By resisting God's love and ignoring God's Son, most people seek personal happiness and fulfillment apart from, and even in opposition to God. The results are tragic if not unsurprising: broken relationships, broken people, and a divided nation intoxicated with hatred, fear, anxiety, and anger.
Yet we believe people are most fulfilled and most free when we trust Jesus Christ and personally experience intimate fellowship with God.
Yet the world is so influential, politics, social media, entertainment are very coercive. We can say, "Well this is the world we live in, so there's nothing we can do about it." Well, cultural influence is powerful and we are weak. But this is all the more reason to double down on our relationship with Jesus and take advantage of the tools God gives us to help follow Jesus and live out our identity in Christ.
God gives us the Bible, God's very Word to us. The Bible is our GPS, a light for our path. It explains Jesus and how to follow Him. http://graceunited.church/blog/the-bible-works/
God gives us prayer. Prayer is a way to connect with God personally. We need this. As we pray, as God answers, we experience Jesus on an intimate level. This helps us follow Jesus more passionately, more resiliently. http://graceunited.church/blog/prayer-connects-us-to-god/
Third, in order to help us to follow Jesus in a way that blesses our lives and others, our Lord plants and roots us in a new and living community—the church. The communion of saints. The body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and yet has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ [The body of Christ]. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Foundational to the Way of Christ is the reality that born again believers are forever bound together as members of Christ, as brothers and sisters in Christ even if we don't have anything else in common.
To act on this and participate in the church is an act of faith. We would rather follow Jesus on our own, with a good friend, no responsibilities, and no need for humility.
By God's design, we are in this together. We don't believe alone. We don't follow Jesus alone. We don't mature in Christ alone.
Ephesians 4:11 He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
Not only Bible reading and prayer but to regularly participate in a worshiping community of Christ followers is another key way to follow and mature in Christ.
Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint [each of us] supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Jesus believed in the church. Paul and the apostles believed in the church. By church, I mean a community of born again believers in Jesus Christ that are devoted to God and to one another, and to carrying out the church's ministry and the mission God gave us.
Yet in a recent poll, 22% of regular attendees in 2019 haven't connected in person or even online in six months.
Today, it's easier than ever to pull out, not just Sundays but even to fade out of relationships, to withdraw from the people and ministry and mission of the church.
I know it's COVID. But I also know we are pretty stressed, over-scheduled, over-extended. And some of us have kids to get ready. Plus there are certain things about church that we may not like. Some people annoy us. Some have hurt us. Plus we're kind of getting used to Sundays off and it's nice; we may just prefer a Sunday Brunch and mimosas to driving in the snow to church! Take it easy like Sunday morning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfNpHd1GaQA
Today, more than ever, it may take an act of faith in Jesus Christ and His vision for the church for you to participate in a church community.
It takes faith to realize how fiercely God loves this otherwise ordinary looking group of people. It takes humility to realize God designed you to grow in Christ not alone but in the fellowship of believers.
It takes humility to trust that every other believer in our church is indwelled by Christ, possesses eternal life, and is endowed with spiritual gifts to help each of us, even you to mature in Christlikeness.
How does the church help us to follow Jesus? How do we take advantage of our community of believers and our role in it? What do I have to put into it?
You may simply need to rest in the truth and love of Christ. There are times it's good enough to come in and do nothing. Sometimes we just need to let this church family be a place healing for the hurt, the weary and tired. Just come and receive God's grace. Be loved. Be fed. Be forgiven. Be known.
There is something about actually engaging, loving God with ALL our heart and mind and body. So when we have our spiritual wits about us, it's important to engage heart and mind and body in worship. Engage in the Lord's Supper. Engage by faith in corporate prayer. Engage in the sermon.
Whether in person or online, the church helps you to experience Jesus on a more intimate level as we worship together, pray together, learn together.
3) Get equipped.
Get trained. Learn to self-feed, pray, to disciple others.
Mature in what you need to follow Jesus. Sin issues. Relational issues. Seek out a mentor or discipler.
Sharpen your weapons. Hone your skills. Nurture your gifts. Learn how to study for yourself. Learn how to share the gospel. How to sharpen your spiritual gifts.
Meet needs. Bless others. Express your gifts. Take the next step.
There are manyt ways to meet needs in the church. We have Sunday morning needs. Online opportunities to serve. The church has a mission, we're to help others soar in a relationship with Jesus. We can engage in this personally. We can support our church and ministry financially.
5) Love one another.
Forgive. Reconcile. Work through issues. Unity.
6) Go and make disciples.
Share the gospel. Be the church in the community where you live and work and buy groceries. Know people. Love them. Care for them. Invite others to trust Jesus for their relationship with God, and then help them to follow Jesus afterward.
We love you whether you’re here every Sunday or you read an occasional blog.
May God help you to read His Word and believe what He says. May He grant you to pray and to may He make it more and more real and personal for you as you do.
And may our Lord bless you to see that Jesus came to build His church and that He does His biggest and best work through the church, through people who trust and love and follow Jesus together. Even people who prefer brunch and a mimosa, but you're here anyway. Or with us online.