After hearing one of my sermons about being a church family, one of you passed this devotional on to me.[i] It does a good job of explaining what it should look like to grow in our faith together, so now I’m passing it on to the rest of you.
Life in this fallen world is hard. That’s why you need a community of love. One of the themes that courses through the New Testament and is a repeated theme of this devotional is that your walk with God is designed by God to be a community project. Anonymous, consumerist, isolated, independent, self-sufficient, “Jesus and me” Christianity is a distant and distorted facsimile of the faith of the N
ew Testament. You and I simply were not created (“It is not good that the man should be alone”; Gen. 2:18) or re-created in Jesus Christ (“For the body does not consist of one member but of many”; 1 Cor. 12:14) to live all by ourselves. The biblical word pictures of temple (stones joined together to be a place where God dwells) and body (each member dependent on the function of the other) decimate any idea that healthy Christianity can live outside of essential community. Yet many, many believers live their lives with a huge separation between their public church personas and the details of their private existence. We are skilled at brief, nonpersonal conversations about the weather, sports, and politics. We are learned at giving either nonanswers or spiritually platitudinous answers to people’s questions. We live in long-term networks of terminally casual relationships. No one really knows us beneath the well-crafted public display, and because they don’t know us, they cannot minister to us, because no one can minister to that which he does not know. Moreover, we think we know ourselves and we think we’re okay, forgetting the blinding power of sin. That’s why church is, for many of us, nothing more than a thing to attend on Sunday. Church is a formal set of activities. Church is a buffet of regularly scheduled, demographically designed religious offerings. Church is a place where music can be enjoyed and sermons can be heard. Church is what connects us to worldwide missions. Church provides wholesome activities for our children. But church isn’t an interdependent, webbed-together community of personally focused love and grace for us all. But the Bible is clear. When each part is working properly, the body of Christ grows to maturity in Christ (see Ephesians 4). We each need to live in intentionally intrusive, Christ-centered, grace-driven redemptive community. This community is meant to enlighten and protect. It is meant to motivate and encourage. It is meant to rescue and restore. It is meant to instill hope and courage. It is meant to confront and rebuke. It is meant to guide and protect. It is meant to give vision and sound warning. It is meant to incarnate the love and grace of Jesus when you feel discouraged and alone. It is meant to be a visible representation of the grace of Jesus that is your hope. It is not a luxury. It is a spiritual necessity. The question is, “Are you webbed in?
For further study and encouragement: Romans 12
[i] From New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, “July 12”, by Paul David Tripp. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway.