Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Church is Not an Option

Many are the times I've heard someone say something to the effect of "I don't need to be part of a church. The forest [or mountain or beach or prairie] is my sanctuary. I can worship God wherever I am."

True enough...if we just consider the last sentence. But if we are to worship God "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24)  -  with our hearts, yes, but also rightly/Scripturally  -  we cannot do it completely on our own.

And I'm not just talking about checking off church membership on a list of required duties. There's something in it for us besides just keeping a rule or obeying a command. In The Normal Christian Life, Watchman Nee writes about the personal benefit of being a Christian as part of a larger group.

Romans 12:3-6 draws from the figure of the human body the lesson of our inter-dependence. Individual Christians are not the Body. They are its members, and in a human body "all the members have not the same office". The ear must not imagine itself to be an eye. No amount of prayer will give sight to the ear  -  but the whole body can see through the eye. So (speaking figuratively) I may have only the gift of hearing, but I can see through others who have the gift of sight; or, perhaps I can walk but cannot work, so I receive help from the hands. An all-too-common attitude to the things of the Lord is that, "What I know, I know; and what I don't know, I don't know, and can do quite well without." But in Christ, the things we do not know others do, and we may know them and enter into the enjoyment of them through others.

Let me stress that this is not just a comfortable thought. It is a vital factor in the life of God's people. We cannot get along without one another. That is why fellowship in prayer is so important. Prayer together brings in the help of the Body, as must be clear from Matthew 18:19-20. Trusting the Lord by myself may not be enough. I must trust Him with others. I must learn to pray "Our Father..." on the basis of oneness with the Body, for without the help of the Body I cannot get through. In the sphere of service this is even more apparent. Alone I cannot serve the Lord effectively, and He will spare no pains to teach me this. He will bring things to an end, allowing doors to close and leaving me ineffectively knocking my head against a blank wall until I realize that I need the help of the Body as well as of the Lord. For the life of Christ is the life of the Body, and His gifts are given to us for work that builds up the Body.

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Truth is...we are all individuals, and God certainly saves each person, not just a faceless group of people. But the New Testament tells us nothing about such a thing as a Lone Ranger Christian. As Nee puts it: "God does not blame me for being an individual, but for my individualism. His greatest problem is not the outward divisions and denominations that divide His Church but our own individualistic hearts."

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