Remember to take time to come to CBC Church Hall for our 7th in a series of Living Out God’s Grace, where we will be studying one of God’s means of grace in our lives- Belonging to His Body: Church Community.
Monday, 21 May 2018
Place: Corsham Baptist Church Hall
Following Christ means belonging, not just believing!
This may come as a shock to some of us, but ‘church’ was not designed by God to be just a gathering we can attend, but a family to which we can belong! Yes, of course my relationship with Christ is personal, but my loving heavenly Father never intended it to be private. In God’s family we are connected to every other believer, and we will belong to each other for eternity.
Hey sisters, isn’t this wonderful news? We’re not alone anymore! We were created for community, fashioned for fellowship, formed for a family – and none of us can fulfil God’s purposes by ourselves. Nowhere does the Bible ask us to be solitary saints or spiritual hermits, isolated from other believers and deprived of fellowship. But many times it talks of us being put together, joined together, built together, members together, heirs together, fitted together, held together, and one day being caught up together (1 Cor 12:12; Eph 2:21-22, 3:6, 4:16; Col 2:19 and 1 Thess 4:17).
The church is a body, not a building; an organism, not an organization. Jesus is building us into a family that exists in connection with him and with each other. And because of him we can enjoy relationships of genuine love, forgiveness, and peace with each other. Without Him, our community would simply be a gathering of friends.
In fact, it’s only when regularly interacting with the church community that we can live our life with God in Christ Jesus to the fullest. It’s within the church that God tangibly shows us his grace and teaches us to follow him together. Close connection with each other allows us to bear one another’s burdens, to love one another well, and to experience Jesus reproducing his life in our midst.
Belonging to our church community establishes a base from which we can reliably care for others. True love is not only manifest in affection and action, but also allegiance. Love doesn’t say, “I love these people but don’t need to covenant with them.” Rather, it says, “I love these people enough to covenant with them.” Living the Christian life in community is more than just loose associations when life is fun, but committing to be there for each other when life is hard, in sickness and in sorrow.
Our recent Ladies’ Retreat was a wonderful example of this covenant community in action. Over the weekend, we laughed and cried together, we studied, prayed and played together, and together we learned more about Jesus. We formed new friendships, strengthened old ones, risked being vulnerable with each other, allowing God to speak to and through us to encourage and support one another. What a joy to be part of this beautiful display of God’s grace within our sisterhood family!
So, if eternity is a real thing (which it is), and we are going to be together forever (which we are), then why not starting acting like it today? Make no mistake – for all of us who love Jesus, we will be together as His Church for all of eternity. That may sound scary, but here’s the deal – we can serve and love one another, call each other out, and be there for each other in ways that this world will never understand. And we can (and should) do all of that because we are family. We are family, for eternity!
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Many weeks our services at Church on the Green end with those words. I always make a point of smiling and nodding at the people around me, sharing the grace with them. The words are so familiar. I say it so often and it just rolls off the tongue. It’s nice to feel together, to be a little club with a secret sign off. But what on earth are we saying?
The words of “the grace” come straight from Scripture. They are Paul’s closing words to the church in Corinth. You can read it for yourself in 2 Corinthians 13:14. It is a prayer Paul prays for this bunch of Christians who he has been telling off. They are in a right state! They are arguing and fighting with each other, sleeping with each other, really battling to hang on to the truth, struggling with issues of purity and kindness. In his letter, Paul has been pretty stroppy with them!
Paul has spoken strongly with the church in Corinth but his final words are a prayer of blessing. Not a prayer that God would show them that he (Paul) is right, or that God would punish them for being so argumentative.
Paul asks God to bless them with:
1) Jesus’ grace. May God show them undeserved kindness because of Jesus. The church in Corinth definitely didn’t deserve Jesus’ forgiveness. Neither do I. Neither do we. But Paul longs for them to enjoy that grace and prays that they would.
2) the Father’s love. The unending, patient, kind, not-giving-up, pursuing love of God. The kind of love God shows us and the kind of love Paul commands us to have for each other in his other letter to the Corinthians. Love for each other in church is patient, love for each other in church is kind… (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
3) The together-ness that comes from the Spirit. Despite arguments and sinning against one another. Only God’s Spirit can bring the church together, whether it’s the people local church, or uniting a local church with other Christians far away. Paul prays that God’s Spirit will bring the church in Corinth together as one, and also that they would be joined to himself and other churches through that same Spirit.
Paul’s prayer gives us a look into his heart, looking to bless and love God’s people all the time.
So as you look round the church this Sunday, and smile, nod and wave. But don’t just say the grace; _pray_ the grace for each other.
May God bless you by showing you kindness in Jesus, even though you don’t deserve it.
May God pour out his love on you and show you this week that you can trust him, his love will catch you.
May God bring us together by his Spirit, even though at times we disagree or selfishly sin against each other.
May all the persons of the Trinity bless you, now and forever. Amen.
“Salt of the earth. Light of the world.
We are only these together. No Christian alone is the salt of the earth. No Christian is individually the light of the world. The church is the salt of the earth. the church is the light of the world.
I know the church can be very difficult to get into. And yet, as difficult and complex as messy discipleship is, it’s incredibly easy to reproduce. ‘Crummy’ discipleship is imminently replicable! Wherever people have to hear each other, see each other, and deal with each other in the context of God’s glorious gospel, things will get messy. The good news is that messy is easy to replicate. So none of us is far from real discipleship. We don’t have to be experts, just pointing each other to Jesus.”
Jared Wilson, The Imperfect Disciple.