Bill McFarland

September 10, 2006


This past summer in our week at Bible camp we were blessed to have present with us two excellent little boys and one big wheel - one little boy, age 2, and one age 3, and one big wheel to ride on the concrete floor at break times.  Even though they were especially good little boys, there was some discussion at times about whether it was his, mine or ours.  You can imagine some of those discussions! 

The Christian life is itself about that same sort of discussion.  It is about whether the ownership is enjoyed by me over my things or whether I am looking at what the Lord has blessed me with to be used in the interest of other people, or whether it is the Lord who owns them as well as me.  This morning in our study we are going to consider that line of thought as it applies to the nature of the church itself, and then as it applies to service of Christians within the Lord’s body.

Understanding The Church

Begin with me by thinking of the church.  The church is by nature the Lord’s.  It is his own people, and if you were to try to boil down any description or definition of the church, the simplest and perhaps best way to do it would be to say that these are people the Lord bought when he bought forgiveness of sins. 

In Hebrews 9:12, the scripture says that Jesus entered into the presence of God himself and that with his own blood he obtained eternal redemption.  As you know, redemption means the buying back of people from slavery and the setting of them free.  Eternal redemption means that this is the setting free for eternity, that it has to do with the spiritual redemption from sin and all of the consequences of sin.  But in Acts 20:28, the Bible also says that the Lord obtained the church with his own blood.  That is, that with the price of his own sacrifice of himself, he bought the church.  Now notice the parallel.  In the one passage it says that with his blood he obtained eternal redemption.  In the other passage it says that with his blood he obtained the church.  How does that define what the church is and what the church means?  Well, it just suggests that people who are bought with blood, who enjoy their eternal redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, are added to the church – people who were bought with his blood. 

It is interesting that in Acts 2, as we are introduced to the existence of the Lord’s church in this world, the same parallel is obviously present.  People who were guilty of sin in the worst way, having put to death the holy and righteous Son of God, cried out, “What shall we do?”  They were told to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.  Three thousand that day did so, and they were added together to that body of blood-bought people.  In fact, Acts 2:47 suggest that daily, as individuals were saved, that is as they were forgiven through gospel obedience, they were added to the church. 

Now in particular, notice an example from the New Testament - a place where that kind of thing went on – where people are bought with blood and added to the church at the same time.  Acts 16 tells us of the occasion when Paul first went over into the Roman province of Macedonia.  Macedonia is the northern part of what we would now know as Greece.  The main cities were Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea.  Paul went to Philippi first.  In Acts 16 on the Sabbath Day, he and Silas went out to a place of prayer beside the river.  They met there, among others, a woman by the name of Lydia.  She was a lady of a Jewish background, a businesswoman, a seller of purple goods which were luxuries at the time.  She was already a worshiper of God.  But as Paul preached to her of Christ, the Lord opened her heart.  The Bible says that she was baptized into Christ, she and her household, and they began to want to serve.  They wanted Paul and Silas to come to her house where they could be cared for. 

Remember that as the story goes along, we meet a slave girl in the city of Philippi who was being terribly misused by her owners, who were making money off of her malady.  When Paul finally got enough of it, he through the power of the Lord set her free from that spirit.  It terribly upset her owners because of the financial loss they incurred.  They set in motion accusations against Paul that ended up having him and Silas beaten by the jailor at Philippi and cast into the inner most part of the dungeon where, as you remember, about midnight they were singing to the Lord and praying.  A terrible earthquake hit that threw the jailor into panic.  He fell down at their feet wanting to know what he needed to do to be saved.  He was told that he needed to believe on the Lord.  Then he was taught about the Lord so he would know who the Lord is.  And then that same hour of the night he washed the stripes that he had inflicted.  He was taken and baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. 

Now at Philippi, Lydia, the Jewish businesswoman, and that unnamed jailor, a Gentile prison keeper, become the beginning of the church at Philippi.  Paul writes to them in Philippians 1:1-2 and addresses them as the saints at Philippi -   “The saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi with the overseers and deacons.”  Notice that they are meeting together.  They are a congregation working together.  There are elders who oversee their work.  There are deacons who serve it, and they are a congregation of blood-bought people working together in that community to serve the Lord.  I would remind all of us of how important that type of relationship is.  If you are a college student and you are a Christian, don’t forget the importance of a congregation of the Lord’s people who are organized this way.  If you are a Christian, a member of the body of Christ, don’t forget the importance of being involved together in a group of people like the one that we are talking about here.  Remember that being the church is about being the Lord’s own.

Being The Church

That brings us to the second part of our study this morning, and it is that Christian living, then, is about being the Lord’s own.  Being a member of a congregation of his people involves thinking like you belong to the Lord.  I want to take the letter that Paul wrote to the church at Philippi and to notice with you three ways of saying what we are getting at here, three principles that will be present in our thinking if we see ourselves as having been obtained by the Lord.

The first statement would be “What’s his is mine.”  That is an interesting way of putting it, isn’t it?  What’s his is mine!  I might not like that too much if I was just an ordinary worldly person, and it was my things that somebody was talking about.  But that is the privilege the Lord offers us with reference to him.  He wants us actually to look at him and to say, “What’s his is mine”! There are several statements in this great letter to the church at Philippi which used the phrase “my own” or “his own” or “their own.”  One of them is found in chapter 3:9.  Paul is discussing what his priorities, what his real aspirations in life are, and he mentions how he has given up everything to gain Christ (v.8).  Then verse 9 says, “and to be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith (literally) of Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith!”  Look at it now.  Not my own but his own! 

Scripture uses a vivid picture to describe what it is like to stand before God dressed in our own righteousness, in those deeds that we have been able to piece together on our own to make ourselves look good and right.  In Isaiah 64:6 the picture is “all our righteousness deeds are as a filthy garment.”  Have you ever had to go some place and you spilled something on yourself, and then you go feeling like you are dressed in filthy garments?  Isn’t that an awkward situation?  How would it be to stand before God that way?  In Zechariah 3, beginning with verse 1, the representative of the people, a priest by the name of Joshua (not the Joshua of the book of Joshua – a different one) stands before God dressed in rags, and Satan, the adversary, is there beside him accusing him, pointing at him, “Would you look at the way this fellow is here!  A priest comes before God only in glorious priestly garments.  This man is here in these filthy rags.”  He expects God to condemn Joshua and cast him out, but God sends his messenger and says, “Take those garments off of him and put these pure garments on him.” 

Folks, that is what the Lord offers to us.  The righteousness of Christ is his own righteousness through his complete faith in his Father and through his perfect obedience to the Father.  He offers us the opportunity to be found in him, dressed in his righteousness.  Did you notice in that song, “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less,” the last verse of it says “dressed in his righteousness alone?”  That is how I want to stand before his throne, in other words, and that is the thought here.  That is what Paul is saying.  What’s his is mine!  His righteousness, his forgiveness, his cleansing can be mine!  Revelation 1:5 says that he sets us free by his own blood.  He frees us from sin by his own blood.  He bore our sins in his own body on the tree (I Peter 2:24).  Here we are as people who have heard the gospel of Jesus and who have been obedient to it, who  have the privilege of not standing there with a righteousness of our own (Romans 10:1) but to be dressed in his righteousness alone!   There is the start then.  What’s his is mine as a Christian.  Isn’t that a wonderful thing?

The second statement provoked by the book of Philippians is “I’m not mine anymore.”  That is the part of this that we overlook sometimes.  In Philippians 3:12, notice that Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”  Paul’s goal is to be laid hold of by Jesus, as some of the versions translate this.  His intention is to see to it that in his life he lives as somebody who belongs to Jesus Christ. 

Anna Griffith has written a little book about Philippians in which she makes note of the fact that Jesus taught that “if anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and to take up his cross (literally his own cross) and follow me.”  And then she imagines a conversation that takes place.  Observing that Jesus demands us, not a portion of our income or a segment of our time or allegiance when it is convenient or token service, but all of each one of us, here is the imagined conversation:  One stands before the Lord and says, “No, Lord, not all of me.  I want to keep my little pet (which is vice).  After all, what did you expect?”  The Lord responds, “No, all of you.”  “But Lord, I’ve got my job and my family.  I’m told to care for them, right?  How can I go to church so often?  I have to work for a living, you know.”  The Lord answers, “Christian, I want you, all of you.  Take a leap of faith.  Embrace and try the promise that all these things will be added to you.  Either that or you will find that they are no longer that important.”  Now listen to this.  “How can I give you all of me if you’ll not give me all of yourself?”  That is the question.  If I want to claim that what’s his is mine, then I’ve got to be able to say that I am his.

