Posted by: pastortomvabeach | June 27, 2008

Thought For The Week June 29, 2008

I am writing this “thought” from the hospital waiting room while I wait to find out what room my wife will stay in tonight. She just had an angiogram to open up a clog in her femoral artery and needs to stay overnight so they can try to break up the clot with clot-busting drugs. It’s times like these that make me glad that I have a family like the church family. It’s a family we have grown so close to that we never have to wonder about support, love, help, and care. I firmly believe this is what God intended the church to be.

  • This is part of why I have been exploring this phenomenon of Christians who move casually and often one church to another. How do you develop the kinds of relationships that stick with you through thick and thin if you move every time things get tough or when something doesn’t seem to suit you?

  • This week I’ve been thinking about another way the church is described in the Scripture. In Ephesians 5:24-33, Paul jumps back and forth between the marriage relationship and the relationship between Christ and the church, saying: Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Revelation 19:7, declares, Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb Is come, and his wife has made herself ready. The picture we get is that Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is the bride.

  • Now we know this applies to the church universal but every person is also a member of the church as Paul says, we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. The church is not an institution but a group of people who are “the called out ones” which is what the Greek word for “church” means. For this reason I think the picture of us being the bride of Christ can inform us about our relationship to the local expression of the body of Christ, His church.

  • I read a web-log this week where the author asserted that Christians ought to change churches as a matter of course at least every 3-5 years. His reasoning was that just like we go to different schools to round out and add to our education, our Christian life stagnates if we stay in one church and that by moving around we get a more complete path of Christian discipleship. I could not disagree more with his premise.

  • If I applied that to my marriage then every 3-5 years I need to change wives so that I don’t stagnate in my understanding of human relationships and get to learn about other people and grow more! Who would want to marry me?

  • The picture of being the bride suggests just what Paul says, we give ourselves to Christ for His purposes not for ours. Just as the husband is to love his wife for her benefit and the wife is to respect her husband for his benefit, the church is not about what I get because its not for me! If I adopt the plan of this blogger, then I am the central focus. I move every 3-5 years so I can get better, not to grow in my relationship with Jesus, for His glory and praise.

    The husband and wife who stay together and give themselves seriously to growing their relationship will never run out of new areas of wonder and growth with each other. The stability of the relationship lends itself to greater intimacy and understanding. In the same way, when we establish ourselves in a church for the long term and seriously work at growing closer to the Lord, opportunities continue to present themselves to us. The Word of God is never exhausted and if we pursue depth in the Word it will happen.

  • Imagine again applying to a marriage some of the reasons people give for leaving a church – “our needs are not being met”; “the church has changed too much”; “someone hurt my feelings”; “the church has faults”; etc. Many, if not most of these things, happen in almost every marriage. Sadly, today, many people are also leaving marriage over trivial matters without ever trying seriously to overcome the differences. The same thing happens with church. Listen to those reasons. Every one of them could be dealt with by personally growing closer to the Lord, by seriously praying for the people and leaders, and by stepping up yourself to help, and every one of them is about me.

  • For instance, if the church does not have a satisfactory children’s ministry, what have you done to help? If you perceive there is not an adequate discipling ministry, have you volunteered to teach or help in some way. If it is difficult to connect to others in the church, have you asked others to spend time with you outside of church or tried to develop a small group. If the leadership doesn’t seem to be “with it”, have you really prayed and held them up before the Lord?

  • I think this metaphor is probably one of the greatest arguments against any casual departure from a local church. Please try to catch this thought; just as marriage is not about me – as Paul says, it is a profound mystery in that it is about Christ and His church – the church and my commitment to the church is not about me. There is nothing in the New Testament that remotely suggests we should look around until we find a place that “fits me”, “feeds me”, or “meets my needs”. The picture in I Corinthians 14, is that I should always ask, “What can I give to the church? How can I edify this body?” And anything short of a long term, thick or thin, for better or worse commitment is not going to cut it.

  • Have you considered what you give to the local church? Have you made the determination that you are in this thing for the long haul, just like in marriage? Have you committed to your church the same way you would to your spouse – to do whatever it takes to make it last? Just a thought.

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