Perception: A way of Understanding; A Mental Impression
I’d like you to think about the way you perceive things. The way that I perceive something, isn’t always the way you perceive the same thing. Sometimes our perception varies, and sometimes we have a wrong perception of things. Our perception of a given thing, is based on our understanding of that thing. And usually our understanding of a particular thing, is based on what kind of experience we’ve had with that thing. For example; If I asked you what your perception was, of a particular restaurant in town, that you’ve only eaten at, one time, you might not have a very accurate perception of that that restaurant, because you haven’t had enough experience with it. A lot of you perception might be based on what other people have told you about it.
What if I asked you what your perception is of some of the churches in town. I can tell you that personally, I’ve never attended a worship service in another church in town, besides this church. So I’ve got a perception of some of the other ones, but not from any personal experience. I know what some other people have told me, but that’s about it. I know that a neighbor of mine said that their “pastor”, so to speak, plays the guitar during their worship service, and he really had that church rockin’! So, I come away with a perception of that church, that they really like to be entertained over there.
And I’m sure that a lot of people choose which church they’ll attend, based on things like that. How much entertainment will I get out of it. Oh sure, I know, we go there to worship, but if this church entertains me more than the others, then I’m goin’ there!
I know of another church that likes to put on plays, on their stage. They might put on a play that portrays the birth of Christ. Or a play that portrays the Passover supper, and the instructions for the Lord’s supper. And the people love the entertainment they get from those plays. And so what it boils down to, is that there’s a lot of people who perceive the “church” as a place to be entertained.
But then there’s also a lot of people who perceive the “church”, simply as a place to socialize. To them, it’s not much different than any other social club or organization. You come together and talk about the issues of the day, and catch up on what’s gone on this past week. And you talk about how the “church” needs to adjust, and to change, so it can “fit in” with today’s society. To a lot of people, “The church”, is the “religious” social organization, for the town. And as the result of that perception, many people chose the “church” that they attend, based on where their friends attend. You want to be “socially” accepted don’t you? Then you’ve got to go where your friends go, and do as your friends do.
Now here’s a sad but true fact. There’s lots of people who simply view the “church” as a welfare provider”. How many people travel around the country, going from one place to another, using “churches” to finance their travels? Their perception of “churches” is that they’re simply another place to get a handout. Judging from the people we’ve had come through here in this past year, I’d say some people make their living that way.
So then some people perceive churches as a way to make a living, and some people perceive churches as just somewhere to get another tankful of gas, to continue their travels. Some people perceive a church as a social club, and some perceive it as somewhere to be entertained. I guess when you come right down to it, most people perceive churches, simply as a way to get physical, and material fulfillment. And you know what? When I look at all the churches, all around us, that’s all I see too. A bunch of organizations designed to cater to the physical and material needs of the people.
That’s what “churches of men” strive to do. They strive to cater to the material desires of the people, and also the emotional desires and needs of the people. Isn’t that what entertainment does? It caters to our emotional desires. Isn’t the sound of that piano or organ beautiful! And how about the way that guitar and those drums “rock” the house! That sure “moves me”! It’s emotional! It’s physical!
Let’s put on a play, so we can admire the stage production, and the acting skills of the “players”. Oh sure, there’s gonna be a biblical “theme” to the play. And the band is gonna play some “religious” songs. So that makes it all OK. That’s what goes on in “churches” all around us.
But what about “THE” church? What about the body of the saved? How do you perceive the assembly of the souls, that have been called OUT from the world, and added to the kingdom of God?
That’s what the true “church” is, isn’t it? Jesus said, “I will build My church” (singular) And He said that he would give the apostle Peter “the keys to the kingdom”. (Mathew 18:18 & 19) “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the body, which is His church.” His “called out assembly”! (Ephesians 1:22 & 23)
The one true church, is made up of those who have been cleansed, and set apart from the world! “For He delivered us, from the domain of darkness, and translated us, into the kingdom of His beloved Son.” (Colossians 1:13) “In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins!” Christ’s church is not a social club! It’s not a physical organization! “My kingdom is not of this world”, Jesus said, in John 18:36. “It’s not from here!” It’s not from this world, it’s not focused on this world, and it’s not here to entertain us. And it’s not here to satisfy our physical “desires”. It’s here to satisfy our spiritual NEEDS! And it’s here to satisfy GOD!
Jesus said, in John 4:24; “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him, must worship in spirit and in truth.” Did you hear that word “must”, in that verse? That means exactly what it says. “Must” means.. necessary, it must happen, it’s our duty! If we are going to worship God today, and if our worship is going to be acceptable to Him, then we MUST worship in spirit. In other words, we can’t just go through the motions, we must worshipping with the spirit inside of us. And we MUST worship in truth! And that’s really the part that has to do with what we’re talking about here.
