This past weekend I ventured with my wife up to New York City. On Saturday as she hung out with her sister who had taken the bus down from Boston, I ventured around Lower Manhattan, taking in the sites, including Trinity Church, a historic Episcopal parish on the corner of Broadway and Wall Street.
I walked around the graveyard and admired the beautiful architecture and art both inside and outside the church. I love seeing how God is glorified in the beautiful artwork that adorns sacred spaces intended for the heralding the Gospel.
But of course, the Episcopal Church USA these days is not generally -- especially in liberal urban centers -- a fearless defender or even proclaimer of the historic Christian faith, so it was a bittersweet visit, all the more confirmed by a visit this evening to the "What We Believe" Web page for Trinity.
It was the following portion from the FAQ that prompted this blog entry and its title, because anyone who believes the answer the parish provided is truly to be pitied:
Are you the church featured in the movie National Treasure?
Is there any treasure?It's not only that answer is cheesy, which it is, but that it's man-focused, man-exalting, and Christless. After all, there are plenty of "good" people "working every day for a world of good" in all kinds of institutions, sacred and secular. But in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, the people are NOT the treasure, Christ is!
Yes, but probably not the kind you are thinking of. Trinity’s greatest treasures are the people who make this a vibrant place, working every day for a world of good.
In the church, the people are but the earthen vessels bearing within the greatest treasure (2 Cor. 4:1-7, emphasis mine):
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
Yes, in some sense the Lord's church is a treasure. It is a treasure to Christ, who redeemed it with His own blood, and all who are truly born again of the Spirit are those for whom the Lord Jesus Christ gave His life.
In that sense, it's true that every saint is a precious treasure to God.
But let's not think that we individually or corporately in a church setting are a treasure to the surrounding community because of anything we have done or presently do. Our worth before God is solely a function of His grace poured out on unworthy sinners. Ultimately, that's the only good the church is to lost people as well: as heralds of the surpassing greatness of Christ.
Any church that fails to proclaim this humbling truth does a grave disservice to sinners who need to hear the pride-deflating truth of the Gospel so that they can repent of their sins and trust in Christ unto salvation.