Monday, June 30, 2014

Spiritual Hugs -- Part 2

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Last time, we spoke considerably about the importance of preaching and studying the Word as an essential aspect of whatever church we attend.  But that still doesn't deal with why we should go. Sure, learning the Word is one highly important reason.  But, as we pointed out, some or all of that could be done without deviating from our normal places or schedule.  But there's a more compelling reason for being in church.

Romans 12:5 (KJV)  So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

Hebrews 10:25 (KJV)  Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

What those two verses come down to is this: we are the church!  It's not some building, it's not some group of people, over there.  It's a living, breathing organism and we're part of it!  Consider this:

John 15:17 (KJV)  These things I command you, that ye love one another.

That's one of four times Jesus gives that command in the Gospel of John.  Paul says much the same thing seven times in the epistles.  Peter states it twice in his epistles.  And, just to make sure we don't miss it, God has John repeat the thought six times in his two epistles.

I chose the illustration for these two posts intentionally.  Compared to God, we're kind of like those monkeys.  Just a little dense, reliant on our own understanding.  More driven by our perceived needs than by any sense of philanthropy.  Yes, we can hug and comfort each other.  But how much of that is more for our own comfort than it is directed toward those around us?  And yet, that doesn't seem to be the way God thinks it ought to go.

Have you ever been to a church where the music is great, the preaching is doctrinal, but the congregation seem like a bunch of unfeeling stuffed shirts, particularly when it comes to greeting newcomers?  I think we can all answer a resounding "Yes!" to that one, even if it's only one of our attempts at finding a good place to worship during vacation.  It's a shame that we've pretty much all had that kind of experience.  And the major contributor to that is why we should choose a good Bible based church.

It may be that the pastor is too narrow in his focus on what he preaches on.  It may be a novice trait or he may be afraid of offending the congregation.  But we can't always blame it on the pastor. We're still responsible for what we take in and how we absorb it into our life.  Think of the Pharisees.  They had plenty of preaching, much better access to Scripture than anyone else, but how they interacted with the Word gave them a lot of misconceptions and bad attitudes.  And they thought they were doing everything right.

Where the modern day variation blows up in our face is that we tend to react to that kind of treatment, not considering that we may have seen someone on a bad day and that's not their normal.  There absolutely are churches where a bad day is normal.  And that's when we discern whether we need to move on or God has placed us there to help make a change.  Whichever we decide is between us and God.  But there's a passage that goes to the heart of it.

John 17:7-10 (KJV)  Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.  For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.  I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.  And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.

To put that in perspective, those were Jesus' last recorded thoughts in John, before He was betrayed by Judas.  And, further along in that prayer: John 17:22 (KJV), says, "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:".  Spiritual unity, not just with the persons of the Trinity, but with each other.  If that doesn't have the right impact, let's remind ourselves that John 17:9 (KJV) tells us, "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.".

Think with me on this one.  Jesus is omniscient, so He knows He will soon make the way of salvation real, via the Cross.  And He knows how important that is.  Still, at this moment, we and our unity with each other are crowding everything else out of Christ's mind.  That tells me that, even if we don't think of it as a priority, it's important to God.  Which means we need to change our thinking. God's not changing His.  And He's right!

The Church is not a building and it's not an ecclesiastical hierarchy.  It's the Body of Christ in unity with all three persons of the Trinity, in unity with God's written Word, and in unity with each other. So, yes, we need to go to a church building to hear -- to avoid the possibilities of our own subjective interpretation.  And we need to go to experience the reality of the Body of Christ.

How will you experience that, this week?

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