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Four Spiritual Knee Bends in Church Relationships

A Chicago pastor from a couple generations ago, A.W. Tozer, keenly said: “‘Need’ is a creature word and cannot be spoken of the Creator.” This is so true. God doesn’t need anything (Acts 17:25). But in his humbled estate, Jesus, the God-man, needed his disciples in one of his darkest hours: the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus needed Simon to finish carrying his cross up to Golgotha (Matthew 27:32). If Jesus had need, how much more so do we!

First, we often take for granted that we need Christ. Without him we can’t do anything (John 15:5). Not only do we need Christ to come through every day on waking us up, keeping our limbs moving and lungs full of air, holding up the world and keeping the laws of the universe in force (Hebrews 1:3), but we also need him to survive and grow spiritually. Ways that we need Christ are demonstrated when we take advantage of what’s been called the “ordinary” means of grace: the Scriptures, prayer, communion and fellowship of the saints. But, I want to drill down further on that last one.

Second, one of the ways that we show our need of Christ is by our humble dependence on others. Doesn’t sound too American, right? The Gospel’s call demands that we humble ourselves agreeing with God about our sin and taking his only sufficient solution in his Son, Jesus. That’s not just a one-time thing. This kind of forever humbling starts a process that kills pride and opens us up to the spiritual potential of our brothers and sisters. That’s the way Christian family was designed. Here are four kind of “knee bends” in humbling ourselves to get help from each other:

  1. We need each other’s gifts (1 Corinthians 12). We can’t all be the same. Sometimes it easier to see the gifts of others than our own. Start serving in the church. Ask help identifying what your spiritual gifting is. When others use their gifts effectively whether for the whole church or towards you in particular, accept it and rejoice!
  2. We need each other’s rebuke (Hebrews 3:12-15). There’s no such thing as “Lone Ranger” Christianity. Isolation is a killer. When you’re isolated, you have no one to catch your blind spots. When you’re sinning, you don’t have someone else to tell you how they see it and walk with you out of the sin and into the light. Our hearts are wily, and we need others to do the tough love thing and tell us when we’re straying. Let people into your life to not only encourage you but also tell you what’s hard to hear.
  3. We need each other’s love (1 Peter 4:8) for forgiveness and walking in the light. Christianity is Christ, and Christ is love. No love is a useless, impotent Christianity. We need contexts to practice loving each other; not just on Sundays. If you try it, you’ll offend, yes. You’ll step on toes, sure. But love will cover the multitude of our sins. Mash it up, folks!
  4. We need each other’s help. And, here’s where I’d like to let you consider another Christian’s experience. Laura Denny preaches to herself (and us!) in her recent blog post on The Gift of Accepting Help. If you’re the kind that likes to help others yet has a hard time receiving help, then, click on her very practical article.

 Some people may initially be drawn to a church for solid, expositional preaching, but is the mere consuming of good preaching sufficient for spiritual vitality? No. Only showing up to your family meals 2-3 times a day no matter how yummy they are and disappearing right after as a pattern of action for 18 years (is,  yes, unrealistic but) would be unconscionable. But we do this with our church sometimes. We come get the good spiritual “fillin’ up” and then fail to relate with our brothers and sisters during the week around the Word and in other general life rhythms and meaningful touch-points. A Gospel-rich life embraces weakness, and weakness means help. Say no to your pride and ‘yes’ to your brothers and sisters in the church body more often. You’ll be glad you did. And so will they.

Posted by Will Pareja with
in Church

Please Don't Decapitate Jesus!

(as if you really could)

 Have you ever heard someone say: “Jesus I like. It’s just his followers I don’t care for”? Though painful, it’s actually quite understandable coming from someone who doesn’t at all profess faith in Christ. But what should be more disturbing is when a professing Christian uses the line and agrees with it.

How horrific would it be if you attended a wedding where a nicely adorned table proceeded down the center aisle carrying a beautiful bride’s head! With as many wacky things happening in the name of marriage these days (like people attempting to marry themselves, their pets or multiple people), this can’t be far away. And as grotesque as it is to imagine, this is what some professing Christians are supposedly marrying— a bodyless Jesus. It’s that Christian-in-name-only who claims not to need a church in order to have a relationship with Jesus, the Church’s eternal Groom or “Head” of the body. They feel better off without any church affiliation. Granted, churches can be messed up places by virtue of the sinners that comprise them. But all other reasons aside, it’s a serious spiritual condition. It’s a false assurance.

Jesus doesn’t merely exist as perfect Head to be admired. He comes with a body, and that body is the true Church everywhere over all time and displayed in local gatherings of Spirit-regenerated people. To separate Jesus from his body, the Church, really is to have no Jesus at all. Because you can’t belong to Jesus without belonging to his Body. The New Testament doesn’t know of such a thing. Either your experience of Jesus and his church needs major re-constructive surgery, or you may need to be regenerated and united for the first time—for real—to Christ. Because, to be united to Christ in salvation is to be united to his Body. There’s no such thing as a decapitated Jesus.

 There may be times when you don’t feel close to Jesus, but if you’re not closely connected to a Gospel-centered church, what are you going to do? Comfort yourself with clichés or post Christian memes on social media? There are many more solid and objective reasons to be a member of a local church, but for this exact reason of not feeling his presence is WHY you need to keep tight to a local body of believers. So, stop floating around from one church to the next. Stop talking about Jesus, and throw paint on your invisible man by coming into a local church and staying. It’ll be the best thing that happens to your sin, and the best thing for your wedded life to Christ.

Posted by Will Pareja with