Let’s Get Together, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! – Organizations, Denominations, and Congregations, Oh My! - Purity 719
Purity 719 04/30/2022 Purity 719 Podcast
Today’s photo of, what I believe to be, an early morning sunrise over a farm somewhere along the way on my wife’s morning commute to work comes to us from my phone’s photo archives as I saved it back April 12th, and as of this morning its origin is still in question as I have absolutely no degree of certainty that a. it was taken and shared by my wife or comes from some other friend or b. it is a photo of a sunrise or a sunset!
No, I think that’s a sunset, right? Yeah. Whatever. Whether it’s a sunrise or a sunset, I share it because of it’s natural beauty and I love how the clouds are above the sun forming a triangular heavenly “teepee” that encapsulates the sky and has the sun as a base fire.
This heavenly tabernacle, or tent of meeting, reminds me of two things.
Because I am currently at my countryside home enjoying the company of my beloved wedded wife, it reminds me of the ideal Christian marriage, where husband and wife are gathered together with God as their focal point of worship, purpose, and direction, as the Lord is the One who establishes the standards of their marriage covenant.
When a husband and wife are equally seeking the Lord and His will for their individual lives and agree to obey the commandments that the Lord puts forth in His word for husbands and wives, they naturally will draw closer together and have peace and harmony, as each party will seek to love and serve the other as an expression of, not only their love for one another, but as an expression of their love and obedience to the Lord, and as a confirmation of their individual identity in Christ.
Did you know being a good husband or wife was a spiritual practice? It is, and if you are married, your role as a husband and wife isn’t just a duty it’s part of your identity and purpose in Christ.
The second thing that today’s photo, and what I see to be a heavenly tabernacle, reminds me of is the church, that body of Christ, that often meets in buildings with steeples that literally point to the heavens and usually have a cross at the top to remind people of Christ’s sacrifice and to encourage people to put their faith in Him.
This morning I have a whole mash up melody of musical theatre and theatrical moments in my mind as the consideration of today’s photo, marriage, and the church have bounced around my mind as I reflect on my faith walk, things happening in my life right now, and the mystery of how the “church” and individual “come together” has my thoughts spinning as I consider the paradoxes and expectations of a life of Christian discipleship.
In considering, the individual and the “church” a whole cavalcade of questions and concerns regarding the various aspects at play in that dynamic came to the fore front of my mind.
In regards to the church, different types of buildings, forms of worship, traditions, and denominations are all out there for us to choose from. What the “church” means to one person can be completely different to someone else. Just a few options for your church include:
· Steeple or no steeple,
· conservative or liberal,
· Bible only or Bible and church tradition,
· Liturgical verses Non-liturgical,
· Pipe organ, choirs, or contemporary worship music,
· Women preachers or no women preachers,
· Denomination or non-denominational
· Gifts of the Spirit or not so much
Just these options alone can make your head spin and are a perfect reason for the unbelieving masses to question the Christian faith.
But I would challenge those who would say that agreeing to become a Christian means a loss of freedom, because obviously with all the possible combinations of these variables, there is actually great freedom in how one decides to worship as a Christian that can accommodate your personal convictions and preferences.
And that is what it comes down to right? It comes down to your personal relationship with the Lord and how you choose to worship the Lord.
As individuals endowed with the freedom to choose what we believe and what we do, as much as we may like to rely on “the church” to determine our life of faith, it really is our decision and how we will express our life of faith that will determine the relationship we have with the Lord.
As I considered the idea of coming together as a body of believers I thought of the old Hayley Mills Song “Let’s Get Together” from Disney’s the Parent Trap that says:
‘Let's get together, yeah yeah yeah
Think of all that we could sha-are
Let's get together everyday
Every way and everywhere
And though we haven't got a lot
We could be sharin' all we've got
Let’s get together, as the body of Christ, as a body of believers, think of all that we could sha-are, right? Coming together to support one another in our faith with common traditions and forms of worship is a good thing but I have to be honest when I say that sometimes our expectations of what we will receive from membership with a church can be challenged as our interactions may be less than ideal, or loving as we hoped for, as people will invariably disappoint one another from time to time and if we aren’t growing in our practice of forgiveness and cultivating the fruit of patience, we could easily become offended or disillusioned at some of the things that can happen in a church.
