Several weeks ago, I was explaining how many are mislead into believing that all they have to do is accept Christ. Wrong! You have to understand that your relationship with Jesus Christ is a matter of life or death. I hope I am not being too dramatic on that. I am simply stating the Gospel Truth! Most of us understand that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Right? We can take that for granted and have no reason to question it. And we correctly realize that we are saved by Christ alone without works. Yep! No arguments there. He did die for our sins according to the Scriptures, He did rise again. The Scripture does say that we are saved by Christ alone without works. However, He is not standing, hat in hand, waiting on your decision to follow Him!
I don’t know where I read this, but the moment you are “infected” with Christ, it should invade and overtake every area of your life; your personal life, your marriage, your social life, your interaction with the world around you, your thoughts, your speech, your time, your social media interaction, EVERYTHING!
That’s right! Once you understand that Jesus is to be your Lord! Absolute King and Ruler, we must also submit to His Church! J. B. Phillips wrote this about Christ’s early church:
“It is heartening to remember that this faith (of the early Church) took root and flourished in conditions that would have killed anything less vital in a matter of weeks. These early Christians were on fire with the conviction that they have become, through Christ, literally sons of God. They were pioneers of a New Kingdom. They still speak to us across the centuries. Perhaps if we believe what they believed, we might achieve what they achieved.”
No, instead we become too satisfied with our own conveniences, our own desires, our own group of people we hang out with (or our choices to remain isolated and secluded). If Jesus is going to be our Lord, we must learn to love His Church! The grandparents, the children and those in their middle ages. We need to love the young people, the mystics, the pragmatics and the theologians. Yes, you also need to love the simplest, the immature, and the deep. And don’t forget the value of the visionaries and the plodders. As well as the faithful committee workers who make it happen and the laggards you have to cajole! Everybody! We must love the Church! Whether they want you to or not. Whether they take hold of you with both arms or hold you off at arm’s length. We must love His Church!
And brothers and sisters, when you do finally do that, you will find how multifaceted, richly diverse the Body of Christ is, and how it will stretch and challenge you in a thousand ways more than one person ever could. Friends, we are expected to place ourselves deeply within a living, functioning local body and begin to give and take at deep levels.
Now don’t let that phrase go by you too quickly. You must place yourself deeply, continually, consistently and devotedly! If we run off every weekend to vacation, or stay home some Sundays to watch the Olympics, or play a few rounds of golf, or take, what our pastor calls it: a “Me” day (what is that? Did Jesus every take time off for a “Me” day?) we will pay a terrible price! And, here is another big no-no, if you go church hopping or even show up but never interact with anyone, and think you have done it, you are again going to pay a terrible price. As Billy Sunday candidly pointed out, ““Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” Nope! And, if it becomes your habit, your fellow believers will move into each other, close the gap and learn to get along without you. It’s like during heavy snow storms and the Government offices declare, “Non-Essential” personnel do not need to come in.” I always feel sorry for them. How would it feel to considered, “Non-Essential?
Friends, I can assure you from my personal experience, there is no substitute for constant, faithful exposure to your local family of God. Not just making an appearance, but actually becoming involved with the other disciples of Jesus. That is your part. However, it is a two-way street. Your church has to be living and functioning, too! How can you tell if you are in the right church? It doesn’t have to be large, and it will certainly never be perfect! Nevertheless, it must be alive and functioning. As Sam Shoemaker once said, “You can’t put a live chick under a dead hen.”
I don’t care how large or small your church is. If it is going to be the right place for you, it has to be a place where you can minister life and exercise your various gifts. It also has to be a place where they can minister to you. It has to work both ways! Don’t wear yourself out trying to hang on because they need you (need you for what? To keep the pew warm?). If you cannot find enough life in the Spirit to pour back into you, get out of there! Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in My Name . . .” not just gathered, He would be in the midst.
On the other hand, don’t be too proud, too shy, or too busy to receive the life when it is there! Realize though, many church people have the true Gospel of Christ in their hearts; they are full of potential, but they are closed-up. They don’t know how to love each other. They have to learn how to act out their love, just like you need to learn.
Look, there is no way I could explain the miracle of the Church, but I do know that we need all the relationships God will give us. Each believer represents a different facet of Jesus Christ. As we are baptized into a life of fellowship in the Spirit, we are plunged into Christ Himself. Doctrinally, we are baptized into Christ at the moment of our conversion. Experientially, you might say; we are baptized into Christ as we become daily immersed in our fellow believers.
Paul said this about it:
“From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16)
We need to take a vow as seriously as our marriage vows that we will love the church for better and for worse until “death do we part.” As I explained during a wedding ceremony, “Your marriage is to be ‘Until death do you part, not until you are tired of trying.” My mother told me, “Marriage is not for cowards.” Think about that as you consider your commitment to a church! Hey! did you notice that verse above said it would not work unless each part did its job? We need to forge meaningful and loving relationships in the Body of Christ. My only hope is that I can motivate you to follow through with this message. Because this life of commitment and devotion is the life we are called to live!
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add youm—a to the list: Mail List)
I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.