Anchored

In today’s post, we are going to reflect on our need for the church community. This is post number three on the topic of being anchored. We have addressed being Anchored in the Word and Anchored in the Gospel the previous two weeks.

This post is informed by the observation that when God saved sinners, he also ordained the church into existence. God’s program of salvation and relationship with mankind does occur individually, but it is is not isolated. The means for spreading the gospel, worshiping God, and serving others is the church. The church is the people of God living in community.

The Greek word, ecclesia, is the word translated church in our English Bibles. It specifically means “called out” or “the called out ones.” The universal church is made up of every believer on planet earth and represents God’s people throughout history. But while the Bible speaks of the universal church, the most common reference to church in the Bible relates to the local church, or to a specific body of believers gathered around God’s mission for worship and fellowship.

To be sure the experience of church has looked different during this Covid-19 pandemic. Attendance, interactions, programs, classes, services, and relationships have all been affected. But the mission and necessity of the church has not been changed.

Our mission at Wilkesboro Baptist Church is to lead our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus by worshiping, learning, serving and replicating.

Since the church’s founding after the resurrection of Christ, the church has survived persecution, marginalization, heresy, and countless debates and divisions. It is safe to say that the universal church is thriving as are many local congregations.

In his first general epistle, Peter described the church using metaphors and illustrations:

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:4-10, emphasis mine.

As the church, our identity is what God says about us. We are his, and God is building us up into his dwelling place. God has made us royal priests to serve his people and purposes. God has called us from among the nations to reflect his glory and goodness to others.

As Daniel Doriani observed in his commentary on 1 Peter, “In the old covenant, God set his people apart from the nations. In the new covenant, he sets us apart as we live among the nations.” God wants his church to reflect his mercy and goodness to each other and to the peoples around us.

The bottom line. We need each other. We need the church.

This past week I entered our Wednesday evening worship service preparing to preach. This is the service we record and stream on Sunday mornings. But I was not really in a good place, mentally or spiritually, as I walked into the service. We had recently had a repair done at my house that took up a great portion of my week. I was unable to get some things done that I needed to finish. And before the service I heard some distressing news. But something changed when I gathered with the believers to worship. The songs we sang emphasized God’s glory and intervention among his people. Our corporate worship and the leadership of our worship team moved me. I teared up. Sang. Wept. Praised. Prayed. Confessed. In that moment, I needed the ministry of our worship team and the ministry of congregational worship.

The other week, I wrote about just trying to get through. This past week I had this experience again.

I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life that I’ve prayed for daylight. There have been times that I’ve prayed just to make it through the storm. There have been times that I’ve prayed to get by to the next day.

Anchored in the Word

Sometimes, God answers our prayers to get through with each other. Sometimes, God anchors us in relationship with one another. Sometimes, God holds onto us through the ministry of the church.

More times than I can count, God has strengthened, encouraged, supported, helped, and motivated me through the ministry of believers in his church. We need to be anchored in the church.

  • To be anchored in the church, we need to be part of the church. I’m not specifically talking about church membership. To be a part of the church, we need to repent of our sins and trust Jesus for salvation. Becoming a follower Jesus is our introduction into the life of the church. If you are a follower of Jesus, then you are a part of God’s church.
  • To be anchored in the church, we need to be connected to the church. Relationships matter. If you don’t believe me, consider the fallout from the isolation and separation during this pandemic. We need the benefit that comes with counting on one another in dependence and relationship.
  • To be anchored in the church, we need to serve one another. Just in the last week, I recognized my need for the ministry of someone else. Not only do we need relationship with fellow believers, but we need the gifts and service of others. Your church needs you. And you need the ministry of others in your church.
  • To be anchored in the church, we need to defend the unity of the church. In 1 Peter 2:1, Peter wrote: “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” Peter identified these community-destroying vices, and told his readers to rid themselves of behaviors and attitudes that damage the church. We have an obligation to defend the church’s unity.

Being in the church offers encouragement, accountability, service, and support. In this era of isolation and uncertainty, we need the church more than ever. Here are some application points for anchoring yourself in the life of your local church.

Attend, watch, participate. I realize not everyone can attend church right now. Masks, social distancing, pandemic spread, vulnurable health conditions are all reasons for staying home. But if you stay home, watch your church’s service online. Participate in the worship of your church. Sing. Pray. Praise. Take notes. Be a part of your church even if you are apart from your gatherings.

Call, encourage, communicate. While we may not all be able to be as present as we’d like to be, we can still remain in contact with one another. Don’t wait on someone to call you. Pick up your phone and think of someone who may be more lonely than you are. Give them a call. Send them a text. Minister to them. Serving someone else by caring for them is part of our church’s mission.

Pray, support, give. Distance does not affect one’s ability to pray for the needs and situations in the church. One way to remain connected is to pray for your pastoral staff, church leaders, and those sick in the church. Our prayers, support, and giving are ways to invest in the life of the church. Investment in the church leads to being anchored in the church.

Photo by Jackson David on Unsplash

Last week’s article, Anchored in the Word, emphasized our need to be dependent upon the Bible for our spiritual life.

This week’s article is going to build from that previous post. Not only do we need to be anchored in God’s Word, but we need to be anchored in the gospel of Jesus Christ. At first glance, it might have made more sense to emphasize our dependence upon the gospel prior to our dependence on God’s Word. However, it is through God’s Word that we become acquainted with the gospel.

