Pilgrims on an eternal journey
Some of my friends have been in their same home church for all of their Christian walk and others have changed churches for one reason or another and some of us have moved and been a part of a number of church families. In late 2011 Dan and I became members of Bethlehem Bible Church (BBC) in West Boylston, MA.
Making a decision to become a part of a local body of believers is not a decision that Dan and I took lightly. For myself, I really thought hard and long, prayed, read, researched and asked questions. As with any organization, there will be some things that we do not agree with but on the essentials we do agree. And yes, a local body of believers is both a church family and an organization. There may be a number of essentials that I could go through but for this blog post I will just talk about two: 1. The Love of Christ as demonstrated through the people and 2. The High view of God communicated by the expositional preaching of God's Word.
The demonstration of love that personally gave me the desire to become a part of BBC was the process of "church discipline." Some of my readers may think, "that is archaic" well let me explain. It was the pursuing of a dear one who was walking away from her family and the family of God reached out to her and with tears, prayers and open arms encouraged her to return and make things right. BBC as a church family had to release her, let her go, and turn her over to the LORD, with the commitment to pray that she will at sometime return to the LORD. Where else in the world do people love each other enough to say you are going the wrong way, come back, we love you, we know that life is hard? And when the person says, thanks but no thanks, those who love their dear one love her enough to let her go. Isn't this what we do as parents? Even with our adult children? Sometimes it is not clear and things get messy and we are willing to walk through the mess with one another. Is this not loving? It IS! Of course, there are many other acts of love that the dear ones at BBC do for one another, their neighbors, friends and strangers....listening, praying, making meals, helping one another move, visiting, etc. all types of family activities that demonstrate a love for one another. This is motivated by the Greatest LOVER of ALL, Jesus Christ, the LORD Most High. One other way that these dear folks love is through the preaching, teaching and heralding of God's Word. This last act leads me to the second point, which is having a High view of God through expositional preaching.
(for those unfamiliar with the term "expositional preaching" here is a good definition -Expository preaching involves the exposition, or comprehensive explanation, of the Scripture; that is, expository preaching presents the meaning and intent of a biblical text, providing commentary and examples to make the passage clear and understandable. from http://www.gotquestions.org/expository-preaching.html)
Today this very day Mike Abendroth preached about Jesus from the Gospel of Mark from Mark 1;1, 4;35-41, 6;45-52. "So yeah, he preached about Jesus. You are a Christian who else is he going to preach about?" Some might think. Today exposition of the text was with the sole purpose of again being amazed by the GOD-Man, Jesus Christ. Today, I was asked through the preaching of the Word to look up to the One who is called the Christ and see Him High and Lifted up by the lowly preacher who is a sinner just like me. He is so unlike us, yet was willing to leave His home in glory to become human like you and me.
As was said today, there does need to be more preaching on Jesus Christ so that our response is to behold the LORD and believe that Jesus is who He said he was and what the Holy Scriptures say about Him. There is plenty of preaching in today's American churches of what I would call, man-centered preaching. It is so appealing to the flesh. A "look what the Son of God has given to us" attitude instead of realizing how Great and Awesome is our GOD. It is such a subtle and fine line, because Jesus has done great things and continues to do things through the lives of His children. The point is for this Christian, I need to have a Higher view of God than I do of man. There are probably many who preach and live with too high a view of man who hold up God higher than man but it is most likely coupled with too high of a view of man. So instead of God being exalted, the gifts given to man from God are given more attention and the gifts are often manifested through man therefore man becomes the central focus of the preaching. It is the "what does this passage mean to me?" instead of "what is God saying in the passage?"
What is the crux of "having a High View of God in relations to man?" In order to get there we need to talk about holiness. A subject that I am not very comfortable writing or talking about. This past year, I took a class on growing in personal holiness A woman in Christ, currently I am finishing The Pursuit of Holiness and I have had a number of conversations with a couple of trusted friends about the topic. I believe a look at God being Holy is required in order for man to have a proper perspective. When I am able to see that the God who saved me is completely HOLY, perfect, all together pure, then I begin to understand why Peter said to Jesus "Depart from me for I am sinful man." When we find ourselves in the presence of our Holy God, our eyes are opened in that type of light to the darkness of our sin and like the angels of Revelation we go and hide our faces. Yes, the beauty, the majesty, the glory is too much for us and we cry out holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty.
It is through the Light of God's Word which some call The Holy Bible that we are able to recognize that we are sinners and in the world there is no hope for us. The good news is not a cover up of the bad news. To simply say I am free in Christ without remember what HE has freed us from can be a dangerous place. A place where I am in danger of becoming puffed up. With "I am God's child and I am free to do whatever I want to do and be whatever I want to be because I am free," upon my lips and forgetting what it is that I have been freed from and therefore lacking gratitude for this precious freedom. Before I come to a resolution for this line of thinking, I must say the following. The first word about every human being is that each one is created in the image of the triune God. We are image bearers, having a likeness of our Creator. How Awesome, how humbling! The next word is that because of Adam's sin, we were born in iniquity and conceived in sin. This is very bad news. If we hope for eternal life with the Holy One then we need to be cleansed of our sins and made holy. Through the blood of Jesus Christ we are made holy, cleansed from all our sins. Jesus says COME! He will wash you and make you as white as the new fallen snow and in Him you will be made holy and righteous in order to be in the presence of This HOLY God, Creator of the Universe, Lord of Heaven and Earth. In the remembrance of what we have been freed from - SIN and DEATH, it is in this place that I am still learning to live in gratitude for the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and this freedom from sin and death that I can see my place with the Holy One is given to me freely as a gift from the Righteous One, the LORD Jesus Christ delivering me from my sin. This is not just good news, it is GREAT News!