Grace For The Journey
Thursday, we began a short three-part series of blogs looking at the Bible’s teaching about the church. In that blog we saw that God has always had a people who He called, changed, and commissioned to be His messengers. As we grow in our walk with God, we will be distinct in our thinking, talking, and living.
In Friday’s blog, we saw that the Bible teaches us every believer needs to be a part of the local expression of God’s church. We looked at Hebrews 10:25 and learned that some of the early Christians had given up on gathering together to worship, be strengthened by their common faith and fellowship, and be instructed in the Word. These activities we are means that God had provided when His people gather together.
I ended yesterday’s blog with this question . . .
In light of these truths,
How are we
To live out this command?”
In today’s blog we will look at five practical points that leads out of a correct understanding of why we need the church.
- We Need the Church Because We Need Biblical Community.
Donald Miller is right about the fact that it’s possible to have community outside of the local church. In fact, one can have a thriving community outside the assembly of the local church. It happens each week at the local ball field, bar, and nursing home. However, as we start to think of our need for biblical community as believers, we start to see that Donald Miller is not playing with a full deck of cards. Christians need other Christians. This doesn’t mean that Christians should only have Christian friends. That would build a stagnant group of people who never invite others into their lives and reach-out to the culture in general with the gospel.
In the end – there is no denying the fact that Christians need other Christians for support in doctrine, life, and worship.
- We Need the Church Because We Need the Word.
The church of Jesus Christ is a community of people who have been called out of darkness and brought together in the light of Jesus Christ. We can learn about the building blocks of a biblical community by examining the practices of the early church.
The early church didn’t come together
For drama presentations or comedy sessions.
The early church wasn’t assembled for psychology talks
In order to meet the felt needs of their culture.
They assembled for the
Teaching and preaching of God’s Word (Acts 2).
If we truly desire to grow in faith (Romans 10:17) and have a renewed mind (Romans 12:1-2), we must have a steady intake of God’s Word from the pastor-teachers (see Paul’s word to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5).
If you remove the Word you don’t have a church.
- We Need the Church Because We Need to Sing.
I’m not much of a concert goer, but I did venture out to a few concerts in my teenage years. I recall the scene in mind with crowds of people gathered together for music. I recall the singing. Most of it was really bad due to the amount of alcohol and drug consumption in the crowd. I think back to times when I have been gathered in a crowd and singing erupted. It happens during the seventh inning stretch when I go to watch the Royals play baseball here in Kansas City. It happened a couple of time when I found myself in the midst of a flash mob.
There is nothing like the church gathered together in song.
It doesn’t matter if the quality of song is not show production,
It’s about what the gathered church is singing.
Our doxology is informed and shaped by our theology.
There is nothing that compares to a church joined together in the words:
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
- We Need the Church Because We Need Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
It was John Calvin who insisted on the right preaching and administration of the sacraments in order to have a true church. Calvin was not alone in his position. The Reformers, the Puritans, and many others throughout church history pointed to this same basic necessity. While it’s possible to have community without preaching and the ordinances of the church, we must be clear – you can’t have true biblical church without the preached Word and the observance of the Lord’s Supper and baptism.
Some of the most deeply moving and self-examination moments have occurred during a gathered service for worship and the observance of the ordinances of the church. Likewise, some of the most encouraging times have been during those occasions of worship. To look around to a gathered room of people who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ as you eat and drink the elements of the Lord’s Supper is a truly moving experience that can’t be duplicated at a wrestling meet, football/basketball game, or camp-out with a group of friends. Christians need this type of community.
- We Need the Church Because We Need Encouragement and Discipleship
As Paul instructed Timothy to preach the Word in order to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” the church at Ephesus (1 Timothy 4:2). Every believer must sit under biblical preaching too. Not only to hear the Word, but also to go out to share and live in those truths in our world. As we live in a constant state of biblical community, Jesus instructed us to practice church discipline (Matthew 18). Granted, there may be confrontation at the ball field, but it’s not the same kind of confrontation that Jesus was teaching in Matthew’s gospel record. This should be part of the fabric of our biblical community. We are called to be a confessing people, and we should be doing this often. As we observe the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of the need for repentance of sin and confession. Confrontation of sin and genuine church discipline doesn’t happen at a Brave’s game. Biblical community shapes us in God’s Truth.
As we engage in our church community we do so in order to encourage one another and build one another up in their faith and walk with the Lord. The writer to the Hebrews stated it this way, “not forsaking (neglecting) the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner (habit) of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”(Hebrews 10:25). Notice the phrase, “exhorting one another” in this verse. It should be our desire as believers to assemble for worship under the preaching of God’s Word, sing in worship together, pray together, fellowship together, and observe the Lord’s Supper and baptism together for the purpose of encouraging one another. Let’s be honest . . .
The Christian needs more than
A hiking trip through the woods
Or a time of coffee and pastry
With a group of friends.
Biblical community is more than a family or two
Gathered around a fire in the living room
On a cold winter’s night.
Genuine biblical community,
Although not perfect and at times exhausting,
Is God’s will for our lives as children of God.
You can’t have Jesus without His church.
The theme song for Cheers was on to something back in the 80s. It said:
You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
- Only in the church can we be truly honest about the fact that we have all fallen short of God’s glory and become engulfed in a tidal wave of sin.
- Only in the church can we admit that we are indeed all the same.
- Only in the church can we worship together out of a response that we are the same – merely sinners saved by the grace of God.
- Only in the church can we gather together in a bond that is greater than any tribe, club, or community on planet earth.
We gather, assemble, worship, and serve together through the work of Jesus Christ as He died in our place and was resurrected in victory on the third day. All Christians need the church. Thank God for His church!
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”