Why go to church? I find hiking in the mountains and looking at sunsets more worshipful; I can listen to uplifting music and sermons any time, and I learn so much more about God from just reading my Bible.
As I see it there’s only one reason to go, yet I can’t find a single church set up for it! I think we’ve totally missed God’s purpose for church and it’s hurting us all. I go and make the best of it, but I’m afraid these aren’t the churches Jesus is building (Mt 16:18); I long for His design.
God’s churches are spiritual families of brothers and sisters regularly assembling for one unique purpose: to help each other follow God. (1Th 5:11, He 10:25) It’s an extension of God Himself on Earth. (Ep 5:30) I think the early Christians got this, and it’s why they were powerful.
If we started meeting for the right reason we might find we need to change a few things … lose the fancy buildings, stop hiring musicians and pastors to entertain and sermonize us … and diluting the message so we can get people who aren’t seeking God to help pay for it all.
Maybe we’d start building relationships with people who challenge us to grow, who love us enough to humbly confront our sin … and invite us to humbly challenge theirs. Maybe we’d come to meetings with more of a sense of responsibility, more prepared to give than receive. (1Co 14:26)
Maybe we’d start teaching each other about things that matter … how to overcome sin and walk joyfully with God. Maybe we’d pray for and comfort each other more, and ask for prayer more, and maybe we’d think more soberly about salvation, eternity and holiness.
Then maybe we’d even find God Himself living in and through our churches like He used to, Christ in us, showing up in our meetings and filling us with faith and power to glorify His name. (1Co 14:24-25)
When Christ is called, “Good Master,” He responds, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but one, that is God.” (Mk 10:17-18) This is helpful: God is good, and only God is good.
So, Man is not good; Man is bad; desperately wicked. Man has free will: God gives Man freedom to choose, and in choosing freely Man always chooses badly. (Ge 6:5)
We should not be surprised that people are evil and that God’s angry — it’s a miracle that any at all are good … indeed some are (Lk 1:5-6), a mystery hid in God restraining evil. (Pr 16:1, 9)
God can make us good, and only God can make us good. If He can make anyone good, then He can make you and me good, by replicating His nature in us.
Do we want to be good? This is the beginning of goodness, itself the gift of God, working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. (Php 2:13)
I seem to need a constant reminder that my hope is not in politics, or in religion, or in my family, my friends, my job or my country … or in myself … but in a sovereign God Who always does according to His own purpose and will … which is always good. (Ep 1:11)
Many of us long to hear the whisper of God’s Spirit guiding us in life’s journey. Wouldn’t life be so much simpler if God would just tell us what to do? Perhaps we need to learn to quiet ourselves, wait on the Lord, and listen to the voice of the Spirit for supernatural guidance.
Yet Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn 10:27) If we belong to God, He says we will hear His voice and follow Him; Christ never says this is something we need to learn. In fact, the idea that God’s children will miss doing His will because they don’t hear His voice seems to me foreign to scripture. (Jn 10:2-5) Perhaps we don’t yet understand the spiritual realm and what it’s like to hear the voice of God.
Following God seems to me simpler than we think. (Mt 11:29-30) As we walk in the light, He wills in our wills, speaks in our thoughts, and works through our acts. (Php 2:13) It isn’t complicated, yet most of us who call Christ Lord aren’t doing what He said (Lk 6:46): hiding His Word in our hearts and seeking to know wisdom as a manner of life. (Ja 1:5) If we aren’t even doing the basics, is it any wonder we’re struggling? If we aren’t careful, seeking supernatural guidance rather than doing what He says, we might open ourselves up for deception and hear the voice of strangers seeking to counterfeit the divine. In my experience, when we are obeying what He’s already told us, that hunger to hear a supernatural voice is fully and completely satisfied.
Having my heart established with grace is a goal in which I am making progress daily, looking to ensure that my heart is stabilized only in and by grace, the enabling power of God. I am no longer content to live unsettled and uneasy, nor in smug self-confidence; perfect peace in God is my daily objective.
Yet even as I grow here, a related command in Hebrews intrigues me: “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” (He 12:15-6)
What does it mean to establish grace in community? How does this form, and how does it relate to the foundation of the church? Am I to discern if another is failing in the enabling power of God? And if I do, what is a godly response? What is a root of bitterness? And help me understand … profane person. And how are these symptomatic of failing of grace? What is God calling us to here? How do we go about it?
The particular text of interest is, “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” (He 13:9) There are many other great verses which might also be helpful here.
What is grace? What does it mean to be established with something? How can we live this out in God? What does it look like, and how do we get there?
My thought: being established with grace is more than knowing God’s love and forgiveness, more than resting in Christ’s unconditional acceptance; it is havingsupernatural confidencethat God is transforming me into the image of Christ, creating His likeness in me, enabling me to love and obey Him. (2Co 9:8) Through the power of the Holy Spirit I access grace by faith … that is, I rest in Christ’s utter sufficiency and faithfulness, delighting in Him, being filled withall joyand peace in believing, abounding in hope. (Ro 15:13)