The Church

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Devotional Word for Tuesday, July 14, 2020

I grew up attending Bible believing Baptist church.  It was a wonderful place to grow up and learn about the Lord Jesus.  I am greatly indebted to the pastors, Sunday school teachers, and volunteers as they faithful taught the Scriptures to generations of people.  While I was in high school, the church sought to be more aware of itself in worship.  This is just another way of saying that they were making small changes to the worship service.  I have heard that adding air conditioning to an old church building is perhaps the most contentious proposal for a congregation to consider.  That may be true but changing a church’s order of service must be a close second.  Needless to say, the discussion meetings around the proposed changes were more heated than usual.  I remember at one point a gentleman stood up and said, “Well, it just isn’t a Baptist church if there isn’t an alter call.”  I should add that through a great many God honoring discussions, the church found its way.  Though not everyone was happy with the conclusions, they were united in their purpose and vision to glorify God through the worship service.  Praise the Lord that crisis was averted!

I am reminded of this as I think about what it means to be a Christian.  I know that I am a sinner who has been called by the Holy Spirit to faith and repentance.  I know that am redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  I know that God has forgiven all my sins not because of what I have done but because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross.  As a result of all of that, what am I to do?  The book of Acts has a marvelous depiction of what happened in the lives of individuals as they came to know the Lord Jesus.  It says, DAY BY DAY CONTINUING WITH ONE MIND IN THE TEMPLE, AND BREAKING BREAD FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE, THEY WERE TAKING THEIR MEALS TOGETHER WITH GLADNESS AND SINCERITY OF HEART, PRAISING GOD AND HAVING FAVOR WITH ALL THE PEOPLE.  AND THE LORD WAS ADDING TO THEIR NUMBER DAY BY DAY THOSE WHO WERE BEING SAVED.

Notice the activities mentioned in the early church.  Early Christians were of one mind, sharing meals, praising God, and having favor with all people.  Critically, this was accomplished because the Lord was adding to their number.  Sometimes we forget that we are called to be with others.  We, that is to say individuals, recognize that they have sinned, they seek forgiveness at the cross of Christ, and they continue about their lives.  The Bible presents a different picture.  As people come to understand the enormity of their sin and need of a Savior, they are called to part of the Church.  

Paul describes this phenomenon in a different way.  He writes SO THEN YOU ARE NO LONGER STRANGERS AND ALIENS, BUT YOU ARE FELLOW CITIZENS WITH THE SAINTS, AND ARE OF GOD’S HOUSEHOLD, HAVING BEEN BUILT ON THE FOUNDATION OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS, CHRIST JESUS HIMSELF BEING THE CORNER STONE IN WHOM THE WHOLE BUILDING, BEING FITTED TOGETHER, IS GROWING INTO A HOLY TEMPLE IN THE LORD, IN WHOM YOU ALSO ARE BEING BUILT TOGETHER INTO A DWELLING OF GOD IN THE SPIRIT.

This is a rather phenomenal statement.  Paul is saying that those who are Christians are part of one structure.  They are fitted together.  Sometimes that is easy and wonderful.  Sometimes that is difficult and wonderful.  As you think about a stone mason putting stones into a wall, some likely seem like they are the perfect size and shape for the project.  Others likely seem perfectly misshapen.  In order to use these stones, the mason would have to chip off some of the odd bits.  How does this relate to the Church?  We are those stones.  There are time in life when we fit perfectly with others within the church.  There are other times when our sin and the sins of others make it difficult to get along.  Praise the Lord that He is at work shaping us and molding us to fit together into His Church.

From both the book of Acts and Paul’s epistles we see that the Christians are not saved from their sins to wander about in life alone.  Instead they are called to be part of the Church.  What exactly is the church supposed to do?  What should it look like?  In the coming devotional times, we are going to look at some of the characteristics of the church.  These will not likely be exhaustive, but I hope they are helpful.  Who knows perhaps we will even find out if we need to have an altar call.