The Apostle Peter wrote:

Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

1 Peter 1:23-25 (Emphasis mine)

In the first chapter of his letter, Peter grounds Christian conduct on the salvation of the believer. Paul does something similar in his letters. Doctrine (who we are in Christ based on Scripture) grounds Christian conduct (what we do in Christ commanded by Scripture). In other words, it is from the Scriptures that we learn the gospel and our need for Jesus Christ.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news of salvation. For the earliest Christians, the gospel repeated the basic story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus’ passion and resurrection have always been the central focus of the Christian gospel.

The gospel intertwines with our lives as we reflect on the reason for Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. This good news of salvation flows out of the truths of God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. God is supremely holy and demands absolute righteousness (the reason for the OT Law). But mankind has not been able to keep God’s standard of holiness. From our first parents in the garden until now, we are all sinful (Romans 3:23).

That God’s demand is holiness and we are sinful is not good news. Rightfully, God judges sinners, and if God gave us justice, we would be eternally punished for our sinfulness (Romans 6:23).

This is where the good news of the gospel comes in. Jesus came to take our place. The story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is the story of the God/Man (Jesus Christ) who met God’s standards and became the Substitute for mankind who did not meet God’s standards.

The good news, the gospel, is that through Christ we might be justified (that is made right with God, Romans 3:24-26), made new (2 Corinthians 5:17), made alive (Ephesians 2:1-10), and experience the fullness of God’s life for us (John 10:10).

  • To experience this gospel, we must admit that we don’t deserve it or earn it. Rather, we receive it by faith (Romans 10:9-10).
  • To experience this gospel, we must admit that we are spiritually broken and impoverished. Rather, we receive it through grace (Matthew 5:3).
  • To experience this gospel, we must recognize that it is both our entry point into relationship with God and the means of spiritual growth in our relationship with God (Ephesians 2:8-10; 1 Peter 1).

The reason we must be anchored in this gospel is because Satan, our enemy, has developed many false gospels that distract and distort from the true gospel. These false gospels deceive many into believing they have the real thing. These false gospels damage the spiritual lives of many believers. These false gospels bind many to untruths that hinder their spiritual development.

False gospels:

  • Legalism. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were legalistic. In legalism, one’s standing with God is based on behavior rather than the gospel of grace. Some, who claim to be Christians, believe their salvation is dependent on their works. And some Christians receive salvation by grace, but then proceed to depend on their deeds as a means for God’s approval. In short, legalism rests on our ability to fulfill the law. Legalism is not good news, because we can never be righteous enough.
  • Antinomianism. This word means anti-law and is the extreme opposite of legalism. If legalism says that our spiritual lives depend on obedience to the law, antinomianism says that how we behave has no bearing on our spiritual lives. Paul decried this false teaching in Romans 6:1-2. Antinomianism misses the point of the law altogether. God’s laws reflect the holiness of his character. As believers, we are to obey God, but not as a means to God’s approval. Rather, we are to obey God out of the approval we have from God through Jesus Christ. Antinomianism is not good news because it rejects the basis for the gospel–God’s holy demands.
  • Prosperity Gospel. The prosperity gospel teaches that enough faith, prayers, and generosity to the right ministries will result in health, wealth, and status. Prosperity teachers emphasize the experiences of here and now as opposed to God’s eternal plans for glorification and reward. This false teaching is unfortunately spreading very rapidly in our world. The prosperity gospel is not good news because it treats God more like a genie in a bottle than the Sovereign and Holy God that he is. It also puts much more emphasis on our response than God’s character and actions.
  • Liberalism. In theological liberalism, the primary emphasis for Christians is on love and justice in the world. The social gospel and social justice are common phrases in this false gospel. Liberalism emphasizes behavior (love and justice) far more than belief because it oftentimes rejects the supernaturalism found in the biblical worldview. I want to be careful here. Christians are to show love and pursue justice. But these are not the means of the gospel. Rather, these are the characteristics of Christians living out of the gospel. Liberalism is not good news because it does not recognize the depth of human sin nor the supernatural means of God’s redemptive work.
  • Moral Therapeutic Deism. This false gospel is a fancy way of articulating much of Western Christianity’s emphasis on doing good and treating biblical characters as mere moral models. God’s primary responsibility here is to encourage Christians to be good in behavior. Moral therapeutic deism is not good news because it diminishes God’s nature and minimizes Christian experience to being “good people.” This false gospel is seductive because many Christians fall into it unknowingly when they emphasize moral behavior over the good news of the gospel.

The root of these false gospels is pride and self. The root of the true gospel is Christ and what he brings to us.

We need to be anchored in the gospel because the gospel makes much of God. The glory of the good news for us is that the only part we truly play is that we come to God as sinners. God gets the glory for our salvation. We get the privileges of forgiveness and walking with God.

We must think on these things. In his helpful book Your Mind Matters, John Stott encourages us to think on the gospel regularly.

We are to consider not only what we should be but what by God’s grace we already are. We are constantly to recall what God has done for us and say to ourselves: “God has united me with Christ in his death and resurrection, and thus obliterated my old life and given me an entirely new life in Christ. He has adopted me into his family and made me his child. He has put his Holy Spirit within me and so made my body his temple. He has also made me his heir and promised me an eternal destiny with him in heaven. This is what he has done for me and in me. This is what I am in Christ.”

John Stott, Your Mind Matters, 59.

Reread that quote. If you need to, keep reading it. It will do you good to reflect on who God is and what he has done in the gospel to bring you to himself.

Take a moment (or more than a moment) and praise God for the good news. Being anchored in the gospel requires that we think on these things often, praise God for these things regularly, preach the good news to ourselves consistently, and seek to obey God on the basis that he has made us his children.

Photo by Lucas Sankey on Unsplash