Beloved Together

Does this $100 have any value?

If I were to ask you, does this $100 bill have value, what would you say?

Absolutely.

Some of you could use this $100 today.  For some of you, this is no big deal.  For others of you, like me, this is a really big deal.

We all know how much value certain things have.  And we treat things accordingly.

For example, if I were to burn a $1 bill, you might not like it.  For one, you might say it’s illegal to burn money.  But truthfully, you probably wouldn’t be too upset with me. Because it’s just a $1.

But, if I were to burn a $100 bill, if I were to destroy it, you might get upset with me.

You would say things like… that money could have helped someone.  Or, that money could have helped a lot of people.  Why would you do that?

And you would be right.

We know how much value things have, & we treat them accordingly, don’t we?

Hold on to that thought, we’ll come back to it in a moment.

The Church Under Attack

In the early days as the church was just starting out, it faced substantial resistance.

First by the Jewish leaders. They arrested Peter & John & tried to silence them.

Then they actually killed a believer in Jesus by the name of Stephen.

And now, as the story continues, another person by the name of Saul has risen up to try to stop the church.

Here’s what happens…

Acts 9.1-8

Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.

Saul has begun his personal campaign to destroy the church.

In fact, in Acts 8.3 it literally says…

“But Saul was going everywhere to DESTROY the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.”

So Saul continues his mission to Damascus. There are more of these followers of the Way to find & lock up. Here’s what happens next…

As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
“Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.
And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus.

There’s so much in this story, but today I want you to just think about one aspect…

Two times Jesus speaks to Saul & two times Jesus says to him… “Why are you persecuting me?” “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!”

Hurting Jesus or the church?

But Saul wasn’t persecuting Jesus, was he?

Every action Saul had taken was in direct opposition to people following Jesus.

Not Jesus himself.

But Jesus says that by persecuting the church, Saul was persecuting HIM! That when you hurt the church you hurt Jesus.

Saul had been on a mission with the support of the religious leaders to spearhead a campaign to put an end to this movement of Jesus followers. To destroy the church.

And now, on the road to Damascus, Saul has a one on one meeting with Jesus who blinds him & simultaneously shows him that He is exactly who His followers say He is, Messiah & Lord.

And Saul would learn that day just how much Jesus loves His church.

Saul, who would later become better known by his Roman name Paul, would write these words to the church in the city of Ephesus, that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” Ephesians 5.25.

Jesus loves His church

Here’s what I want you to see to today…

That Jesus loves His church.

Saul would later call the church the body of Christ & another one of Jesus’ closest followers & friends, a man by the name of John, would call the church the bride of Christ.

Jesus himself in this story indicates that He is one with the church. And when someone hurts the church in any way they are hurting Jesus.

Why?

Because Jesus loves His church that much.

Jesus loves ME or Jesus loves US?

I don’t know about you but when I was a kid probably the first song I learned was, “Jesus loves me, this I know…”

And I love that song & I think we should teach our children that song & I’m all for that song.

And Jesus does love you. He loves you so much. He loves you more than you could possibly imagine or ever know. His love for you is perfect. He can’t love you any more than He already does or any less that He already does because His love is perfect. So, you need to know this, there truly is nothing you could ever do to make God love you less.

But Jesus doesn’t just love you.

Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t change the song from “Jesus loves ME, this I know…” to “Jesus loves US, this I know…”

Because this is also true, Jesus LOVES His CHURCH.

Jesus loves you, plural.

Jesus loves you, church.

We, together, are loved by God.

We are loved together.

We are beloved, together.

“Greater love has no one than this, that He would lay down his life for His friends.”

Jesus spoke those words then gave His life for us.

We are beloved by God. We are bought with a price.

Jesus loves us.

Jesus loves His church. When we love Jesus we love His church.

What if we loved the church the way Jesus loves His church?

What would change about the way we talk about His church? What would change about how we act towards the people in His church? What wouldn’t we do for His church?

I want to love the local church like Jesus loves the local church.

Why was Saul who later became known as Paul so committed to the church? Why was he so consumed with starting & encouraging as many churches as he could. Why did Paul love the church so much? Because He loved Jesus.

And when you & I love Jesus, we love His church.

I Love You More

I have this thing I do with my kids, mostly at night before we go to bed. I’ll say, I love you. Then they’ll say, I love you.

Then I’ll say, well… I love you more. Then they’ll say, I love you more.

And then it starts getting fun because I’ll say something like, I love you to the moon. And then they’ll say, I love you to the moon & back. That comes from a book we read to them as kids.

But then it turns into, well.. I love you all the way to Mars. And it will keep going. We try to one up each other. But Emma, our 6 year old, figured out how to win the one up game.

She’ll say, I love you as big as God!

Now how am I supposed to one up that?

That $100 bill we talked about at the beginning may have some value. And if I were to attempt to destroy it, someone would probably come up here & stop me. Because it has worth.

You, church, have so much more worth. And anyone who attempts to destroy it will have to answer to Jesus… just like Saul.

You, church have great value.

As Paul would say later, You were bought with a price. You are loved by Christ. You are the body of Christ. You are His church.

To hear the full message click to watch or to listen.

Click to read more from the Belonging series or to watch online.

I serve as the Preaching Minister at Riverside Church of Christ in Coppell, TX. I enjoy sports, running, fishing & life with the family. I’ve been in ministry since 1999. My wife Alisha & I have three amazing children, Will, Ella Grace & Emma Love. Thanks for stopping by my blog.