Sunday, November 15, 2015

Who Needs the Church?

We are taught to have faith in God alone. We are taught to not rely on people for success or happiness because people fail. God is reliable because He is God. He never casts a shifting shadow (James 1:17). He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He will not crush the weakest reed or snuff out a flickering candle (Isaiah 42:3; Matthew 12:20). His word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11). He keeps His promises (Deuteronomy 7:9). So, that is God. Trust Him. Obey Him. Rely on Him. He won't let you down. 

We are taught with equal emphasis to not trust people. We cannot realistically rely in others for our happiness or success. All that God is, people are not. (Romans 3:10-18) In fact Scriptures admonish people to not even trust their own hearts!  (Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:21) Wow!  If we cannot even trust ourselves, it seems pretty foolish to lean on anyone else. 

But then there is the Church. This is where it gets really messy. -1-Trust and obey God, -2-do not rely on people, -3-the church (essentially the people of God) is God's gift to people to help them get through this life on fallen earth. What are we supposed to do with that?

On the one hand, we trust God.  I mean, let's say I am going skydiving for the first time. I listen to every word the instructor says like my life depends on it--because it does!  So, as he hands me my gear, declaring, "you'll want these, that, and this," I will agree wholeheartedly that I want them all and grab up everything he offers. I'd be crazy not to. 

I trust God, and I am jumping into a free-falling world. So, I hang on to the Instructor's Words. I grab onto every piece of gear he offers and tuck them close to my body. I fix the earpiece firmly in place so that I will hear any further words of guidance. 

What is the equipment god gives?  I see three main things that every Christian receives as help to live an abundant life here and now: the Holy Spirit, the Bible and the Church. 

The Holy Spirit is God in us loving us as Counselor, Advocate, Comforter.  John 14:16 says "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.  The world cannot receive him, because it isn't looking for him and doesn't recognize him.  But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you."  Further in the chapter, at verse 26, Jesus continues, "But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative--that is, the Holy Spirit--he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you."

The Bible is the Word of God.  It is a reliable, breathing text we use to grow one another up in the Lord. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work." 

Now we come to the Church. We are the Body of Christ, reaching into this world with the Gospel of forgiveness, healing and reconciliation to the One True God. Jesus built the Church, and almost all of the New Testament is written to the Church.  These letters were expected to be read to the gathering of believers.  The instructions and encouragements are for all who call Christ Lord and Savior. 
Check out 
Romans 15:14 
And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.
Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Luke 17:3
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him
1 Thessalonians 5:14
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
All of Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 speak to the form and function of the church. 
After reading just these few excerpts, knowing there is so much more of the same, I am thinking the Church is some 'gear' that I will 'be wanting' to get me through this 'jump.' 

I have no issue with working alongside people who share truth and love, ministering to the lost. But here is the trouble. Remember all that wisdom from the beginning?  Rely on God alone. He is my rock.  My all in all. He says I need this Church, not only as co-workers, but as encouragers, companions and givers of love.  They aren't co-workers. The Church is not a business. They are family (Ephesians 2:19). I am to submit to the people in my church (Ephesians 5:21). I am to confess to them and ask for prayers (James 5:16). These things call for interdependence, vulnerability and transparency. But the Church is made of people. People!  Flawed, selfish, lying, betraying heart breakers. And I need this?   I'd like to argue.

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