When I thought of that Hayley Mills song, for the life of me, I thought the lyrics said somewhere “Let’s get together, yeah, yeah, yeah, we could have lots of fun.” But they don’t, and just like how I could be wrong about how I thought I had a perfect old pop culture reference from my memories to poke fun at our gatherings as a church, our expectation for a perfect church family where we can be completely fulfilled and satisfied in our walk of faith could also misguided and incorrect.
Expecting others to bless us or to give us what we need in terms of our relationship with God is a tall order for anyone to fulfill and reveals a misunderstanding of our faith. Expecting another person, a member of clergy, a pastor, elder, or friend – or a whole collection of others, that corporate body of believers, gathered together in unity, to provide you with satisfaction and purpose reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what our faith is: a personal relationship with God.
So yes, we should follow a spiritual leader for regular sessions of worship, and we should join a corporate body of believers to support and encourage one another in our faith, but we can’t expect that leader or our brothers and sisters in Christ to establish and maintain our personal relationship with the Lord.
So yes, there are many options of how we can worship the Lord in a corporate setting, and it may be a little scary to contemplate: Organizations, denominations, and congregations, OH MY! But we should humble ourselves and choose one, where the word of God is preached, and where we can worship and serve the Lord faithfully.
But we shouldn’t expect our membership in that church to completely fulfill our relationship with God. To be honest, we can’t have a true personal relationship with God through these means. Sure we can worship and serve the Lord there but think about your relationship with God like it was a relationship with your spouse.
Expecting your relationship with God to be complete through your local church alone, is like deciding to have a relationship with your wife through her father.
I love my wife TammyLyn and I want a personal relationship with her. Now her father, Cliff, has known TammyLyn all of her life. He loves her and knows a lot about her. I could go to Cliff and learn many things about TammyLyn and together we could give thanks and praise her at Cliff’s house. We could even agree to get together once a week to remember the things TammyLyn has said and done in her life and to declare our love for her. Through this process, I could learn about TammyLyn and grow in my love for TammyLyn. I could even ask Cliff to tell his daughter that I love her for me.
But would this process, of loving my wife though her father, at his house, be the best way to be in a personal relationship with TammyLyn? Wouldn’t it be better for me to establish and maintain a relationship with TammyLyn by myself, without an outside party to bring us together, without a formal structure, that takes place once a week, to show her my love? Shouldn’t I talk to TammyLyn directly?
Of course, I should.
And likewise, our relationship with God was never intended to operate solely through a service of an ordained minister or even through the corporate gathering of a like minded body of believers. Our relationship with God can include these things but to really receive His love and express our love for Him, we need to go to Him directly.
So start today or keep walking and talking with God. The mystery of our faith and our purpose in Christ can be unraveled as long as we seek God’s presence in our lives and ask Him to guide us to where we should go, continually.
Although I may have felt nervous and uncomfortable in my initial attempts to talk to TammyLyn, and believe me I was, it was easier with time, as we got to know one another, and we understood that we loved one another.
Just so you know, God loves you. He sent Jesus to earth to show us how much He wanted to be with you. He revealed the truth of the gospel to forgive you, to heal you, and to live with you forever. So no matter how uncomfortable or nervous you may be about “talking to God” or “in prayer”, remember that the Lord has already accepted you and He wants your love for Him to increase and for your personal relationship to grow.
So let the Lord know that you appreciate what He has done and that you don’t want just to see Him once a week at church. Tell Him you aren’t really sure how this works but that you want to know Him more and to be with Him every day.
Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.
This morning’s meditation verse is:
15 The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.
Today’s Bible verse reminds us of the exalted status of the Lord Almighty but also shows that He is love because He restores the broken when they are humbly come to Him in repentance.
The Lord is high and lifted up! The heavenly realm is “who knows where”. I have actually seen Christian teachings that utilized astronomy and scripture to show how the positioning of various stars coupled with certain Bible verses lead the presenter to believe that heaven was somewhere in the “north of the universe”. Apparently others were more specific and theorized that heaven is located in the star cluster Pleiades!
I will just let that go because I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter where heaven might be located because no matter where it is I am assured that those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and who die before His return to earth are guaranteed to find it someday.
As good as it is to know that Christians will never really die because to be absent with the body is to be present with the Lord, it is also very good to know that God is present with us in the here in now through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and through the utilization of the wisdom of the word of God. God is with us!
And as today’s verse indicates although He is “in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble”, He is also willing to “restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those” who come to Him “with repentant hearts”.
God will restore us and will give us courage when we turn from our sins and choose to live according to His wisdom and ways.
