The Church Being the Church

I witnessed something soberingly peculiar this past Lord’s Day.  A young woman who had been attending the same local church as Jenny and me was baptized.  But this was no ordinary baptism.  This of course needs qualification: no baptism is “ordinary”, but extraordinary testimonies of the work of God in saving sinner’s, an extraordinary declaration by Christ and His church concerning the status of the person baptized – of course baptism refers to the declaration, not the status before God.  Moreover, every conversion and every baptism is equally glorious – we simply have diverse testimonies of God’s redemptive work.  So, by no ordinary baptism I mean to say no ordinary testimony prior to the “dunking”. 

The testimony itself was a wonder of sin, grace, and mercy, and long-suffering.  This girl was in seminary this semester.  She had spent her life as a pastor’s daughter in churches where inauthenticity and hypocrisy reigned, and served to convince her all the more that whatever it was that was operative in these churches was the farthest thing away from the real deal.  I affirmed with a silent “Amen.”  She had also travelled in her studies and spent much time in Israel learning the likes of the biblical Hebrew language.  It was in pursuit of an advancement in this that she ended up in seminary.  While in Israel she had adopted a “more Jewish” approach to soteriology, that is, more merit based, which for her included cutting and asceticism. 

Attending our church had made matters worse.  And this is perhaps the aspect that was so sobering: when she walked through the doors of this church, mingled in this fellowship, kept a close watch on the members of this body, examined quite clearly a true authenticity amongst the people, one faith, one love, one Lord in our fellowship, a wise, discerning, biblical people who love the Bible, and love God and one another, and when she listened to the word of God, the gospel, heralded with compassion, passion, boldness, and sincerity – and the congregation would urge our preacher’s to continue in their exposition rather than sell short, she was miraculously converted. 

This, I say, was sobering for me, because it was the first time in my life that I had witnessed the power of a biblically ideal local church.  This, of course, is how the church should be in its life and character and mission.  If we love one another, the world is giving a witness to the saving power of the gospel.  They actually wonder, “What is this that I sense only here?”  Sadly, the majority of churches are not of this makeup.  This is not to discourage pastors in such situations, but rather to encourage them in their endeavors, to declare clearly that this can happen.  It was the beauty of the church being the church that led this person to conversion in Christ.  It is my solemn hope that this shall be a daily addition; that any church that I would be actively involved with would bear the same marks of our local church right now – the marks of a biblical church.  I can affirm with full assurance, now, that God has so ordained the identity and marks of the church in Scripture, that our obedience and energy towards these things in the strength of His word and Spirit, will produce a kind of body that impacts the world, and in this case, a young woman, directing them by our love for one another to Christ.  May God receive the glory in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

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2 Responses

  1. It is an awesome thing to see a body truly firing on all the cylinders that the church was meant to run on. Unfortunately, i have never served in such a place, and like you said, most churches are not like yours. So the question is: how do you transform a church set in her ways like an old man in a hot bath who doesn’t want to move an inch? More and more, i am learning that to do so takes nothing short of a work of the Lord coupled with prayer, commitment, strife, persecution, and time. Satan loves to hold onto that which he already has…which is why it takes the stronger arm of Jesus to bring back what is His. But it seems in the case of re-taking a church for Christ, the strong arm often does not move as quickly as those He is working through wishes. Where Christ can and does save those who are His flock in a moments time, it seems like to re-take a body takes much more time and effort. So…what is the first step in this process? Your thoughts?

  2. You douse the old man with ice cold water so that he instinctively moves and is awakened. The vibrancy of that water is, although simple sounding, is love. Love moves people; and a love that is grounded in the saving graces of God in Christ is particularly fresh and cleansing. By a true love, a true comfort and concern, a true motivation to listen first, and repeatedly at that, will come true conformity to Christ. For then, and sometimes only then, will that person begin to see that you (and Christ in you) have a genuine concern for their soul, and for their lives. Christian love (Christ-like love) is not easy; it is brought to demonstration by suffering, cost, and crucifixion, but it is also a delight, for it – in its end – is the expression of obedience to, love for, and knowledge of God. Thus, though it may pain the impatient minister, love, real love that emanates from the soul set ablaze by the word and Spirit of God serves to open the heart of the closed, soften the mind of the hardened, and loose the chains of unbiblical traditionalism. By this loving patience, this side by side care, will the traditionalist become more and more accommodating to the word of Christ and His gospel, and the changes that take place on that battle front. If he then does not hear the voice of Christ, the evidence of that he is not of Christ’s sheep; discipline with restoration in mind, then, becomes the means of determination.

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