Or that's the job of the Pastor." But Paul says, "no!" That's the job of everyone who has life. If Jesus died for you, and gave you life, then you have the ministry of reconciliation. Paul said something similar in :
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."
What Paul is saying is that missionaries and pastors are gifts that God gave to the church. And those men, those gifts, were given for a reason: to prepare the church for the work of ministry. Again, the point is that all Christians have the responsibility (a responsabilidade, o dever) to tell the unsaved about Jesus.
We Christians ought to find Jesus so glorious, so attractive, that it is our passion to look at Him and to call everyone we know into the gaze of Him.
That's how the church glorifies God.

Conclusion

So this is how we build a church that glorifies God. We are here to build this church - and other churches - to look like this. A church that glorifies God is a church in which God is glorifying Himself by shining the light of the Gospel into the hearts of the people. A church that glorifies God is a church that is looking at Jesus and seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus. A church that glorifies God is a church which is being changed into the image of Christ because they are looking at Jesus. And a church that glorifies God is a church which is engaged in the work of the ministry; a church which is proclaiming the ministry of reconciliation to the lost people around her.
So the very first question is, are you looking at Jesus? Do you see Him in the pages of Scripture? Do you see Jesus as the most glorious person in Scripture? Do you value Jesus more than anything else? Is that vision of Jesus in Scripture changing you? Are you becoming more and more like Jesus? And are you involved in the work of the ministry? Because you see Jesus as so glorious and so valuable, are you telling others about Jesus?
This is the foundation of a healthy church. This is what it looks like to have Jesus as the cornerstone of the church. Everything we do as a church must be focused on this. If we as a church are doing things that are not focused on this, then we are wasting our time. Let's start to think practically about how we as a church can build a stronger church in this sense: that we are looking at a glorious Jesus, valuing that Jesus, looking more like that Jesus, and calling others to look at Him too.
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