Written by Stephen Cox
The New Testament communities in Christ took on a ‘vibe’ that included mercy, humility, grace, empathy, equity, inclusion, honour and submission, care, sexual self-restraint, hospitality, sharing and mutual service. Nearly 50 ‘one another’ sayings continually create a new community in which to live out our new identity in Jesus.
Each church is an extraordinary project of Jesus-shaped community, a network of relationships in which to learn endurance in difficulty while still pursuing peace and love. Since Jesus gives us the truest access to true humanity, this ‘vibe’ pivots on learning from, praying to and praising God in Jesus Christ and through the Spirit.
By becoming a Christian, I not only seek to be like Christ, but I belong to God and I belong to my brothers and sisters. It is not that I belong to God and then make a decision to join a local church. My being in Christ means being in Christ with those others who are in Christ. This is my identity. This is our identity.
The prevailing view of life today is that of an individual standing on his or her own, heroically ‘juggling’ various responsibilities: family, friendships, work, money etc. From time to time the pressures overwhelm us and we drop one or more of the balls. All too often church become one of the balls. We juggle our responsibilities for church just as we juggle our responsibilities for work or leisure.
An alternative model is to view our various activities and responsibilities as spokes of a wheel. At the centre or hub of life is not me as an individual, but us as members of the Christian community. Church is not another ball or me to juggle, but that which defines who I am and give Christlike shape to my life.
As we saw in our Ephesians sermon series, church is at he heart of God’s big plans. John Stott says:
‘The church lies at the very centre of the eternal purposes of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history. On the contrary, the church is God’s new community. For his purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, and to be perfected in a future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build his church, that is, to call out of the world a people for his own glory. ‘
God is said to have put everything under Jesus’ feet and to have appointed him head over everything, for, surprisingly, the church is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way. In other words, these strange groups of oddballs function as a living, breathing advertisement of Jesus Christ. Those in churches find out how to live together from him.
Jesus Christ regularly intervenes through his Spirit and word, generating new forms of life, unmaking and remaking churches. Church is to become Christ’s venue for gathering and healing people. Churches may not be perfect, but amongst our gatherings we can find unassuming giants of people who pass on to us the Spirit’s fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. They help me to be more like Christ and grow in me affections for God.
That is why I’m looking forward to our Winter Warm up.
Many of you will be aware of the sermon series that was taught earlier this year titled “Gods affections for us and our affections for God” – During that series Peter preached on the danger that we all face in ‘losing our first love’ – the love we had at first for Jesus [Revelation 2:4]. He spoke of the need to fan into flame our affections for God in response to his deep, deep affections for us. The aim of the “Winter Warm-up” is to help promote maturity in our church family by fanning into flame our affections for God.
We will be sharing a number of encouraging things in our Church life together that we should be thankful for and praying for. Having a chance for everyone to hear some of the encouraging stories should help encourage everyone to grow their affections for God as they can see and thank God for the things he is doing among us. It is also a chance to hear from some of the ministries outside of WWEC that we support and to be spurred on by hearing what God is doing in their part of the world. We will also pray for these ministries and thank God for what he is doing.
The Winter Warm Up is on
Wednesday August 6th, 6pm
@ Riverina Christian College Library.
Looking forward to seeing you there.