“Peter began to say to Him,
“Behold, we have left everything and followed You.”‘
All day I’ve had the song, Gracefully Broken by Matt Redman stuck in my head. I keep hearing the first part of the bridge, which says, “all to Jesus now…holding nothing back.” It’s a fitting phrase, as we just returned from a church leadership retreat in which the theme was how we can better mirror Christ in our church, and what we can sacrifice/give as a family to fulfill God’s call in our lives and reach the lost.
We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) as fellow believers, and that should mean that we are united in purpose, and in love. And yet, people search and browse through churches like they are looking through a catalog because unfortunately, the body is divided and the people of Christ aren’t all on the same page.
Churches tear and separate for various reasons, some over more serious matters than others. Each church has it’s own “vision statement” and specific beliefs and priorities. Many churches have huge age gaps and are designed and orchestrated around those ages. Some churches are all about image, they run things like a business striving to make Jesus look appealing through flashing lights, great worship, and free handouts. Other churches are content keeping to themselves and not drawing in attention. They enjoy their solitude and potlucks believing that God called them to hold down the fort until He returns, like in the Parable of the Three Servants (Matthew 25:14-30), the servant who was given one bag of silver dug a hole and buried it. For those who don’t know-the master wasn’t pleased.
I believe that each church has a specific calling and leading from the Holy Spirit, but that shouldn’t separate us from the rest of the bride. Our unique talents and callings should compliment one another. There isn’t a different Holy Spirit to be found in a different church, He is one and the same in all of us, as well as His heart. He awakens our giftings in the hopes that we will work together and become stronger as one. If only we worked as one body, with one mind, and one heart. Then we wouldn’t fall into those ineffective categories listed above because we would keep each other grounded in the truth. We would encourage and build up one another so that we could continue growing and eliminating the darkness of this world.
Jesus never referred to the church as his bride(s), just as he never referred to it as an eye, leg, and ear instead of as a body, comprised of many parts working together. He spoke to the church as if it is one, saying, “YOU are the salt of the earth…YOU are the light of the world!” (Matthew 5:13-14). I believe that God’s vision is for a future in which we no longer will say, “my church….”, or “your church…” but “Thee church.”
This church once existed, and it can still exist again.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2)
The church in Acts had everything in common and that was reflected in their actions, they did everything together. They all gave, did communion, worshipped, and enjoyed every minute of it. You don’t see them arguing over how to go about reaching the lost or asking the body what it can do for them. They simply did what they felt was right and let the Holy Spirit guide them on the finer details of what that looks like. They didn’t come to be served but to serve. And look at the impact this church made in the surrounding town and city! They enjoyed the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily! It wasn’t hard. They were simply enjoying fellowship and servitude and it caught the attention of the lost around them. True family, True love is appealing to EVERYONE.
The main message I want to get across today is this…we are all in this together, and if you feel you do best on your own, I’m here to ask you what that kind of life has accomplished for you and others. I don’t know your story, but I bet you were stung and you fell away from the church because of it. You told yourself that you were done and that God must have a different destiny for you that doesn’t involve relationship with other believers.
For a while that might work for you, you may feel pretty justified and righteous in your thinking, and to add to that you most likely will feel life is pretty peaceful and easy. But someday you will be lead astray, in fact, you are already on your way there….satan has succeeded in cutting you off from the pack through unforgiveness and fear. And I’m sure you have seen enough nature films to know what happens next…unprotected and alone, the enemy comes in for the kill. In this case, he will come in to pull you further away..not just from the church but from God Himself and His word, and ultimately you will forget your identity in Him.
I almost became that lone wolf, in fact, I had started to believe myself that being involved in a church wasn’t altogether necessary. I’ve been a part of multiple churches that failed, the last one hit me the most because it was then that I was old enough to understand the weight of what had happened. I saw only too late how the enemy had worked his way through our walls and into our minds. We all hold that responsibility-it’s never one man’s fault. And if somehow one man could tear down a church the bigger problem is that the church gave him the power to do so and did nothing to stop it.
Paul knew the importance of unity, he wrote letters to the church, called them out on their mistakes, praised them for their accomplishments, and sent other believers, if needed, to help build them up. He prayed for them and would have gladly died for the bride of Christ even if it meant his own salvation was considered forfeit.
That’s holding nothing back.
If we truly loved God…we would reflect His heart, and if we truly reflected His heart, we would fight for the church. We would have a heart for people.
Relationships are messy…family is messy. But we can’t live life without either, and I don’t believe deep down that anyone truly wants to be alone. So it really comes down to this…are you willing to believe and fight for the heart of God? Even when the church fails will you believe and fight for it? Like a husband for his bride? Will you believe in the Word of God even when satan attacks it and tests it in your heart? Will you hold nothing back? …..it’s going to be painful, it’s going to take sacrifice…but you know what? Nothing great, nothing wonderful was ever discovered by those who gave up. To enjoy the view from the top of a mountain you must first be willing to climb it.
Are you truly a follower of Christ? Then take up your cross…it’s no longer about you. No, you’re part of something bigger, and it’s not a democracy. No, in this kingdom the first become last, and the last get a crown. We all serve and we don’t gripe about it. With the right heart, we see it as an honor to love others and to be loved. Forgiveness isn’t earned but given freely in this kingdom of ours, and nothing we do, each step we take with the cross on our backs, is in vain. No, it’s all worth it, more than you can ever know.
“Anyone who is to find Christ must first find the church. How could anyone know where Christ is and what faith is in him unless he knew where his believers are?”