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Hello Sister! Now that you are walking in the light free from your cage, it is easy to often feel we have to do it all on our own. But God knows that we need encouragement, instruction, and companionship in order to be faithful Christians.
From the beginning God has longed for mankind to love him. He has wanted them to separate themselves from the world and honor him. He started by creating a separate group, the Israelites, but they failed him often turning to idols and evil ways. Through Christ, however, God created a new gathering of His people, the body of Christ. And we have the choice of being a part of it or not being a part of it. By going through the “water gate” of baptism, you are choosing to enter His body. (1 Cor. 12:13) Christ has freely given you his body. First, He gave you his body on the cross. And then He created a new body for you to be a part of: the church. (Eph 1:22-23)
Where would we be without the church? New marriages often suffer, new parents are often nervous, widows/widowers are often lonely, people who lost a job are often depressed. How much more so if you don’t have a group of people who can lift you up? God knows how much we need each other. Romans 12: 15 tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” Going through difficult times, such as depression, loss of family, loss of a job, etc., are so much easier to bear when we have our church family. And by the same token, weddings, new babies, new jobs, etc. are so much sweeter, joyful and even less stressful when we have our church family. Even the bonds of blood family are deepened when we share the Lord and his mercies.
Knowing that I have a gathering full of women that I can call and seek advice from when I am struggling through life as a wife, mother or Christian is comforting. I imagine that if I were a widow, it would be a huge comfort to know that if I needed something, I have full gathering of people to call on; that somebody would come help me. Knowing the strength, peace and friendship I receive from the church, I have such a hard time understanding why someone would choose to not be a part of it.
Christ calls us to be an active body part: the hand that serves, the ear that listens, the mouth that teaches, or the shoulder to cry on. Romans 12 says “We have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ… Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” We each have a place in which to serve. 1 Corinthians 12:18 says “God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.” And Ephesians 4: 11-12 says “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” Notice that the reason he gave us different jobs was so that we, as the body, would be well equipped for works of service and that we together might build up the body.
Often we hear (said in a deep voice, of course), “DO NOT FORSAKE THE ASSEMBLY.” (Go on. I know you want to giggle). This comes from Hebrews 10: 24-25. But let’s look at these verses more closely. “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” We are to stimulate and encourage each other. How do we do this? By not neglecting to meet together.
We can look to the first Christians in Acts 2 as an example for us. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” They met together, served together, worshiped together, prayed together, and gave to those who had a need so that they as individuals would be strengthened and the body of Christ would grow in number and maturity.
We often say “time to Go to church” but more accurately we should say “time to go be with the church.” Being a part of the church is more than just filling a pew on Sunday morning. It is lending a helping hand when others need it. And it is calling on others when you have a need. It is about being mentored by older women and in turn mentoring the younger women. It is about fellowshipping with each other over meals and birthday parties. It is about helping each other grow stronger in our faith and our knowledge. It is about coming together to worship our Lord as one body with a united voice. It is about coming together to feast at the Lord’s table. We are called to be one whole complete fitted-together body; not a divided, broken or scattered body.
Some people forget that they have to be attached to the body in order to be a part of the body. If someone has an accident and they cut off their fingers, why do we rush to the hospital to get those fingers put back on? Because if we don’t they will cease to be a part of the body. The severed fingers will die because they are not fed by the blood. The hand where the fingers once were will have to be stitched up. Sadly the hand, though it may work well, will never again work to its fullest ability because of the loss. Same goes with the church. My grief although is more for the fingers than for the injured hand. Because the fingers are lost, dying and now useless. When the body goes to heaven, the fingers will not go, because they are not attached to the body. I fear that too many “fingers” out there, dismembered from the body, believe that because they were once baptized or because they still believe in God, that they are ok. 1 John 1 7 tells us “if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Based on this scripture, can we not also infer that if we “do not” walk, we “do not” have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son “does not” cleanse us?
It has been said that life is in the blood, when referring to the physical body. It is also true of the spiritual body. Col 2:19 indicates the spiritual body is nourished by the head of the body, which is Christ. Therefore if you are not attached to Christ’s body, you do not have his blood. If you do not have his blood, you have no life and your sins are not covered. How then can those severed fingers claim that Christ’s blood covers them, when they are not attached to the body?
I find this thought amazing: though today’s earthly surgeons cannot replace a finger after a certain amount of time or damage, Christ, the great healer, can. Just as he physically repaired the man’s ear in Luke 22:51, He can bring those dead lifeless fingers back to the body and restore them completely. There may be a time of healing, cleansing and rehabilitation, but eventually they can be fully and completely restored.
So it goes beyond the basic need of companionship, we cannot survive without the body of Christ. And though you have the option of leaving the group at anytime, I don’t understand why anyone would. It makes absolutely no sense to me. Why would you walk away from God’s sweetest blessings? The blessings of spiritual family, of being renewed by the blood, of being nourished by Christ, and of fellowship that encourages you in your walk with God. Because by leaving you are choosing to leave the blessing and grace that are extended to those in the gathering.
Please, join me, and your brothers and sisters, in Christ in strengthening Christ’s body both with your presence and your work.
by Amy Ellis
Originally printed in the Fall 2011 Issue V4N3
Part 1 – The Cage and The Door
Part 2 – Walking through The Door
Part 3 – Living in the Light