Thursday, April 5, 2012

E for Ekklesia

A Devotional By Margot Cioccio      

 Acts 2:42
[ The Fellowship of the Believers ] They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.


This was my start for "D" for devoted, but it turned into "E" for Ekklesia as you will soon see.
 
The Fellowship of the Believers ... studied the word together, they spent time together involved and part of each others lives, they ate together and they prayed together.  They were devoted to living a life together as they followed Christ. Their devotion to Jesus was not compartmentalized to give Jesus an hour or two sitting in a Sunday service. It is easy for us to get into a rut of thinking that we have done our duty because we attended a weekly, monthly or for some yearly church service. We have messed up the definition of Church to make it a building or a place to go. The bible word that we have translated as church comes from the word ekklesia. Even as I have studied to write this post I have seen some things that I had missed previously. Before I took Ekklesia to mean the called out ones. That is how I had heard it preached and I never really bothered to dig much deeper. 
I read the following description fromR. Scott, and H.G. Liddell, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 206. "The word 'church' in the New Testament is translated from the Greek word 'ekklesia' which comes from two words 'ek' meaning 'out' and 'kaleo' meaning to 'call.' An ekklesia or 'calling out' was not just an assembly. The words agora and paneguris as well as heorte, koinon, thiasos, sunagoge and sunago can all mean an assembly. The word ekklesia was a political term, not a religious term. Jesus was the King and the Bible used the term ekklesia for a good reason. In classical Greek "ekklesia" meant "an assembly of citizens summoned by the crier, the legislative assembly.""

Wow - did you see that part about it being a political term. As the people of the King we are summoned to assemble. Not to hide in our Christian conclaves to avoid being soiled by the filth of the world. We are summoned together that we might accomplish the will of the King. It seems to me the will of the King is not served well by us hiding from the world and having amazing prayer and worship experiences. Don't get me wrong there is a place for that but it should be a result of lives lived fully for the King of Kings not the goal of our lives. 

Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah!  
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, 
but my Father who is in heaven.  
And I tell you, you are Peter (petros – stone, little rock) 
and upon this rock (petra – crag, cliff, large rock) 
I will build my ekklesia (Matthew 16:17,18).

Even this passage has been twisted by some to the point of succeeding church leadership needing to be from the blood line of Peter. It was not Peter himself that was the foundation that Jesus would build upon it was what Peter believed. Go back a few verses where Jesus is asking his disciples who they think.
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, 
he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; 
others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
   15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

This is the root of the belief upon which God will build his ekklesia or church. 
It is a called out group of people that believe that Jesus is more than a prophet or wise, holy man. It is a people who believe that Jesus is God. Jesus says himself says in John 10 to a bunch of Jews who were intent on stoning him for blasphemy.
 25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  30 I and the Father are one.” 31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” 33 “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38 But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”

This group of people who believed and were devoted to Jesus believed he was God, that he was indeed the promised Messiah. Many of these people were persecuted and died for their belief. They were given a chance to denounce their belief in Jesus as God and live, but they chose to die for their belief in Christ. I've written on that in a former post here's the link back to it. http://devotionals-margot.blogspot.com/2012/01/looking-for-peace-in-wrong-places.html

This is devotion - to believe so completely in Jesus that your life is spent for his honor and glory and that you would not turn away even if it cost you your life.  That your life would be spent in doing the Father's will.

I am sorry to say that much of what I see - that calls itself Church here in America pales in comparison. We go to church more out of a devotion to self. Our question upon visiting a new church is not has God called me to be here, to be part of the life together with this group of believers. It is more often about will this church meet my needs?
The questions follow more often along the lines of - Do I like the music, did I like the sermon, were people friendly, do they have exciting stuff for my kids. We've pretty much come to be entertained and to fullfil some religious obligation of being a good christian by attending church.  Keith Green said it so well "Going to church does not make you a christian any more than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger."  I find it interesting that in most churches when we don't get our way, or we hit a point of conflict we don't stay and work things out. Who needs to, there are plenty of other churches.  People leave complaining about how they were not getting fed. Hello - pick up your fork and eat. In most cases they have been offended and rather than work things out they run away.

The fellowship of believers devoted themselves to being a Jesus people. He was the central point.  He was like the air they breathe, they would not live with out him. He became the reason behind why and how they lived and worked and worshiped as a people together.

Church is not something that we can accomplish on our own. We need to work together to laugh, play, to grieve and hurt when another hurts. To rejoice when one rejoices.  We are living stones built together into a spiritual house. We are iron that sharpens iron. We are sheep that are part of a flock.

It is interesting to me the political context of the word ekklesia. We are the citizens of the kingdom of heaven and we are summoned to meet together as citizens representing that kingdom here on earth. Coming together for church should not just be a place to hide away while we bide our time waiting for the return of Christ.  Matthew 24:45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

Why did Jesus come? Luke 19:10 is pretty strait forward. "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”So we sit in our churches and wonder why the lost are not beating down our doors to come in and hide out with us. Duhhh because we are supposed to be out in the world being salt and light. We are supposed to be living bibles.  I believe it was Mother Teresa who said to go out and preach the gospel and when all else fails use words. Don't just talk big - go live it out. Work out your salvation. We as a people have been so insecure in our righteousness and so afraid of getting our righteous robes dirty. That we stand around pointing out what everyone eles is doing wrong rather than living like Jesus people.

I had friends at the Cincinnati Vineyard who would as a church,regularly flood their city with acts of mercy, kindness and justice. They had some great t-shirts that said "The Church has left the building" We should be about more than putting on a happenin' service. We are called to assemble not out of the world but so we can go back into it and shine for Jesus.

Daniel 12:13 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

Philippians 2:12-18
12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed -- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence -- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
14Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16as you hold out the word of life

Prayer:

Dear Lord, 
Help us to be like guiding lights and not just shooting stars. Help us to quit already with the religious games and pretense and get about accomplishing your Kingdom purposes. Help us to see that you are not calling us out of the world but into it. Lord awaken your slumbering people and help us to die to our selves and to live for you. 


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