The Next Best Thing

Posted: September 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

There is no denying that we live in a fallen world. Everywhere we look, things seem to be falling apart politically, financially, relationally and physically. As such, we long for peace, rest and health. Which is why we cling to verses that remind us, “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, ESV) God created and said it was good but sin entered the world and with it has brought death and decay. And so, we long for God to finish His work of redemption and restoration. We look forward, with great anticipation and hope, to that everlasting fellowship, face to face with our Saviour.

But what about here and now? Didn’t Jesus say that He came that our joy may be full? Is that just a deferred joy or can we expect any of it now? I mean, where can we find a least a taste of this everlasting fellowship? Well the answer scripture gives us is the church. As Michael Horton explains…

No Christian can live without the church. In fact, the church is not just what you get when you have a lot of individual Christians, but vice versa. In Cyprian’s memorable words that Calvin echoed (see Institutes 4.1.4), “He cannot have God as his Father who takes not the church for his mother.” The Belgic Confession adds…

We believe that since this holy assembly and congregation is the gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from it, no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, regardless of his status or condition. But all people are obliged to join and unite with it, keeping the unity of the church by submitting to its instruction and discipline, by bending their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, according to the gifts God has given them as members of each other in the same body…. And so, all who withdraw from the church or do not join it act contrary to God’s ordinance. (Article 28)

In other words, against all inclinations of a mobile society, where we often seem to be in not only one but several transitions at any given period in our lives, we are called to belong. The church is not like a house that we think we’ve outgrown or a neighborhood that has lost its charm, much less a mall that offers consumers a panoply of choices, so that if we are not completely satisfied we can simply take our business elsewhere. If we find a church that truly preaches Christ and faithfully administers the Sacraments, treating God’s Word as the rule for life and doctrine, we should count ourselves “lucky” and bear the weaknesses that we will inevitably see once we get to really know the place. Since the church is a body of people who are justified yet sinful, definitively new creatures in Christ and yet making only partial progress in sanctification, not to mention a garden of wheat and weeds growing together, we do not yet have the luxury of a permanent address on earth, but we must be content with the next best thing for now.

“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

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