The Church: A Beautiful Mess – Part 1

The Church: A Beautiful Mess – Part 1

When my kids were little, I remember coming home to a house that was a disaster, with toys and stuff everywhere and my wife was completely worn out. I could tell that it had been one of those days! As I looked at my three kids playing in the midst of the mess, I thought to myself, This is my beautiful mess!

I can’t help but think that is how the Lord feels at times when He looks down at His kids, the church, and sees all the messes we make. I wonder if He says, “THAT IS MY BEAUTIFUL MESS!” Let’s admit it. Church is often times messy because it’s filled with sinners; broken people who are trying to minister to broken people, and all of us are in the process of being transformed by a loving Redeemer. One of my favorite pastors, Joe Fotch of Calvary Chapel Philadelphia, has often said, “The church is one big dysfunctional family, but it is the best dysfunctional family around.”

I think the Church can often resemble a construction zone where when you walk through the different aspects of the building project, you might come upon an area where all you see is rubble and blocks and nothing is put together yet. You realize that that particular area of the project is just getting started. Then you wander to another part of the project that has been worked on but there is “caution” tape up and red cones barring you from entering into that space, because there are aspects of the project that are still dangerous. You then proceed to another part of the project where the majority of work has been completed. All that is needed is for the windows to be put in and the doors hung and the final paint job done, and you get a really good sense of what the finished project is going to be like. You’ve seen the brochures and blue prints ahead of time and know what the final project will look like, so you are excited to see that is it almost finished.

That, to me, is a good picture of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ – a bunch of people from all different back grounds who are all in different places in our walks, and every single one of us is still under construction. There are those in the body of Christ who are just starting out in their walk of faith; the materials are lined up but a lot of it hasn’t been applied yet. Then there are those who are midway into the transformation project; still very rough around the edges and you have to approach them with caution. Then there are those who are a bit more seasoned; those who have grown in their walks, allowing us to get glimpses of the finished project.

As we look to the Word and particularly the life of Jesus, we get the full picture of what the Lord is seeking to do in each one of our lives. Paul tells us what God’s ultimate goal for each one of us is –

“Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
– Romans 8:29 (NET)

The big picture goal that God is seeking to accomplish in every one of our lives is to conform us into the image of His own dear Son. That is the end game for God; that is what this is all about.  He is seeking to make each one of His beloved children more and more like His beloved Son, Jesus! God sees the finished project. He sees what you are going to become, and ultimately, what all of us as a Church are going to become.

The Apostle John put it this way in his epistle –

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
– 1 John 3:2

That is the glorious destiny of the redeemed! One day we are going to see Jesus and we are going to be like Him. But right now, most of us are a long way from that place, as we continue in this life as people who are under construction.

Years ago in Chicago there was a young couple who came to Christ through the ministry of the Salvation Army (back in the days when they were primarily known for soul winning and discipleship). This particular couple were both illiterate but they really enjoyed going to the bible studies and listening to the sermons. The husband joined a men’s bible study group and came home one day from the meeting looking rather dejected. His wife asked, “What is wrong, didn’t you enjoy the bible study?” “That bible study was great,” he replied, “but all the men in the study had red sweaters with white writing on them and I didn’t have one, so I sort of felt left out.”

Well, the next day she was determined to get her husband a red sweater with white writing on it. They were poor so she went down to the local Goodwill store where she was able to find a red sweater for cheap, but it didn’t have any white writing on it so she decided to sew something onto his sweater. She didn’t know that the other sweaters actually said “Salvation Army” and since she couldn’t read, she decided that she would simply copy something. Across the street from their apartment was a building and on the building was a red sign with white lettering, so she decided to copy that. She stitched the lettering onto the red sweater and presented it to her husband when he came home from work that day. He was so blessed by her gift and proudly wore his sweater to the men’s bible study later that week. When he got home that night he was so happy. All the guys loved his sweater and wanted one just like it because it said “UNDER CONSTRUCTION”.  It is good for us to remember that we are all a work in progress; we are all under construction. We together make up our Lord’s “Beautiful Mess”!

Until we see the Lord in glory, there are always going to be messes in this thing that God calls His Church. We are reminded of this constantly in the New Testament. In the beginning stages of the early Church, in Acts chapter 6, there arose a dispute because one group felt that the other group was not treating their widows properly. The members of the church in Corinth were competing with one another in the public meetings, and even suing one another in court (1 Corinthians 6:1; 14:23-40) The Galatian believers were “biting and devouring” one another (Galatians 5:15). Paul had to admonish the Ephesian believers to cultivate unity (Ephesians 4:1-16) and in the church at Philippi, he had to exhort two women to learn how to get along with each other. (Philippians 4:1-3).

These are all examples of God’s beautiful mess and I want to make sure you realize that every one of these examples are recorded for us in the pages of God’s holy Word. Even Paul admonishing two women of their need to get along! How ironic is that? You see, God knew that His beloved Church would not be perfect and, thus, would be full of problems and would have to have instruction on how to get along with each other!

So how should we view one another, who are a part of this beautiful mess? I love what the Apostle Paul declares in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 where he talks about how the believer is a new creation in Christ. In verse 16, Paul makes this statement: “Therefore, from now on we view no one according to the flesh.” Paul is saying that when we look at people, it is not their flesh that we want to focus on. It is not about who they are in the flesh, or what they have done, or how flawed they may be. What mattered to Paul was whether they were in Christ or not in Christ. If they were in Christ, they are a new creation and Paul was determined to see people for who they were in Christ and not for who they were in the flesh.

It is easy, when we look at our flesh, to see the flaws because we all have them.  But we must learn how to focus on who we are becoming in Jesus. If we can learn to see those things in one another that remind us of Jesus and encourage those things, I think we will be inspiring each other to continue to grow in our relationship with Christ and our desire to be like Him.

The writer of Hebrews admonished his readers to “Stir one another up toward love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24) So the next time you are tempted to get frustrated over the flawed flesh of a fellow believer who is maybe making a mess of things, step back and think about the things in that person that are a blessing; those things that remind you of Jesus. I want to challenge you to give thanks and then pray for their flaws rather than becoming frustrated by their flesh. Then, go home and look in the mirror and be thankful that our Lord is so patient with you and your flawed flesh, and the messes you make in this thing that we call the Church … “HIS BEAUTIFUL MESS”

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