The Way from Above and the Church

I am encouraged as I am reading The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel.

It is essentially a call to weakness that lives in the power of Christ. Recognizing that so much of life is lived under power schemes that are actually unhealthy or evil.

Living the way of Jesus though is not a solitary endeavor. Here is what they say of the church, take it to heart.

Because we are prone to waywardness, prone to walk the path of pride, self-sufficiency, and power, we need the church to ground us in Christ and his way. We cannot live in Christ’s way on our own. This likely sounds right, but many of us functionally doubt our need for the church. Pursuing the way of Christ seems like a “me and Jesus” kind of endeavor. But our focus on ourselves unearths a deep foolishness that owes more to our culture and worldliness than it does to Scripture. We have no hope of pursuing the way from above apart from the church.

Passing on Passivity

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” Hebrews 2:1–4 (ESV)

One conversation I always bristle at, and have had often, goes a little something like this: “I still love Jesus and I know I am saved, but since it is all about grace I don’t NEED to study Scripture or talk to other Christians about my faith, I don’t NEED to come to church on Sundays…”

As you can imagine this conversation is usually with someone that has stopped attending the gathering of the saints, or refuses to participate in small groups, or is confounded by their lack of growth and hope when they have no “Scriptural diet.” And I get it, I feel the same pull toward passivity all the time.

But this is not what we are meant for when we respond to the glorious good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for us. We are meant to press into it not be passive about it.

Calling it mining the depths of the gospel or whatever you prefer, just dive into it and keep going. As the author of Hebrews offers, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”

That’s the danger, drifting. Assuming and eventually losing the hope you have in the justification granted by Jesus, and certainly no experience of the sanctification promised. We even lose a sense of truth as we wander distracted by the lights and voices of our world.

If you find yourself tempted in this way, take up and read, see Christ in Scripture and in the community of believers around you. Find people that will stay on the journey with you. Pay attention to the gospel because you are prone to forget it. Do everything you can to prevent drifting away. Pass on the passivity.

Necessity of Love in Fellowship

Studying this week the close of 1 Corinthians in chapter 16:12-24. Paul encourages the church to stand firm and to do everything they do in love. This is to be the community of believers, the church, local and global in love.

Martin Luther profoundly wrote how amazing this community of love can be, as our reward, in his Sacrament of the Body of Christ.

“True fellowship is divine and heavenly; it is the noblest, surpassing all the others as gold surpasses copper or lead; it is the communion of the saints, in which we all are brothers and sisters, so near to one another that greater nearness could never be conceived. For there is one baptism, one Christ, one sacrament, one meal, one gospel, one faith, one Spirit, one spiritual body, and each one is a member of the other; no other brotherhood is so deep and close.

But if you say, “Unless I get something through the fellowship, of what use is it?” The answer is, “You serve the community and other peoples as love does, and you will have your reward without any seeking or desiring it.” Love serves freely, which is why God in return also gives to it every blessing, freely and without charge. Because all things must be done in love if they are to be well-pleasing to God, the community must also be in love. Yet what is done in love can by its nature not seek its own; instead, it seeks the benefit of others, and especially the congregation. As you find your trust in Christ and his dear saints growing in strength, your certainty grows of their love toward you, and how they will stand by you in all the troubles of life and death. Therefore your love goes out to each one and you desire to help everyone, hate no one, suffer with all, and pray for all. Again, if you take to heart the shortcomings and lapses of all Christians and of the whole church or the fall of any one, and your love is given to them all, so that you would readily help anyone, hate none, sympathize with all, and pray for them, then all is well.”

Taking Time

With a collection of busy schedules and kids to corral, coming together each week for our Grace Group (church small group) can be quite the feat. But last night we did it again. One family was sick, in my family one spouse was sick, otherwise four other couples assembled around kids playing on the floor to talk about the promise of a child born to save the world and what it meant for us to be living in the promise.

We started off by singing some Christmas hymns reminding each other of the grace of Christ in song then we talked traditions of surprise and eventually we opened the Word and saw Jesus.

As I sat there, asking a few questions to keep the conversation flowing around the distractions of our kids parading through the house, I reflected on how good and right this felt. A group of people once strangers now bound by the truth we cling to. There were some tears and long pauses as we recounted the difficulties of life and sighs of relief as we declared the gospel to each other and felt what it is like to be Christ’s beloved. This is what we were meant for and it feels like home.

Over the course of the conversation, at least twice, when answering a question on what we could do as a community of believers to help each other live in the light of the promise of Christ, someone mentioned taking the time to care for and speak truth to each other. This is not something you can do overnight, it is an investment and takes sacrifice from all of us to experience it. And it hit me, we were not implementing some fast-track church growth strategy by coming together, we are building patient community. We are experiencing the value of living slow with each other.

Living slow can take on a number of forms but it generally means being present, a lot. Studying Scripture together, drinking good wine together, watching the big games (and the little ones). Living slow is taking time away from other things to be with one another; often the things we selfishly want. It is not the way of our context but it is the way of our biblical reality and it is good.

We have a long way to go. There are many moons to add to our lives together, but Jesus will be in the center of it all. There will be others added to our crew, but it will be Jesus they come for. All along the way we will continue to take the time, because we know it is right, we know it is good.

I encourage you to take some time where you are. To find gospel friends that can remind you, laugh with you, cry with you and see Jesus with you. Live it all slow. Savor it. You might find that it feels like home.