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The Six Great Ends of the Church: “The Preservation of the Truth”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.
Last week the theme of the day was the third of the Six Great Ends of the Church which is the Maintenance of Divine Worship. I started that message with a list of things to do during boring sermons (my thought was that preaching is a part of worship), but I probably should have saved that list for today as we talk about the fourth Great End – the Preservation of the Truth.
So, for today, here’s my favorite six things from that list:
- Slap your neighbor. See if they turn the other cheek. If not, raise your hand and tell the preacher.
- Start from the back of the church and try to crawl all the way to the front, under the pews, without being noticed.
- By unobtrusively drawing your arms up into your sleeves, turn your shirt around backwards.
- Twiddle your thumbs.
- Twiddle your neighbor’s thumbs.
- Wiggle your ears so that the people behind you will notice.
So ……. Let’s see who slaps whose cheek first.
After today we’ll be two-thirds through our 6-week sermon series on what is known as the Six Great Ends of the Church, where the word “Ends” means “purposes, or reasons for existence” – we discover more about what the Church is for! These Ends have been true almost since the founding of this particular church.
LPC was chartered in 1907 under the denomination called the Presbyterian Church in North America which adopted the Great Ends I n 1910. In 1958, when that denomination united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, giving rise to the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, this statement was incorporated into the new constitution. And when the UPCUSA united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1983, healing a rift that had lasted since the Civil War era, the Great Ends were made part of the Constitution (in the Book of Order) of the PC(USA).
These six statements describe a healthy church – one which realizes that not only must the Gospel be preached to all, but that the people who have responded need to be nurtured, that worship correctly done is as important as preserving the truth, that justice for God’s people cannot be ignored, and that our individual lives and our corporate actions should show the world what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. (If you listened closely just then, you heard all Six Great Ends mentioned.)
So far we have seen that the first, and the foundational, End/Purpose of the Church is The Proclamation of the Gospel! And the second End/Purpose of the Church is The Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God! The third End of the Church is The Maintenance of Divine Worship!
Listen with me as the Apostle John tells the story of Jesus’ arrest and trial with the Roman Governor in Jerusalem named Pontius Pilate. Listen for this fourth End of the Church – the Preservation of the Truth. John 18:28-40 ….—-
28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate.
With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.
John’s Gospel account carries within its powerful storyline an undertone theme of truth. Last week we read John 4 about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, and Jesus said that His real worshipers will “worship in spirit and in TRUTH.” In John 8 Jesus says that “if you hold to my teaching and therefore know the truth, the TRUTH will set you free”. And in John 14, during the dinner just before His arrest, Jesus says, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life ….” In fact, there are at least 23 times that the word “truth” comes up in John’s 21 chapters. And in this same John’s First Letter to the Christians only five chapters long, he uses the word “truth” ten times!
So, what is this “truth” we’re supposed to preserve, anyway? Isn’t that the mother of all questions? Isn’t every question we ever ask really just asking, what’s the truth about this? That’s what Pilate asks: What is truth?
How do we determine what truth is? [In a court of law, they ask for evidence to point toward the truth; they ask for witnesses to testify to what they believe is the truth; they try to prove that there is no other possible reality than their version of the truth.
That’s also what parents do with their children; and playground monitors; and insurance agents.
And that’s what we do with claims of religious truth. We weigh the evidence, and that which makes the most sense is where we put our faith.
C.S. Lewis tried to prove that the Christian religion was nothing more than fantasy, and in his research and study he was convinced that nothing else held as much real truth.
Avowed atheist and legally trained investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Lee Strobel examined the claims of Christ, and reached the irrefutable and hard-won verdict that Jesus is God’s unique son.]
When Jesus called Himself “the way, the truth, and the life”, what did He mean by “truth”? [He answers that Himself, in the next sentence He says, “No one comes to the Father except through me!”]
What is the difference between knowing about something and knowing something experientially? [Examples of this difference –
- the Grand Canyon is a river-carved ravine in the AZ desert; but have you ever actually seen this giant hole in the ground?
- Brussel sprouts are small dark green leafy vegetables – but have you ever been forced to eat a bowl full?
- Name your favorite president – he’s the guy who did something magnificent, born in a certain place, maybe died at a certain age; but have you ever actually shook his hand?
- Jesus was born in a manger, lived a remarkable life of miracles, died on a cross, and was resurrected to new life on the third day; but do you know Him personally, trust Him for your life, love Him with everything you’ve got – do you know how much He loves you?]
Listen to the Apostle John tell us about truth in I John 4:5-7, “5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”
In today’s reading from John 18, notice how this story ends. Pilate asks the crowd if they would like for him to release the King of the Jews, and they respond, in unison and in agreement with each other, “No! Not Him! Not Jesus!” Pilate had not asked them about “Jesus”, not by name, at least. But they knew that Jesus was the King of the Jews! They knew about Him! But they rejected Him as their Lord and Savior! They did not know Him! Do you know Him? Really?
Have you gone from simply knowing about Jesus as God’s Son to actually knowing Him personally? In your Sermon Notes Page write down the when and the where that happened. If it is happening right now, mark the day. After worship today, before I go downstairs to celebrate November birthdays with you – and Kay has done another spectacular job of setting up for this celebration – I’ll be here to address your questions and pray with you.
This is the Truth the Church is called to Preserve. If we ever forget to tell and to live this truth, we are no longer the Church, we’re just a bunch of nice people (and we may not even be all that nice….) But when we Preserve this Truth, it will become evidenced by the ways we love one another, for love comes from God. And everyone who loves (with I Corinthians 13 kind of love) has been born of God and knows God (personally, directly, experientially).
The first, and most foundational, Great End of the Church is the Proclamation of the Gospel – if there is no Gospel being proclaimed any Social Organization could suffice our church-needs (and maybe even better). Jesus often criticized church-leaders as hypocrites, two-faced, fake.
The 2nd, and right on the heels of the 1st, Great End of the Church is the Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God – if we fail at helping each other grow in our faith & our Christ-likeness, we fail at actually being church!
The 3rd Great End of the Church, the Maintenance of Divine Worship, is what fuels us for righteous living. Do we “worship in spirit and in truth”?
And the 4th Great End of the Church is the Preservation of the Truth – Jesus is the (only) way, the (real) truth, and the (eternal) life and no one comes to the Father except through (faith in) Him.
Friends, let’s live like we believe what we say we believe! Our Mission Statement declares that we are a people who:
Know the power and love of God, and
Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, compelling us to
Go in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit, loving and serving others who do not yet
Know the power and love of God….
Did you hear the preservation of the truth in that? Let’s be that kind of Church!
Father, I know that I have broken Your laws and my sins have separated me from You – all of that is true. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward You. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe in the truth that Your son, Jesus Christ, died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Resources: The 6 Great Ends of the Church: Leader’s Guide; Episode 4; The Fellowship Community; 2016.