Monday, March 7, 2016

10 Reasons I Love the Local Church

Although I grew up going to church, learning to appreciate "being" the Church has increased with time.

Read the following with two things in mind--
1) Not every church is the Church. A group of people that rejects the authority of the Bible and the supreme lordship of Jesus Christ may call themselves a church, but they are not "the" Church.
2) Every church is made of hypocrites, i.e. authentic sinners. You're there. They're there. It won't be perfect. On the other hand, Christ is there, too, so there's room for confession, forgiveness and growth.

Here are 10 reasons why I love the local church:

1) It's where Jesus is. Jesus promised that where two or three were gathered in His name, He would be there. His Spirit is alive in His people. In the Old Testament, God's people gathered at the temple. Now, those who belong to Him through saving faith are His temple. Being with God's people is a taste of Heaven because Jesus is there. "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matt. 18:20
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Cor. 6:19-20

2) The local church is a unique vessel of worship. Crowds may worship in a stadium, individuals may worship on a mountain top, but there is no where on earth that God is exalted in and through unique people from different backgrounds who gather regularly and give significantly to honor His presence, existence and gifts.
... that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. Eph. 3:10-12

3) The local church is many as one. Jesus unifies His people. He is the head, they are the body. Many diverse individuals with a single focus directs not just one or two hours a week, but every choice and moment, 24-7. It's not something we do or choose on our own. It's a supernatural work of God by His Spirit. We are called to be the physical body of Jesus on earth--in different places, in unique ways--to one another and to those around us.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Cor. 12:4-7

4) The local church is a place of acceptance. Because the Church is Jesus' body in His absence, we find grace, mercy, and love here. If we love one another enough to embrace each other, we love one another enough to show our faults and assist one another. We need each other. [Jesus prayed,] "O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:25-26
Brothers,if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Gal. 6:1

5) The local church is a place of forgiveness. We cannot fully forgive one another--only Jesus can. He does not cover shame; He removed it. He does not excuse guilt; He absorbed it. We can overlook offenses and bear the price of other people's sin against us, but we cannot freely forgive apart from Jesus' forgiveness of us. the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Col. 3:13

6) The local church cares. When crisis strikes and circumstances overwhelm, the local church is a place of practical, real help: meals, visits, prayers, safety. You are not alone.  Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Gal. 6:2-3

7) The local church is a place of health and healing. Our time and culture are inundated with mental illness, depression, and disillusionment. The local church gives us a proper perspective of suffering, sin, growth, life, death, loss, success and service. It is through the Word of God that we are changed. It is in the environment of the local church that we practice, fail and succeed. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Heb. 6:10-12
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Eph. 5:1-2

8) The local church is a place of truth. Our world is confused and chaotic. The idea of relativity has worked its way into our daily lives and philosophy and we have blindly accepted it. It is only as we compare the thoughts and practices of our lives to the Word of God that we are free to live in truth. God's Word and God's people are anchors in a lost, drifting, changing world. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ... 2 Cor. 10:5
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 1 Tim. 4:7-10

9) The local church is a place of hope. In Jesus Christ there is hope, purpose, and a future. With our sin forgiven, we live a new life as newly created beings. Being part of the church in the hard times encourages us that suffering is an expected, normal part of life God uses to make us more like Jesus.
...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor. 5:17.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor. 4:16-18

10) The local church is God's idea--it's where He wants His people. You and I, alone, doing our own thing, was the result of Adam and Eve's sin. They were all about independence. But God created us to be dependent on Him from the beginning of time. When we live according to His plan, we experience the joy, peace, contentment and freedom He desires. For now, that's the Church. It's where we come to worship, live life, encourage, and express our need for Him. The Church is one of God's tools (in addition to His Word and prayer) for helping us know, serve and love Him.
And [Jesus] came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph. 2:17-22)

If, after reading the above you either need to find a church or think you're in the wrong one, look at disclaimer #1. Each of us is responsible for choosing to be part of a church that glorifies and magnifies God. If you're not going or the church you belong to does not line up with Scripture and Jesus Christ's claims, it's time to pray and look for one that does.

If, after reading the above you think you're in the wrong church but #1 does not apply to your situation, you need to prayerfully be the change. That does not mean setting everyone else straight. It means following Jesus' example of sacrificial prayer, humility and love.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:1-16 ESV

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