Our relationship with the Lord God Almighty who is high and lifted up, is happening here on earth and we get to experience the joy of being restored, strengthened, and empowered when we choose to follow His will and His purpose for our lives.
As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.
Today we continue sharing from John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life”.
As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase John Pipers’ books for your own private study and to support his work. This resource is available on many websites for less than $5.00.
I Live for Your Progress and Joy in Faith
To see this we need a definition of faith. Ordinarily faith would mean trust or confidence you put in someone who has given good evidence of his reliability and willingness and ability to provide what you need. But when Jesus Christ is the object of faith there is a twist. He himself is what we need. If we only trust Christ to give us gifts and not himself as the all-satisfying gift, then we do not trust him in a way that honors him as our treasure. We simply honor the gifts. They are what we really want, not him. So biblical faith in Jesus must mean that we trust him to give us what we need most—namely, himself. That means that faith itself must include at its essence a treasuring of Christ above all things.
Now we are in a position to see why Paul’s two aims for his life are in fact one. According to verse 20, his aim is to magnify Christ in life; and according to verse 25, his aim is to promote the progress and joy in the Philippians’ faith. That is why he believes God might let him live. This would be his life: to labor for their “progress and joy in the faith.”
But now we have seen that faith is essentially treasuring Christ. The word “joy” in verse 25 (“for your … joy in the faith”) signals that this treasuring is a joyful treasuring. And if Christ is joyfully treasured, he is magnified. That is the single, all-embracing passion of Paul’s life. In other words, Paul is saying, “My life is devoted to producing in you that one great experience of the heart by which Christ is magnified—namely, being satisfied in him, joyfully treasuring him above all else. That’s what I mean when I say, ‘For me to live is Christ.’ That is, for me to live is your Christ-magnifying faith.”
The Christian Life Is Many Deaths
It would be a great mistake at this point if we separated the way death honors Christ from the way life honors Christ. The reason this would be a mistake is that the life of a Christian includes many deaths. Paul said, “I die every day!” (1 Corinthians 15:31). Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Daily Christian living is daily Christian dying. The dying I have in mind is the dying of comfort and security and reputation and health and family and friends and wealth and homeland. These may be taken from us at any time in the path of Christ-exalting obedience. To die daily the way Paul did, and to take up our cross daily the way Jesus commanded, is to embrace this life of loss for Christ’s sake and count it gain.
In other words, the way we honor Christ in death is to treasure Jesus above the gift of life, and the way we honor Christ in life is to treasure Jesus above life’s gifts. This is why Paul used the same word “gain” in relation to Christ at death and in relation to Christ in life. Not only did he say, “To die is gain,” but he also said, “Whatever gain I had [in life!], I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7–8).
Pain and Pleasure as Ways to Make Much of Christ
All of life for the Christian is meant to magnify Christ. This can happen through pleasure, and it can happen through pain. We are focusing here on the pain. The reason for this is not that a thousand pleasant things don’t come our way as Christians. Nor is it that we should not enjoy them as gifts of God and glorify him with thanksgiving. We should. That is what the Bible teaches. “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4–5). And it is true that “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me” (Psalm 50:23).
The reason I don’t stress this is that we are spring-loaded to see the pleasant side of truth. We are fallen, comfort-loving creatures. We are always on the lookout for ways to justify our self-protecting, self-securing, self-pleasing ways of life. I know this about myself. And I am glad that this is not all bad. God “richly supplies us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).
How We Handle Loss Shows Who Our Treasure Is
But what I know even more surely is that the greatest joy in God comes from giving his gifts away, not in hoarding them for ourselves. It is good to work and have. It is better to work and have in order to give. God’s glory shines more brightly when he satisfies us in times of loss than when he provides for us in times of plenty. The health, wealth, and prosperity “gospel” swallows up the beauty of Christ in the beauty of his gifts and turns the gifts into idols. The world is not impressed when Christians get rich and say thanks to God. They are impressed when God is so satisfying that we give our riches away for Christ’s sake and count it gain.
No one ever said that they learned their deepest lessons of life, or had their sweetest encounters with God, on the sunny days. People go deep with God when the drought comes. That is the way God designed it. Christ aims to be magnified in life most clearly by the way we experience him in our losses. Paul is our example: “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8–9). The design of Paul’s suffering was to make radically clear for his own soul, and for ours, that God and God alone is the only treasure who lasts. When everything in life is stripped away except God, and we trust him more because of it, this is gain, and he is glorified.
Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!
at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts
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Email me at email@example.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.
My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)
Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship