Saturday, 24 January 2015

I will build My church

The more we grow in our relationship to God, as Lord, Saviour and friend, the more intimate and loving we grow in our relationships to one another.

According to Scripture a special relationship exist and develops even further between members of the church family. This is not only a natural response, but it also is a designed one, God planned it that way.  Jesus builds His church (cf Matt 16:18). Jesus calls people out of the world to Himself and gathers them together into a living body in which He lives and carries out His purpose.

God has a purpose for creation and a place for every person in His family. His purpose and place, however, is never for the individual; it has a corporate dimension. Unless the corporate dimension of salvation is understood, a person will never benefit fully from the purpose and place God has for his life when He chose to save him. Some even suggest that a lack of understanding the cooperate nature of God's salvation has lead to the fragmentation of how the Church expresses herself and is experienced by the world.

Jesus established his people, the church, as a divine token of the Kingdom of God here and now in a broken world. And the people of God do that by proclaiming and living out the Kingdom values.

My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God. 
Prov 2:1-5

Almost everything I have heard in the past is not about "fear the Lord" but rather about having a good time, enjoy yourself, volunteer where you are gifted, praise, celebrate, but fearing the Lord?

To lose a healthy fear of God is to loose a healthy fear of sin, and we settle for something other than "perfect." I am not saying that we ever can be perfect on this side of creation, but I rather suggest that repentance is common among us. Because public repentance leads to knowing each other. Whereas sin leads to independence and self-contentedness, but being part of Christ, salvation leads to radical interdependence and Christ-contentedness. We are content with what Christ is content with, and he aims in His prayer in John 17 for a special oneness among his people. And that means that we need to encourage one another to make a transition from knowing and doing the will of God as individuals, which by itself is difficult enough, to knowing and doing the will of God within the cooperate body of believers.
This obvious lack of transition in many churches is the result of a poor understanding of discipleship and lack of mentoring. It is the result of an anemic presentation of the Gospel where we do not talk about the cost.

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth 
through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, 
love one another fervently with a pure heart, ...

1 Pet 1:22

If we do not understand the full purpose of God's creation and subsequently the restoration process through the salvation of the individual, a work done on the cross, we will never experience the beauty of abundance, nor will we experience God's full purpose of our lives. Purpose just as salvation is given on God's terms, and it reflects the very nature of God Himself, unity in diversity. In order to somewhat wrap our minds around that we have coined a term, Trinity, three in one. The most identifiable characteristic of belonging to God, being part of His people, is the quality of our love. First toward God and than toward His people, people who will differ from us in language, culture, preferences, education, social status, you name it. But God's intent for creation and therefore his strategy for salvation is linked with these two basic relationships; love God and love others.

How does he implement His purpose in our lives? To answer this question is to unfold a part of God's message through Jesus we somewhat forgot. Don't think that forgetting part of the Gospel, or perhaps even worse just never hearing about it cannot happen. Scripture itself is a witness to our forgetfulness
and so are the stories recorded (cf 2 Chronicles 34:8-1; 2 Kings 22:8-11). A similar story is told about Apollo who though being baptized and being involved in evangelism had not heard of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We can debate what that exactly means, but my point it that we need to take the whole of Scripture, all its truth, even the inconvenient parts and apply them to our lives.
 Picking up on the example Jesus uses with children, I want to point to babies. God designed the birth of a baby to happen in a family to receive love, care, protection but also instruction.  And you got what you got, a baby girl or a boy, parents had no say in it. Similar the church, God provides the new believer, gender does not matter, social status does not matter, all that matters to the church is the need of the new believer to be loved, cared for, to be protected and to be instructed by them without condition.

To experience God in his diversity, his creation with its diversity, we must look at creation, both renewed and broken from God's perspective.

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
Heb 10:1

Rom 12:5; "We who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another" (emphasis mine).  That is a powerful statement of our interdependence and our corporate submission to the authority and leadership of Christ as the head of His body. Sin magnifies self and separates us from the relationships for which we were created in the first place and now restored for.

Salvation brings believers into relationship with God and His people who are not by accident or by a decision from the hearts of individual believers are part of one another, but by the nature of God.

I think it to be tragic for people to receive the gospel and then live lives of spiritual paupers, to accept the unconditional love of Christ and then not know or resent what would to be an expected response.   

Every time we are indifferent to God's intention or snicker at the latest double entendre about an ethnic group plagued by poverty, violence, substance abuse and a society disinclined to address these problems, we are stripping them of their God given humanity and subconsciously justifying a church visibly stratified along many lines. How diverse is the group of people you worship with, culturally speaking? How diverse is the group you are attending socioeconomically speaking? How many friends do we have who are obvious sinners, or differ greatly from us just as we differ from Jesus? 

One of the key question a disciple of Jesus can ask himself is; "Surely you don't mean me?" I know, this question came up in the context of betrayal, but I still think it is a good question to ask with respect of "forgetting" or simply not knowing.

The key of touching the world, our world is for the people of God to walk in a right relationship with Him and one another. But as with any relationships, sometimes we fail one another, misunderstood, overlooked, forgot and the need for repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation becomes apparent. The point here is not a strategy for evangelism but the condition of God's people. And when the right condition is there, unconditional love, than the world will know and take notice. That is the purpose of the church, to be noticed for its unconditional love to one another that spills over into the streets. After all it is Christ's church!

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