Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Grace and The Body of Christ

Christians have been taught that we need God's grace. We need God's grace to be saved (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 3:23-28; Titus 3:4-6). We also need it to live for God (2 Peter 1:3; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 3:18). But sometimes we get the idea that when we come together with other Christians to do God's work, we are on our own, and everything depends on our ability and hard work. Christ said He would build His church (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:7,8; 1 Peter 2:4,5). It is described as a body that grows and develops together (Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 2:19; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). And the work of those building one another up is rooted in God's power (Colossians 1:29; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Ephesians 3:7,8). Now God does call us to faithfulness and diligence (1 Corinthians 4:2; Colossians 1:28; 2 Timothy 4:1-4). But this is not the same as seeing the fate of the church as dependent on our labors.

This is important because if we trust in ourselves, we end up trying to convince ourselves that we are successful.  And we can try to measure this by external criteria, such as numbers, size of buildings, and impressiveness of programs, rather than real spiritual growth in the lives of people. If we convince ourselves we are successful, we can become proud, which is a dangerous spiritual state (Proverbs 16:18). We can start to believe we can do no wrong and end up being blindsided by our own weaknesses. We can start to believe anything is acceptable as long as it brings or maintains success. But if we do not succeed, we can become discouraged. If we are not leaders, we can blame whoever is in charge. While those in charge can blame the people for not being behind them. And we end up dividing the body of Christ into those who are successful and those who are not.

Now I am not saying we should never evaluate what we are doing. But I am convinced the basic thing we need to do is trust God (Psalms 127:1,2; Proverbs 3:5,6; Isaiah 31:1). And we need to be very careful about judging ourselves or others, especially based on superficial criteria (1 Corinthians 4:3-5; James 4:11,12; Romans 14:4). This means also avoiding the opposite reaction of concluding that everyone with external success must be compromised in their walk with God and only trying to please other people. There may be those who are like that (2 Timothy 4:3,4; Matthew 23:5-7; Galatians 1:10). Each case must be decided on its own merits. But there are others who God has called to a particular prominent ministry that fits our criteria for success. Rather, we should try to ask, how can we encourage and build up one another in whatever situation we are in (Hebrew 10:24,25; 12:12,13; Romans 12:15,16)? So that we might work together to accomplish what God wants to accomplish through us. And might start by trusting in Him rather than ourselves.

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