Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12 He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13 And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14 Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. 16 Under his control, all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love. Ephesians 4:11-16 (TEV)
1 There are many Christians who are persuaded that the Redemption will be completed in all environments of the world, and that there have to be some souls—they do not know which ones—who will contribute to carrying it out with Christ. But they think it will take centuries, many centuries. It would be an eternity, if it were to take place at the rate of their self-giving. That was the way you yourself thought, until someone came to “wake you up”.
The first office, that of the ministry of the Word, therefore, is common to all Christians. This is clear, from what I have already said, and from 1 Pet. 2[:9], “You are a royal priesthood that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” I ask, who are these who are called out of darkness into marvelous light? Is it only the shorn and anointed masks? Is it not all Christians? And Peter not only gives them the right, but the command, to declare the wonderful deeds of God, which certainly is nothing else than to preach the Word of God. But some11 imagine a twofold priesthood, one spiritual and common to all, the other external and limited, and say that Peter here speaks of the spiritual one. But what is the function of this limited and external office? Is it not to declare the wonderful deeds of God? But this Peter enjoins on the spiritual and universal priesthood. In truth these blasphemers have another, external, ministry in which they declare, not the wonderful deeds of God, but their own and the pope’s impious deeds. So, as there is no other proclamation in the ministry of the Word than that which is common to all, that of the wonderful deed of God, so there is no other priesthood[i]
In the ancient creeds, the church is described as “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” But how often do we look at what those words mean?
One, the church is a unit, a body, whose mind must be Christ’s mind. Whose work, whether it is hands or feet, mouth or ears, eyes, whatever part, works based from HIs lead. (As we heard yesterday – He is the cornerstone of this body, to which all are joined and measured)
Holy, the church is to be holy, which means to be set apart for a special purpose, one that is sacred. To be holy means to be embraced by God, and to embrace Him. To cry out for a deeper taste of which we see a small portion of in our salvation. We are to walk (together) with God.
Catholic, the church is to be the church of all people, in all places, throughout history. When this was written there wasn’t the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and the myriad of Protestant bodies out there, there was simply the people of God, united by Christ’s blood across georgraphy, across time. We have a tendency in our fractured body to turn on ourselves, to devour those we think threaten us, rather than love and pray for each other. We tend to cast those out who, like us, struggle in our faith.
Apostolic, the church seems to forget this, despite the words of Escriva and Luther. Some want the pastors and priests to do all the work (and then only those on the front line on the mission field) Others think that only the pastors and priests can do this work. Some don’t even bother with this, thinking that somehow, magically, the kingdom of God will grow into its fullness, without our growing into our fullness as those sent by God to change the world.
Not to make it heaven on earth, but to bring about the change that occurs as people know the love of God for them. As they start to explore that love as the Holy Spirit transforms them. This is the life of the church, not matter the label, no matter the location, no matter whether it is 20 people or 20,000. meeting together.
We have been sent by God, we have been given work to do, work that requires us to love people, not just on Sunday morning, but throughout the week. To love those who are friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, enemies, adversaries and even those who are a pain in the ass.
No one retires from this, no exceptions, we are a holy priesthood. This is our identiy as the people of God.
Time to wake up and serve those in need of God’s love.
But remember – God goes with you through it all!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 242-245). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
11 For example, Jerome Emser. WA 8, 247.
devotional/discussion thought of the day:
22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
James 2:22-24 (NLT)
7 This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how extraordinarily rich he is in grace. 8 Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9 not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:7-10 (NJB)
It was one of the cries of the men who tried to reform, to re-focus the Catholic Church. Faith Alone, Sola Fide in Latin. It is still the point of contention between the Roman Catholic Church and a few of the protestant denominations. Even as I pray that the Church would be visibly one, hole, catholic, and apostolic; I struggle to see that this issue would be ever resolved.
There is a twist to this issue now, one that might be distinctly American, or perhaps it simply originated here. It cuts across all of the church, and it may be more destructive than anything the Great Schism or Reformation/Counter Reformation has spawned.
It is the addition of the little pronoun “my” to either “saved by faith”, or “saved by faith alone”. To add that skirts the border of heresy, and it bows to the idol of narcissus. It puts the glory and the credit for salvation, not in the God in whom we trust, but in the “me”. As if in some way, faith originated in me, by my own reason, by my own intellectual/spiritual/holy prowess.
Perhaps this is why we take every attack on Christianity so personally, as if ISIS, or the atheists, or whomever, is attacking us directly. Perhaps it is why we avoid martyrdom and suffering, instead finding our shields up, our notions of self defense well exercised. It is why we can justify missing church, despite what scripture says, because after all, this religion, this belief, this faith is mine. Such a personal faith focuses on our knowledge, or our work, on what we have gained or achieved. It can then grow into Gnosticism, or Agnosticism, for as long as faith is “my faith”, as long as it focuses one me, it will lead to emptiness, and more searching out for that arcane bit of knowledge that will justify me. At least it will justify me in my own sight.
