I have been quite saddened by the news of family murder-suicides in our community. People who live side by side with us come to a point of hopelessness where they see no way out but death. It is tragic. It is shocking. It is revealing. It’s a reminder to me that we need the church of Jesus more than ever. People are desperate for hope. They need a hope that is based on truth in order to live by faith.
After Jesus was raised from the dead, he met with his disciples and laid out the plan for the future. As the One who had conquered death, he needed to share how his kingdom would be established. This would be the ‘place’ where he, as King, reigns and where his people live according to his word. Matthew records the conversation.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)
The way that Jesus was going to do his work in our world was through disciple making. Disciple means learner or follower. We might use the word apprentice or student or devotee. These are all applicable to what it means to be a disciple. Jesus’ disciples were to go and make more disciples through baptism and teaching them to obey everything Jesus taught on how to live right with God.
A community of Jesus disciples has a name. That name is Church. Church is a family of believers walking life together following Jesus. Church is the means by which God brings salvation to all people. The Church of Jesus Christ is how God is establishing his kingdom. When the Church functions as Jesus intended, the same power that resurrected Jesus from the dead brings new life to those who would otherwise die in their sin.
The world desperately needs four things that the Church provides:
A strong and stable house has a firm foundation. This is a simple life principle. A firm foundation gives you confidence in the structure built on top of it. A firm foundation provides the strength a building needs in order to withstand a storm. What is true for buildings is also true for life. What do you build you life upon? You build your life on faith. You build your life on belief. Convictions about the world and how it works and what is good. The testing of these foundational beliefs is where you discover whether it’s solid or not. Truth is always solid. Jesus is the truth. The church is to be a messenger of truth. That truth comes from the Word of God recorded for us in the Bible. We need to know the truth so that we might build our lives on the solid rock, Jesus.
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25 (NIV)
Here are truths to live by: God is real. He made the world. We live in his world. The rules he set up for living in his world all operate in this way. Keep the law, escape the penalty. If you don’t violate the law of gravity, you will not fall. If you don’t speed, you will not get a ticket. Keep the law, escape the penalty. Break the law, suffer the penalty. That is fair. When we are not right with God, we are guilty. The guilty will be sentenced, the penalty of spiritual death for eternity. The good news is that God does not want that for us! He loves us and he wants us to have life! But, He is also the righteous Judge who cannot let it slide. His solution? The way of grace. Through Jesus, God turned the way-of-law formula inside out. Those who break the law (you and me) escape the penalty. God does not give us what we deserve as guilty law breakers. No death. Those who break the law escape the penalty BECAUSE of the one sent by God (Jesus) who kept the law but suffered the penalty. That’s not fair you say. You are right. It is grace. And the way we receive God’s grace is through faith. Belief. Assent in the mind and trust in the heart. We need faith and the Church is the messenger of faith.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 (NIV)
We live in a time when we seem to be connected but in truth, are so alone. The internet and all its apps have put us in touch with so many, but we’re living our lives isolated. If the pandemic did one good thing, it made it clear that we need friends. We need community. We need to see each other’s faces and talk to each other in person and do kind things for each other. We were created for connection; connection brings life to us. We need friends. The church is all about friends. It is described as a fellowship, a family, a body joined together, a temple being built one stone at a time. These descriptions tell us that God’s plan is for us to be saved in order to be in a community. A community where we are valuable and have value to share. Jesus said that the world will know we belong to him by the way we love each other. You can’t love another without being in a relationship with that person. A friend who gives what she has in order to bless another; that’s love. The church may be dysfunctional at times, but she is still the definition of family.
11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:11-12 (NIV)
I use the word fun to mean joy. But joy doesn’t begin with the letter F so it would have messed up my alliteration for this blog post! It saddens me that the church has developed a reputation of being a kill joy. Now part of it (most of it) has been a smear campaign by the Enemy. But there are times when we as the church need to lighten up and laugh! My experience is that church folk, learning and living scripture together, have a lot of fun together. We celebrate a lot. We like to eat together (always a joyous occasion). We play together a lot. We also come together to comfort and support each other when things are tough. That is a joy of another kind; but still joy nonetheless. There is so much heaviness these days. We need some fun! We need to laugh!
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)
Foundation. Faith. Friends. Fun. We need the church of Jesus. If you are a part of the church, then be the church as Jesus intended. The world needs you. If you are not part of the church, join us. Let’s learn and grow together.