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Living Stones

 

“. . . so in Christ we who are many form one body
and each member belongs to all the other.”
Romans 12:5

What a joy it was as we joined together this past Lord’s Day for worship gathering around our Lord’s Table in worship and in fellowship with hopeful anticipation of Christ’s return. The Apostle Peter describes individual members of the church as living stones being built as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood. I couldn’t help but be reminded that we who are many are one in Him. Because individual believers are one with Christ and Christ belongs to God and God is one, then those who join themselves with Him who is One are in reality one with Him and with one another.

This is Paul’s point in his letter to the Corinthian church. If you are ONE, why are you divided? Why are there contentions among you? Why are so many striving to maintain their own personal Christian liberties at the expense of unity and peace? For those of you who look for the “bottom line”, this is it: truth joins, error divides. Where there is division, there must be some form of error. It may be error in doctrine that is taught from the pulpit. It may be error in the way we think about ourselves. It may be error in the way we think about “church.” It may be error in the way we interpret scripture. If the error is in doctrine taught, then I highly recommend that you start searching for another church right now. If the error is found to be within ourselves, we had each better start searching our own hearts and our own motives. If you have the wrong concept of “church”, then maybe you should sit back and re-evaluate your motivation for joining yourself to a particular body of believers.

Unfortunately worldly wisdom says “anything goes”. And this has filtered over into the church so that many churches have inculcated a marketplace mentality. The church growth movement has created churches with no firm doctrinal standards. The emphasis in these churches is “felt-needs”. The sad by-product of this movement is as Mike Beates, associate editor of Tabletalk, wrote in an article a few years ago, . . .

[is the] “revolving door syndrome of most Evangelical churches, people come and go with no commitment to a creed or to other people — the commitment is first to the self. The felt-needs are met through programs.”

He attributes this sad situation to two problems, the fear of community and the fear of accountability.

“Flimsy ‘commitment to the local church is a problem of discipline –poor discipline by the professed believer as well as by the local church…Church for many does not exist ultimately for God and service to His kingdom; it is there to meet personal needs and help people with the struggles of life. Such a perspective is lamentably selfish and undisciplined! If Romans 12:5 is true, “so in Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others,” then we really don’t belong to ourselves, we belong to the community we have joined ourselves to. When we so quickly walk away from church commitments and relationships rather than stay to work through whatever conflicts and disagreements may arise, we are admitting we have a wrong concept of doctrine and a wrong view of the church.”

 

Truth joins, error divides!

David Wells, in his books No Place for Truth and God In the Wasteland, says that our culture has created a consumer mentality even regarding the church.

“It is my choice after all. I’ll choose whatever church suits my needs right now” we tell ourselves. Says Wells in Wasteland, “We all have needs…But God does not want us to interpret the meaning of these needs ourselves because, being sinners, we resist seeing such needs in terms of our broken and violated relationship with Him. Christ’s Gospel calls sinners to surrender their self-centeredness, to stop granting sovereignty to their own needs and to recognize His claim of sovereignty over their lives.”

When the church is not meeting “perceived needs,” people leave for inconsequential reasons with no biblical or ecclesiological defense. Other churches receive them and welcome them without asking any questions thereby contributing to people’s propensity for church shopping. This is the fear of community. There is also a fear of accountability. Some drift from church to church in order to avoid confrontation of their sin. Looking for a place where they are never really confronted by their sinful patterns of behavior, they shop around. Rather than admit that there is a problem, submit to the church and work through the problem, they leave to find another church.

Beates says in his article,

“In our culturally handicapped thinking the church carries no authority. Yet Augustine likened the church to a mother — one that nurtures, corrects and trains. When we leave because of correction, it is like a child rebelling against his mother, deciding instead to go live with an aunt. We move on again when the aunt also exercises discipline.”If believers are living stones in the Temple of God (1 Peter 2:5) and members of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12) then the local church is not just some social organization. It is a living organism. Leaving to go to another church leaves a hole in the wall and a wound in the body.

“To build the Temple and strengthen the Body, we must carefully choose where we can best serve Christ and then commit ourselves to submit humbly to that body. Part of this submission is working to build and maintain fellowship. One key ingredient often missing is the necessity of keeping short accounts. We are prone to avoid even the smallest conflicts in our evangelical politeness. But the sum total of year’s worth of minor frustrations, conflicts, and unresolved disappointment will amount to substantial hurt – often to the point where people are beyond reconciliation Your church commitment should not be based on where your needs are met, or where you like the music, or where your kids have a ‘happening’ youth group, and certainly not on where the church leaves you to live in your sin. Rather be committed to a church that exhibits biblical fidelity to the marks of a true church: faithful preaching of the Word, administration of the Sacraments, and the exercise of church discipline. It might not keep you comfortable, but it will keep you growing in Christ and in service to his body.”

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Take away all pride and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that as there is but one Body and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you our God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

(from The Book of Common Worship, 1946)

Grace and Peace to you all,

Pastor Mark

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