Friday, July 5, 2013

A Home Away from Home

 Family has always been important to me.  I had a close knit family growing up so when our children came along, I wanted the same type of relationship with them that I had enjoyed in my family of origin.  Moving to Florida thirty some years ago meant moving away from all of our blood relatives.  It was a challenge to live 1200 miles from the place where my husband and I grew up; however, we knew that we would find a new family which God would provide for us in church fellowship.  I clung to this scripture passage when we made the move:
     Mark 10:28-30 reads:  "28Then Peter began to say to him, See, we have left all, and have followed you. 29And Jesus answered and said, Truly I say to you, There is no man that has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, 30But he shall receive an hundred times now in this time, houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. "  We believed that The Lord had called us to make the move we did as we had diligently prayed about it for some time.  Therefore, we knew that God's provision for a new family would be ours if we kept our eyes fixed on Him.
     Through the years, we have been blessed with rich fellowship in our Christian family who have, indeed, become our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers in the faith helping us grow.  As I listened to Alistair Begg's podcast today concerning the topic of belonging to a church fellowship, I could say a hearty "Amen" to the value of such an important tie.  
     We fool ourselves when we think we can "go it alone" as a believer.  Certainly, we can worship God privately in our own homes but there is a dimension missing if we never become connected to the Body of believers locally.  There are several reasons why belonging to a local church family is important.
     When we belong to a church fellowship, we are accountable to others just as in our families.  Being close to my family, I could accept correction much easier when I stepped out of line than I could from a stranger.  This is because my family loved me enough to confront me and be honest with me.  I would do the same for them.  We had a commitment and tie to one another.  Within the bonds and covenants of church membership, we also have the privilege of being able to help one another.  There is commitment when people come together around the Word of God in the name of Jesus Christ.  God intended for us to stimulate one another and all the more as we see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25).  We can encourage each other, pray for one another, and grieve with one another.  This is what my husband and I have found in our church.  When I hear people tell me that they don't like church because it is filled with imperfect people, I would like to remind them that I doubt they have a perfect family.  Yet, they all stick together, work it out and face life together.  As long as man is alive, he/she will be dealing with the "old flesh" filled with sin, and wanting to return to old habits.  Therefore, we will never find a perfect church or a perfect family.  But God tells us it is for our benefit that we join together in the Body of believers.
     Another reason why belonging to a church is important is to hear the Word of God preached, the sacraments given for our grace and comfort and the opportunity to serve.  Being a "Lone Ranger" Christian hearing the Word preached on T.V., internet or other source is no substitute for being there in a group of fellow believers where we can stimulate, discuss and look up God's Word.  Jesus described Himself as "the Bread of Life".  Feeding on Him in solitary does not satisfy the spiritual hunger we have as intensely as it does when we worship together.   The Lord's Supper is meant to be served in community.  It is a means of God's grace to us that we can break bread together.  I can testify that having a meal by myself is far less satisfying to my taste buds than when I can sit down with my husband or children and discuss the day's events.  Finally, a big plus to belonging to a church is the opportunity we have to serve one another.   Where else can we utilize the gifts which God has given to us?  The Body of believers is a safe haven for growing up in Christ, and learning to use our gifts according to God's plan.  In our natural families, we are able to try our wings, and when we belong to a church family, we can do the same thing.
     Within the nucleus of the birth family, our character develops with guidance, discipline and love.  The same is true when we unite with a church and pledge our commitment  There is safety in the sheepfold where a pastor looks out for his flock to drive false teaching away along with those who would try to steal the sheep.  God has provided for us a "safe house" or a "home away from home" for us while we walk on this earth and its name is "The Church".  Left on our own, it is so easy to be swayed by every wind of doctrine and become unstable in our faith.
     While family of any stripe (spiritual or natural) can be a challenge, these fellowships offer us a blueprint for living and a safety net of love.  It is a gift given by a loving Father to care for His children until they return to their heavenly home to live in His presence forever.  We need to pray for our church, our leaders, our pastors that they may be guided by the Lord as they keep watch for the safety and nourishment of their sheep.  Likewise, let us strive to be faithful members encouraging one another daily in the Lord.  Selah!

What is unique about your church fellowship?  How has God used it in your life?  I welcome your thoughts and insights.

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