Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sanctified - together

There is a necessary tension in presenting truth with grace. Truth is of the deepest necessity, but presented absent grace, it brings condemnation. Grace is a deeply felt need, but grace absent truth brings stagnation.

In this tension can be found nearly all of the difficulty in presenting the gospel, especially to those who are hurting. We must pour out our love upon the lost - dreadfully aware of our own need for Christ and His supremacy, and dreadfully aware of their need for Him - by speaking the truth. It is essential that the sinner hear of his sin and need, that he be made fully aware of his own depravity. Yet to do this, even to do this and present hope, without pouring love into the life of a person, is to push them away from the gospel. All too often, we assume that merely speaking the truth is enough to bring someone to Christ.

And certainly God may use this kind of witness. But His delight is in a witness that is demonstrated. We know God's love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, at the perfect time, Christ died for the ungodly - you and me. And the world will know Christ's love for them when we choose to die to ourselves and live for Christ: for living for Christ will of necessity mean living for others.

This is an area I struggle with. I love truth. I love right doctrine and practice. I love people seeing God as He truly is. Because of this, I can be harsh, rough, even cold in the way I treat people when discussing points I'm passionate about. And in this, God is teaching me, softening me, gentling me, growing me.

This is one of many reasons we are given each other in the body of Christ. Because without that, it would be far more difficult for me to grow in this were I without faithful friends who regularly correct me when I stray out of line. Moreover, it is where I find those who are far better at gentleness and respect than I - where I can learn by watching those more mature in this, where I can be taught how to walk aright in this.

And from all of that is born a greater presentation of the glory of Christ to this dark and dying world. We are not given the body merely for each other - but because in serving one another and helping one another and teaching one another, we reflect the very nature of God. We reflect fellowship in a way that we never could alone, and God by His nature is never alone: for He is ever in perfect loving communion and fellowship with Himself.

The Church is not for you, nor for me: it is first and foremost for Christ, and it is for us together, not you and me apart. And how glorious this Bride will be when presented to her King that day: her stains washed away by His blood, her skin made clear and beautiful by His sanctifying grace, so that she at last reflects His glory perfectly: not completely (for such is impossible) but perfectly: without blot or blemish, without any distraction, without any idolatry.

Unity, communion, intimacy: the God of all dwelling Himself among us and making us like Him in ways beyond merely cleansing us of sin - making us like Him together, corporately, not merely as individuals. This is a marvelous thing indeed, and it is unique. In no other religion is the call to both diversity and unity: either they call for people to lose themselves in the whole, or to seize their own identity all the more strongly. Only in Christ do we find a call to become our individual selves more perfectly by becoming part of the whole (the Church) more perfectly, simultaneously and in an indescribably intermingled process.

We are sanctified corporately, not individually. It is for this reason that we dare not forsake the gathering together, for this reason that we ought to delight in each others' presence, even when our relationships are difficult. It is for this purpose that God brings us into the specific places of fellowship that He does. And in all of this, He is being greatly glorified and magnified.

Praise Him, O you peoples! Together make Him of great renown, lift up His praise to the heavens, raise your voices high!

- Chris

1 comment:

  1. Very timely word for me tonight. Thank you for sharing it.

    Love you!


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