– Pastor Brandon’s article from the November 2015 Newsletter
Each week, all over the world, followers of Jesus gather. They come from many different locations, cultures and back-grounds, and yet they unite under the glorious name of Jesus. They gather to worship God almighty, to learn his way of life, and to encourage one another. There is something powerful that happens during this recurring display of love: God shows up and dwells among his people by his Spirit. Jesus himself said, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them.”
Yet, at times we can turn this incredible gathering into the dull and mundane. We sing a few songs, listen to a teaching, check off “church” on the to-do list for the week. It can be easy to go through the motions each week or easier still to skip the routine altogether and in doing so miss this powerful expression of the presence of God.
Take a look at Paul’s words to the Ephesians:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to under-stand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. (Ephesians 3:1-13)
As Paul describes his ministry to the Gentiles, we learn several important truths about the church. First, we see that the church is a unified body of believers from all walks of life. God didn’t just set out to save one kind of people. In the church, God has brought together both Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free. God does not show favoritism; everyone is invited to share together in the promises of Christ Jesus. He offers salvation and eternal life to all who believe in Jesus regardless of our backgrounds. He wants all of us know the riches of his love. Our weekly gatherings are not about an “in” group and an “out” group or an “us vs. them” mentality. Every member of the body of Christ is important, and each has a part to play if this body is to grow the way that God intends.
Second, we see that the church was part of God’s plan all along. Church is not just something to occupy us until Christ returns. The church was established as part of God’s eternal purpose. From the beginning God knew that humanity would need to be redeemed from sin and death. He set in motion his plan of redemption through the work of Jesus Christ. And now, through the church, God is proclaiming his salvation to the world. He has made us his ambassadors and he makes his appeal through us. We, as the body of Christ, share his love with those who desperately need his life.
The passage goes on to say that in the church, the riches of God’s wisdom are on display to the angelic authorities and rulers of the spiritual realm. In other words, the heavenly host is marveling at God’s glory in you, the body of Christ. Wow! The angels are amazed at what happens when we gather. How’s that for some perspective on our weekly get together. Our meetings are of great consequence in the heavenly realms. Let’s act like it.
God has a special purpose for his church on this earth. Here we have the mingling of the creature and the Creator, the human and the Divine. It is in and through the church that the maker of the universe chooses to manifest his presence. Therefore, we can come together and approach God with freedom and confidence. We can know that he longs to meet with us, that he longs to show us his love in and through this community we call “the church”. We can have confidence that he will be with us for he has promised that when we gather, he will be in our midst. I don’t want to miss this.
I don’t come to church because it’s my job. I don’t come out of duty or obligation. I come because this is where I experience the presence of Christ in a unique and powerful way. I see God at work here, and I encounter his love through his Spirit and through his people. I am encouraged by my brothers and sisters in the faith, and I am thankful for you and the ways that God uses you each week in our local fellowship.
To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:21)