Which is what really matters today, at least in the our own view.
Self-righteousness, self-justification, as if in “my faith” it is also “my judgement” that needs to be appeased.
I mentioned that this idea borders on heresy, but I didn’t say which side of the border. It is across the border, I believe, from both historic Catholic and Protestant perspectives. Because it ignites that faith is more than a doctrinal statement, more than a set of core beliefs. It is more than knowledge.
For you can’t have faith without having faith “in” someone/something. It is a verb, not a noun, and it requires an object. Going back to the Latin, we see the root of the word “confidence” (that is with faith) My confidence doesn’t save me, it is that we have confidence in the love and mercy of Christ which saves us. Not the confidence, but the love and mercy is what saves us. We see this in the Creeds, the “I believe IN”, I have faith IN”. Faith is simply the reception, the trust, the dependence upon the God who is revealed to us, revealed to be working in/on/upon and through us. That faith, trust, dependence radically changes us, not just how we think bu how we live. For that transformation is the promise.
That is why faith can never be “my” faith, it must focus on the object, the Lord whom we trust in to do what He promised, to do what He has done. To have faith in God means we abide in Him, we find refuge in Him, we recognize His work in making us His children, His people.
He has had mercy, He loves. Trust Him, have faith in Him, and know He saves you!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return? 8 I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost. 9 And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be. 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 (NLT)
212 Hominem non habeo— I have no one to help me. This—unfortunately!— could be said by many who are spiritually sick and paralytic, who could be useful— and should be useful. Lord: may I never remain indifferent to souls.
Last night in our Bible Study, we talked a great deal about the verses that are listed above. It was a pretty stimulating conversation, and it had me thinking last night, and this morning while I worked out, and into writing this blog today. Recent conversations about the church here in the USA as compared to what we consider the mission field, also entered the thoughts. So to the talks about the rise of both denominationalism and congregationalism that I’ve given in the course I am teaching presently.
The conversation last night wasn’t about the church in Corinth and the issues where Paul had to correct their errant thoughts. Instead the conversation ended up focusing on the sacrificial attitude of those churches, and that of Paul himself. Because they gave, not of their abundance, but rather before they thought of their own needs. To help another congregation, another “church”. But why? The Corinthians had everything in abundance, they had more money, more “names” (look at the discussion about all the ministers that had worked there!) The churches that gave? They had little.
But they still gave, that others could minister to the church in Corinth.
Because of the gospel, because of the love of God was the answer, after a couple of moments of thought. Because they saw a brother in need, and knew the power of the gospel and the change it would make in the life of the Corinthians. That the church in Corinth needed Paul more than they did, and they saw that need and met it. Even though it meant they would do without. Paul would go on his journeys, knowing that he could be beaten and tortured and eventually would be killed.
For the sake of the church. That people would know the joy of God’s presence, the exhilaration that comes from knowing you are loved.
Corinth needed that, they needed to know God in the way the other churches did. Those churches who didn’t see the church as their congregation, but considered the church as those who make up the entire family of God. That is why they could sacrifice for people they didn’t know, That is why they would respond to meet Paul’s needs, knowing the effect of Paul’s ministry there. Knowing how Paul taught them, as he wrote to the church in Ephesus,
3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)
Let’s face it – denominationalism and congregationalism are “isms”, (no matter how they are justified by other titles, like brotherhood, association, the label – “non-denom” or my own group’s “synod”) Although often started with a major issue, rather than resolve it, we just get comfortable in our “group” and shut out others. When we get comfortable there, when we use our separation to justify our in-action, our hoarding of our own gifts and talents and abilities, Please don’t get me wrong – there are times where, because of the gospel, because of those who would pervert the grace, mercy, and peace of Christ – there is a separation. But to allow that separation to become the status quo, to isolate ourselves into smaller and smaller groups, behind this leader or that, is wrong.
Last night, we primarily talked about this, not in view of denominatalism, but in terms of congregational autonomy. We aren’t separate from our sister churches in the area, we need to work together, even if it begins with only us. To work with those we are in fellowship with, to work with those who will work beside us, to test doors to see if they are open. To pray for the doors that are slammed in our face, grieving over them.
TO see the church, not as just our congregation, but as His one, holy, catholic (universal/united) apostolic (misisonal) Church.
And to plan or prioritize and work with the spread of Christ’s saving us from sin, and making us holy as the core of what we do.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1095-1098). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.