Built together by and for Jesus.

 

origin november 24 2013 005 - Version 2

19So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.  Ephesians 2:19-22

Jesus has radically altered the landscape of humanity with His death, burial and resurrection. Now together with all those who call on Him, we are being built together for a purpose that will culminate in His return and the redemption of all creation in Him. Now our lives are being altered by His grace. Such that together we are “holy building.” Jesus is the cornerstone; the apostles and the prophets are the foundation. Now we are being built up and inhabited by the Spirit of God. Now the church is made up of Jews and Gentiles united by faith in Christ as the people for God.

In carpentry, joining is an incredibly skilled process of linking two or more boards together. The craftsmanship when this is done well — is beautiful! The church is meant to display the beauty of God. The knowledge that I am being “carefully joined together” with others as the church by a master craftsman changes the way I see the church. Now, my participation in the church is not just an optional part of my life. You are an essential part of the church! This reality is meant to be an essential part of your identity in Christ.

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We who are many form one body.

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4Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Romans 12:4-5

The New Testament writers used many images to help followers of Jesus get the church. One of those images is the “Body of Christ.” Today we are the living representation of Jesus in and to the world. And you are a part of it. Paul writes here that you have a special function in the body of Jesus. You are a part of the body.

Here’s a challenging feature to our hyper-individualization as it comes to our idea of private spirituality and the church: we all belong together in Christ. Jesus has actually called us into relationship with each other. The cool feature is that as you grow and relate within the Body of Christ you will discover the special ways He has gifted you for the mission and ministry of the Church.  I’m glad to be in this family, His Body, and adventure of faith with you.

Do you know the temptation that accompanies trouble? Authentic Fellowship, Part 3

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1Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

6But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.   1 Thessalonians 3:1-8

Paul was concerned, The Thessalonian church had experienced trouble from the very beginning. He was afflicted with thoughts that they may have drifted away from the faith and each other. He was concerned:

1. that their troubles would knock them off their faith and off Christian fellowship.

2. that their troubles would open them up to the Tempter’s work of emptying out their faith in Jesus.
What a relief when Timothy came back and shared the good news! The church still exists. People still remember Paul affectionately. The believers are still trusting Jesus even in their troubles.

Troubles and Temptations
Paul knows how isolating troubles can be. Its tempting to keep it all to yourself, to feel forgotten and of no value to God and others. However, authentic fellowship is the place where we can let others know of our troubles and experience the comfort and courage of the Holy Spirit together. During change and pain a circle of brothers and sisters in Christ can make the difference for our faith. But there is a vulnerability during these times. Will it knock us off our faith?

Other Apostles and Christian leaders know of this vulnerability too. James wrote of mature communal faith this way: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will rise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James  5:13-16

Praise and Prayer
Praise and prayer are experienced in authentic fellowship. Participation in each other’s good times and difficult times is part of authentic fellowship. The amazing part of authentic fellowship is that the focus both in trouble and in good times does not get fixated on the individual and his or her pain, but instead turns toward God and our graceful communion with Him—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Let love be genuine.

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9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor.   Romans 12:9-10

Love must be sincere.

Love must be without hypocrisy.

Love must be without a mask to hide behind.

Are you willing to love with your cracks showing?

Are you willing to sit long with Jesus till your view of a difficult  person is formed by love?

When there are cracks in your capacity to love will you meet Jesus for the grace to grow in love?

Life together with anyone has a way of revealing my incompetence at love. Scary as it is I’m finding this awareness of my love deficit is a gift. Must of us think we are pretty good at love and naturally deflect responsibility for our inadequacies. Our denial is expense and works to the detriment of ourselves, our families, our churches, our friends, and our communities.

If I hate the pain my deficiencies may cause another then I may choose humility and the reckless love of Christ at the Cross. Then I can invite all to dive deeper into His grace with me. But if I deny and refuse to acknowledge when I acted  without love or with a false love, then I perpetuate the deception ruling this world and actually join in — purposefully excluding God from my relationships.

Live like an exile: Bless the city.

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7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Jeremiah 29:7

The captives from Jerusalem abiding in Babylon might not be blamed for maintaining a self-protective edge. Why should they give themselves wholeheartedly to the success of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon? Surely they want to get back to Jerusalem as quick as possible. They are longing for home. Wouldn’t it be a kind of betrayal if they pursued good for all of Babylon’s residents?

God has a surprising word for these exiles: Seek the welfare of the city and pray for the city. If the city thrives then they will thrive. God does not want them to isolate themselves nor does He want them to engage only for self-preservation. Rather, God wants them to actively seek the peace, the shalom, the well-being of Babylon.

Like these exiles, the Church of Jesus lives with a promise of what is to come. If we seek the welfare of our city we must nurture a vision of peace and blessing shaped by the presence of Jesus Christ our King. We proclaim Gospel Truth revealing who God is and we radiate His glory through persistent intercession and generous godly labour.