In Philippians 2:12-13, notice that Paul said, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”  Notice that little phrase “your own” again.  Even though I am his, I need to pay attention to the fact that I should work out my own salvation.  That doesn’t mean earn it.  We have just studied about a righteousness which is through the faith of Christ (3:9), but it now means that I have got to live like a saved person.  I’ve got to go on.  When I begin with obedience to the gospel, I need to go on obeying the Lord and letting his will be my own.  I need to cooperate with him.  He works in me; let me therefore work out my own salvation in the sense of meeting my own responsibility to the Lord using the opportunity he gives to me in his service being a Christian where he in his providence has put me in my life.

Years ago I was trying to make a decision that was going to affect not only my life but my family’s life.  I had an opportunity to talk to an Elder from a nearby congregation from where I was at the time.  I tried to explain to him what I was going through, and he said, “Now Bill, you have to remember that you are God’s man.”  At the time I resisted that and argued with him, “No, I am just a country boy who is trying to figure out what I ought to do.”  But as I thought about it, I recognized that what he said is true, only it is not just true of me.  It is true of every one of you if you are a Christian.  You are God’s!  So, what’s his is mine, but I’m not mine anymore.

Thirdly, Philippians says, “What’s ours is yours.”  This is the part of this line of thought which leads to Christian service.  What’s ours is yours, ours meaning the Lord’s and mine.  What’s ours is yours!  Just as he gave himself to be in service in your best interest, so will I.  That is what Paul expects me to be willing to say. 

In Philippians 2:20-21, Paul was talking about something that needed to be done for the Philippians.  He hoped to send Timothy to them soon, he says in verse 19.  Then he explains why Timothy could go to make that dangerous journey and carry that responsibility and be of the help to them that they needed.  He said, “For I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.  They all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”  Isn’t that an instructive statement?  For some people apparently, the distance was too far, the danger too great, the responsibility too heavy.  They were occupied with their own interests.  They were looking out for what was best for themselves at that time.  Paul said, “Timothy is not like that.  I therefore can send him and he will care about your welfare.” 

And then notice that Paul recommends that same approach for all of us who are Christians in verses 3 and 4 of chapter 2.  He says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.”  There is the challenge.  Do you see the line of thought?  What’s his is mine.  I’m his, not mine.  What’s ours is yours.  Just as the Lord looked out for the eternal best interest of people and gave himself in so doing, so will we. 

Steve Tandy at Wichita recently had a little article in a church bulletin that might illustrate the point we are getting at.  He talked about having gone to a birthday party of a little two-year old.  He said he went to the party and noticed everything that was going on – taking pictures, etc.  He said, “I noticed some things about two-year olds.  I noticed first that they don’t socialize.  Each of the five little girls sort of rotated around the backyard in their own orbit.  They all tried to play house, kick the ball, checked out the balloons, but generally they did it alone.  Periodically, one would stop and kind of watch the other four and then return to her own pursuits.  I also discerned that sharing and taking turns are not universal virtues among two-year olds.  I’m guessing that these five were better than most kids their age, he said, but they still had their moments.  The piñata game was revealing.  Some seemed to think they deserved more frequent turns than the others.  Some preferred not to give up the stick once they had had a couple of whacks and none of them understood why they couldn’t stand within lethal range while the other kids were swinging away.  The opening of the gifts was also educational.  When her cuteness began to unwrap the pile of presents, the parents assembled all the little munchkins in front of her to watch.  That lasted for about two packages.  They all decided that kicking the ball or crawling through the tunnel was a lot more fun than watching somebody else get cool stuff.  So, they wandered off and let her carry on by herself, which by the way was fine with her.”  Steve continues, “Think for a minute about what a church full of two-year olds would look like.  There would be no close, intimate friendships.  Everybody would stay in their own little orbit.  Everybody would want to go first, have the most swings, and not share with others.  If it didn’t directly benefit them, nobody would care about what else was going on.” 

Does that make you stop and think about how much of the message of being the Lord’s own is penetrating our hearts and our minds?  Think about the idea in the gospel.  What’s his is mine.  It can be if I’m willing to be his.  And then if I am his, I will be willing to look to the interests of other people, serving to the best of my ability.  That’s really what being a Christian is all about.  That’s what being a church of Christ is all about.  That is the course that each one of us needs to set out more in our lives. 

Maybe this morning you are here and would like to make a beginning at that.  If we can be of help to you, won’t you come while we stand and sing together?