I’m super stoked about our new Sunday morning series: THIS IS US! My hope is that, when we finish our study of James, we will find ourselves more grateful for our church family than ever before. We need each other!
Unless we are physically prohibited, we should be part of the church’s regular worship gathering. Actually, there’s nothing “regular” about it; it’s phenomenal! The church is where you and I are strengthened, and where Christ is exalted (Ephesians 3:20-21). It is within the specific community of believers in a local church where you and I figure out how to grow up in Christ, so what we can shine as bright lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-15). In and through Christ’s church, and the glorious gospel proclaimed there, God is constantly at work gathering up all of the broken pieces of this cosmos – and bringing it all to wholeness, completion, and unity under the Lordship of Jesus (Ephesians 1:3-10)! There’s nothing regular about that. It’s nearly indescribable in glory.
It is in the church where you and I are met with the mercy of God. Were you and I followers of Hinduism, our best shot at life together would be grappling in the dark for dharma – and hoping that we could impress each other by our character and propriety. But we have come to something far, far better. At the cross preached here, in the full light of our sin against the backdrop of a Savior’s love, we can lay our burdens down. Really, down. Finally, down.
It is in the church where you and I discover the grace of Christ. I mean really discover it. Every day we’re bombarded with this report and that of somebody doing the wrong thing. This person got caught cheating, or that person lying. But, if we’re honest, it’s not just shock or disappointment that we feel. With each corruption scandal or scandalous affair, we usually experience a subtle satisfaction that it’s not us. It’s vindication mixed with schadenfreude. And then it happens even closer to home. Our trust gets broken. One of our family members deceives. Or maybe it’s me. You see, the church can be a very disappointing place the first time you realize that nobody’s perfect. But the church is also the place where you figure out that the highly imperfect are those for whom Christ died. And grace becomes more than a theory when we have to extend it to real people, and even to ourselves. In the church.
It is in the church where you and I learn to face the losses of life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was hanged for his role in the conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler, expressed it like this: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” Here, in the real life of the church, we face cancer, together. We lose loved ones. We cry out to God to rescue rebellious grandchildren. We lose jobs, and survive. We lose hope, until friends lift up our tired arms and hope is restored. We question the claims of our faith, until a friend ministers the Word in such a way that I become alive again to its power even for me. I can’t imagine not having a church family. From whom would I learn how to live? From whom would I learn how to persevere? From whom would I learn how to love, and to sacrifice?
It is in the church where you and I can laugh as those who know who wins in the end. Sometimes what we need among the saints is a good ole gut-bustin’ snort-your-milk-out-of-your-nose belly laugh! We have to help each other with this, because – when we’re under the gun – it’s not so easy to pull off. The Bible makes it plain that our Sovereign God laughs at His enemies (Psalm 2:1-4). Why? Because He knows who He is. So, in the sweet and sustaining fellowship of Christ’s beloved and blessed church, you and I can laugh at our trials – both the known ones and the unknown ones – because we know who He is too.
We are the gathered and redeemed. It is through the preaching of the Word, the giving of our talents and treasures, the loving of the unlovely, and the edifying of the body – all within the context of the church – that Christ receives glory.
This is us.