Sunday, June 5, 2011

One Reason Why The Local Church Is A Great Place To Be.

More than ever it seems popular for people to leave the local church setting to meet in their homes with people they are comfortable with and have more in common. Getting along with people that we ordinarily wouldn't have much in common with is hard work mainly because we all have a lot of remaining sin within. We are experts at justifying ourselves for not obeying the clearest commands of our Lord, saying "These parents don't raise their children as strictly as I think they should", "These people dress in ways I don't like", "This man is just unpleasant", "That woman talks too much"; (sorry, no stereotypes intended).

But we all know that it is easy to find faults with even our brothers and sisters in Christ and be as blind as a bat towards our own shortcomings. My point here is that learning to dwell together in peace in the local church is actually a good thing and not a reason to cut and run because it is hard to get along with each other.

It is not unlike the reason some couples have justified living together instead of committing themselves to each other in marriage. Somewhere down the road they are going to wake up and realize that the person they are lying next to has some real irksome ways. The newness has worn off and it is apparent that if this relationship is going to continue there is going to have to be some self-sacrifice. They are going to have to learn to be patient and forgiving. They are going to have to learn to love even when feelings aren't always cooperating. For the relationship to continue both are going to have to grow and mature and learn that they aren't the most important person.

Today in our narcissistic society it is accepted as the norm to just cut and run. Life is too short to spend it with someone who doesn't please me as I want to be pleased so off I go to find someone else. The problems with this type of thinking are many but let's look at one in particular.

Everyone knows that taking the easy way out means there will be no exercise. If you take the elevator all the time your legs won't get a workout. The same is true if you drive when you can walk. The same principle applies in the spiritual realm. The Bible is full of examples and teachings of how we are to tackle trials and affliction in our lives. These things come that we might learn how to be godly as we overcome the flesh and learn to glorify God in adversity. Think of a few verses that speak to this:

Rom 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."; Rev 3:21 "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne."; Jas 1:3 "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. Jas 1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
And then there is 2 Pet. 1: 5-8, "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

My point is simply that to cut and run when things are difficult means you deny yourself ways to grow in the Lord. In other words, one reason the Lord instituted the local church is because we have to learn to get along with other sinners and this is good for us and we need each other for spiritual growth.

A pastor friend of mine recently put it this way and I paraphrase. "We pray that the Lord will conform us to his image but then turn around and refuse to stick it out in the church. We refuse to be patient with each other, refuse to be forbearing and loving. We will not forgive but hold on to offenses until we can't stand to be around each other." We want the Lord to wave his magic wand and make us patient but we don't want to be patient.

We need to stop and think about this. The church is a great place to exercise the new life we have been given and if we can't be patient with each other, then let's at least stop pretending we want God to conform us to the image of his Dear Son. God is "conforming" us in this life to his image. It means we are going to have to learn how to be something that this flesh does not want to be. It will sometimes be hard but learning to love other sinners is a great place to start.

Php 2:2-5: "Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry 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."

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