The Day of Christ’s return is approaching. As things get worse and it gets more risky to follow Jesus and stand firm in and for His truth, we are going to need each other. Enduring is something only we can do, yet we need each other to do it. Tweet this!
God created us for companionship, with Him and with each other. When we are saved by grace through faith and become adopted children of God in Christ, we become a necessary and integral part of His family, which He calls the body of Christ, and as much as your body can’t function well without all its organs, systems, and limbs, we can’t function without each other. We are part of a single body that can’t function without us, and we can’t function without it (Romans 12:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
Sadly, many of us have been hurt by “the church,” the very place where we should expect the greatest love, acceptance, and safety. We’ve walked into a building or event and a person or group of people let us down, so we decided we no longer wanted any part of what religion has to offer. I know. I’ve been there. For some, the church has been their greatest source of injury and offense.
But the offense? That wasn’t God. The evil behind the injury? That wasn’t God. The pastor who set himself up as king of his congregation and then toppled? That’s not God’s design. The willful ignorance of church leaders who turn the other way when people are being mistreated? That’s not God’s design. The televangelist who swindles unsuspecting viewers of millions? God’s not behind that.
God’s design for His body is relationship and reconciliation, first with Him through Jesus and with the Holy Spirit, and then with other believers who are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). Tweet this! That word conformed? It’s a continual, life-long process, and it’s friction that often exposes the very imperfections God desires to extricate. Hurt exposes misplaced affections and loyalties. Disappointment reveals pedestals occupied by idols in our lives.
Sometimes in conforming us to the image of His Son, God’s methods or what He allows may look like the worst thing that could possibly happen. Tweet this! When that’s the case, here’s what we need to know and remember: God is the ONLY one who will never leave, forsake, hurt, or disappoint us. He is the only one we can always depend on. And it must be the God of the Bible, not the God of another person or the God we see in another person or a body of believers that we look to as our standard. In other words, just because a person in a church sinned against us and we are hurt, we can’t decide God and/or His church are bad. That person did something bad. Tweet this! The only person we’re hurting by pulling away is our self.
And here’s what God says about church:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:23-25, emphasis mine). Tweet this!
So much more as we see the Day approaching, when, according to Jesus in Matthew 24:5-24:
• Many will deceive and be deceived.
• There will be wars and rumors of wars.
• Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.
• There will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
• This will be the beginning of sorrows.
• They will deliver believers up to tribulation and kill us, and we will be hated by all nations for Jesus’ name’s sake.
• Many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.
• Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
• Lawlessness will abound and the love of many will grow cold.
• There will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world.
• False christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
God doesn’t require “church attendance” because it does something for Him. He commands it because of what it does for us!!! It’s His perfect provision for the enduring He requires to the end. Tweet this!
We can be a part of an imperfect body of believers because we can trust GOD to be perfectly faithful. Tweet this! However, we must ask God for wisdom and discernment to recognize when a church is unhealthy. The church will always be filled with imperfect people, but it should not be unhealthy.
How do we know if we’re choosing a good church? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start:
• Do they preach Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected as the exclusive means for salvation (John 14:6, 1 Corinthians 1:23)?
• Is believing in your heart and confessing with your mouth the only requirement to be saved (Romans 10:9)?
• Is the entire word of God preached and adhered to, leaving nothing out and adding nothing, even if what the Bible says isn’t popular or politically correct (Acts 20:27, Revelation 22:18-19)?
• Are the leaders and teachers living God’s word in their daily lives and teaching the body how to do the same (Matthew 28:20, 1 Timothy 3:1-13)?
• Are conflicts addressed and reconciliation sought? Is there a means for appropriate church discipline that protects the body (Mark 11:25-26, Matthew 18:15-17)?
• Do the people there do life outside the walls of the church together? Do they have all things in common (Acts 2:44)? Are they meeting each others’ needs (verse 45)?
The Day is closer now than it’s ever been. The one with the highest stake in keeping you from what God desires for you in fellowship with other believers is the devil. Tweet this!
Churches are filled with imperfect men and women who will let us down. Churches are filled with sinners who will make mistakes, and we may be hurt in the process. Sin is to blame, not God. Tweet this! Satan will always attempt to pervert God’s perfection. If the devil can convince believers to reject church because the people are imperfect, you’re not proving anything. Tweet this! It’s not a win for you. You’re only hurting yourself, and Satan wins.
Hebrews 3:6 tells us Christ is Son over His own house. We are part of that house if we “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” When persecuted, a church building will do nothing for us, but the body of believers who gathers together, whether in the four walls of a large building with a sign that says “church,” or in the remote wilderness as some are forced to do in hostile countries, or in the confines of our own living rooms, will be our lifeline. Tweet this!
Part of what determines the health of a body is the health of each member, so we have a responsibility to be yielded and obedient to the Lord in our personal relationship with Him, in our private lives, our relationships with others, and our public lives. Tweet this! We are preaching the gospel even when we don’t say a word, and people are watching.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 6:3-4, “We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God.” When we take this approach in our own lives – “in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings” (verses 4-5) – we, too, are protecting against giving offense. And here’s how we do it (verses 6-10):
by the Holy Spirit,
by sincere love,
by the word of truth,
by the power of God,
by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
by honor and dishonor,
by evil report and good report;
as deceivers, and yet true;
as unknown, and yet well known;
as dying, and behold we live;
as chastened, and yet not killed;
as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
To hold fast to His name and not deny His faith, even in the face of persecution and death (Revelation 2:13), we are going to need each other. Tweet this!
Whatever we may have to endure, we can know:
• Whatever we lose here shall be returned a hundredfold in heaven, AND eternal life (Matthew 19:28-29).
• We will receive the crown of life and will not be hurt by the second death, which is the eternal lake of fire (Revelation 2:10-11).
• We will be kept from the hour of trial that will come upon the whole world (Revelation 3:10).
• We will be given rest; those who trouble us will be repaid with tribulation (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
• The patience and faith of the saints will be realized as those who lead into captivity go into captivity and those who killed with the sword die by the sword (Revelation 13:10).
• Those who shed the blood of saints and prophets will be given blood to drink (Revelation 16:5-7).
• We will live and reign with Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:4-6).
THAT is the end of the story. The end of our enduring. The destination of our together journey. Tweet this!
Join the body. Get involved in the community of a church. Do life together. Consider other believers. Stir others up to love and good works, and let others do the same for you. Do not pull away or avoid assembling. Don’t let Satan or his demons influence you to isolation, where they have a better chance of wreaking havoc in your mind and life! Tweet this! Exhort others and be exhorted. SO MUCH MORE AS THE DAY APPROACHES!
Lord, thank You for Your church. Father, thank You for making us a part of a body in need of one another. Forgive us, Lord, for every way we’ve made church about something other than You and Your purposes. We yield to You in complete obedience now and ask You to make us healthy members of Your body, in service to others, assembling together to stir and be stirred to love and good works, especially as the Day of Christ’s return approaches.
Can you believe we only have two more blogs in our series?!?! Thank you for hanging in there with me. If you’re just joining us or have missed a past post, just go to Unshakable Hope in the Face of Persecution to read the entire series so far. Also, I’ll be producing an eBook of the series as soon as we wrap it up, and I’d love for you to be the first to get it! Just SUBSCRIBE here to receive your free copy and to receive all future blogs to your email inbox. At the same time, you’ll receive a free download of my book, Holy His: Hope for a Life and a Nation Wholly His, the perfect companion to this series. In six weeks of scripture-packed study, you’ll learn to experience the fullness of God’s promises through obedience to His word, and find hope that is an anchor for our souls, sure and steadfast, no matter what. The result? Lives that are powerful platforms for preaching the gospel – the only true and eternal answer to our personal and national crises. Every Christian needs to read this book! Be sure to get yours, and then spread the word!
FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION:
1. When God saves us, we are His children. His family. We are part of a single body that can’t function without us, and we can’t function without it (Romans 12:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). How do you view the role of “church” in your life? What is the “church” to you or what do you try to make it? Do you realize church is for our benefit, not God’s, and He puts us there to equip us, but also for us to be a part of Him equipping others?
2. Hebrews 10:23-35 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (emphasis mine). It’s for us, not Him. We can’t expect perfection, but we need to be in pursuit of Him and His ways TOGETHER. Are you allowing something man’s done to offend or hurt you or even pervert God’s perfect design for church keep you from what God has for YOU and what YOU need from church?
3. Hebrews 3:6 tells us Christ is Son over His own house. We are part of that house if we “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” When persecuted, a church building will do nothing for us, but the body of believers who gathers together, whether in the four walls of a large building with a sign that says “church,” or in the remote wilderness as some are forced to do in hostile countries, or in the confines of our own living rooms, will be our lifeline. Are you plugged into a church? Living life together? Encouraging and strengthening one another? If not, will you trust GOD enough to try a church this Sunday?
4. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 6:3-4, “We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God.” When we take this approach in our own lives – “in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings” (verses 4-5) – we, too, are protecting against giving offense. How are you doing in making sure you’re not giving offense? Confess where you’ve fallen short and repent. God forgives and He makes a way for us to do things His way.