What does it mean to worship in truth? What IS truth? Truth is the word of God. (John 17:17) If we are going to worship God acceptably, then our worship MUST be patterned according to what God’s word has authorized. That’s just all there is to it! What are we authorized to do, in our worship to God? Are we authorized to play the drums and the guitar and the piano and organ? Clearly, No we are not! Are we authorized to put on plays? No, we are not. Are we authorized to have choirs? To put it plainly, are we authorized to seek out our own satisfaction at all? No were are not! We are authorized to do only what God has specified.
How do you perceive the church of the Lord? I sure hope that you don’t perceive of it like you perceive of a denomination created by men. I hope that you perceive of it as something created by God. I hope you see the church as something that has been created for the fulfillment of your spiritual needs. You and I NEED the forgiveness of our sins, and we NEED the word of God to give us the spiritual strength, to withstand all the temptations, and the trials, that everyone faces in this world. Without the church, you have no source, to fulfill those needs.
The “called out assembly” of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the assembly of those who have been forgiven. It’s the refuge from the world. It’s not OF this world, but it’s the escape FROM this world. The church is “a chosen race”! Not really a “race of people” but a “race of redeemed souls”. A “royal priesthood” of forgiven souls. “A holy nation, a people for God’s own possession..” Yes, the scriptures use the word “people”. But remember, it’s not the physical “person” that’s a member of the body of Christ, it’s the spiritual person that’s saved. That’s why acceptable worship MUST be done in “spirit”, not just in “body”. It can’t be, the physical needs, that are satisfied during our worship, it must be our spiritual needs that are satisfied!
“A people, for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who, called you out of darkness, into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) We’re called out of this world, we’re called out of this darkness, and therefore we perceive the church spiritually, not physically. And the world doesn’t understand that. And because of that, the world doesn’t perceive the church, as it really is. The world sees the church of Christ, as just another denomination. Just another religious group, that’s fills the same needs that the denominations fill. And so then, why would anyone feel any need to leave the denomination that they’ve become accustomed to, and be a apart of the church of Christ?
Even when we do get others to come to our worship service, do they really perceive correctly, what’s going on? First of all, when someone new walks into our assembly, what do they see? What do you see, when you walk into our assembly? Do you just see a group of people, just like you’d see if you walked into a denominational assembly? Or do you see something different. If you don’t see something different, then you don’t perceive the church properly. When you come into an assembly of the Lord’s church, you should see souls that are seeking to please God, not themselves.
I hope you don’t see a group of people that have come here to be entertained. And I hope you don’t see a group of people that have come together to socialize. And I sure hope that you don’t see a group of people that are just trying to make themselves “feel good”. We SHOULD feel good about assembling together, but that shouldn’t be the REASON that we assemble; Just to make ourselves “feel good”.
In speaking about the church assembling together, the bible says in 1 Corinthians 14, verse 26; “Let all things be for edification.” And that means “spiritual edification! “Spiritual edification” is a strengthening of the spirit. It’s not a “tickling of the ears”, and a “good feeling”. “Spiritual edification occurs ONLY, when our faith is increased. Let all things in the assembly of the church be done to increase our faith! Not to make us “feel good”, but to strengthen our faith.
Unless you see the church that Jesus built, as the kingdom of God, and as the only body of saved souls that exists, and as a place where your faith can be increased, and as a place where you can worship God according to truth; Unless that’s how you view the church, you’ve got a wrong “perception” of the church.
We need to perceive of the church as “the pillar and ground of the truth”. (1 Tim 3:15). The truth will not be spread, through any other source, other than the church. The world doesn’t HAVE the truth, but the church does! Ephesians 3:9 & 10 says; “..to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery, which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things, in order that the manifold WISDOM of God, might now be made known through the church, to the rulers and the authorities, in the heavenly places.”
A main purpose of the church, is to bring the truth to the world! That’s YOUR purpose, if you’re a Christian! Remember what we just read a few minutes ago, form 1 Peter 2:9? We are “a people for god’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness, into His marvelous light!” I truly hope that that’s how you perceive the church. You are “the pillar and ground of the truth.”
“You are the salt of the earth!” (Mathew 6:13) “You are the light of the world!” (Verse 14) The only way that the world will ever come to have the correct perception of the church, is for us to be, the people that we are purposed to be. And Ephesians 3:11 says that this was “in accordance with the ETERNAL purpose, which he carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
As we fulfill our eternal purpose, we will be giving the world the opportunity to perceive the Lord’s church for what it truly is. And not only to perceive it for what it is, but to become a part of what it is, the body of the saved.