Recent events have reignited the debate over whether or not Congress should act on gun control. Extreme reactions from both sides abound, and such polarity tends to lack common sense, compassion, knowledge or some combination of the three.
Then, there are the sentiments that on the surface seem right but are not well-thought-out and are instead fraught with cliche. For instance, take this statement making the rounds on FACEBOOK:
“The problem is not guns, it is hearts without God, homes without discipline, schools without prayer, and courts without justice.”
It sounds good at first glance. But look closer. Religion (not necessarily Christianity as there is no mention of Jesus), discipline, prayer (again, to whom or what it does not say), and justice are the solutions. Are they? I think not, and others agree.
In a New York Times op-ed Rod Dreher says, “Christianity is declining in the United States. First, Americans are falling away from the church in unprecedented numbers. Second, the faith American Christians profess is moralistic therapeutic deism [which] jettisons the doctrines of historical biblical Christianity and replaces them with feel-good, vaguely spiritual nostrums [remedies]. The highest goal is being happy and feeling good about oneself. [This] is not Christianity. Christians in the 21st century are going to have to step back to some meaningful degree from the world for the sake of building up orthodox belief, learning the practices of discipleship and strengthening our communities. The most pressing problem Christianity faces is not in politics. It’s in parishes” (brackets and emphases mine).
The absence of religion in the public square, discipline in the home, prayer in our schools and justice in our courts, these are just symptoms of a much bigger problem. First, sin abounds and has since the fall in the garden. But I would submit that the decline of our culture has much to do with an absentee church as well. The church has ceased to be what Christ has called her to be and to do what He has called her to do.
It is important to understand that the church is not an institution, it is a people. Specifically, the church is comprised of those and only those who have repented of their sin and have put their faith in Jesus. Baptism won’t save you. Church membership won’t save you. Riding the religious coattails of your parents and grandparents won’t save you. Good works are a dead as well. Jesus did all that was required, we are called to repent and believe.
And yet we understand that locally, pockets of this people operate according to quasi-institutional framework. As outposts of this larger kingdom, though, each local congregation is to mirror the church at large in every way.
Therefore, the local church’s members are bound together as one by a common confession, that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God (and so God Himself) and the only means of salvation. The one who cannot or will not confess THIS Jesus-over and against the Jesuses of culture who was a good man, a great prophet or one prophet among many-is not a believer, he is not saved, he is not a member of THE church and so should not be a member of the local church either.
The local church’s members are also characterized by shared attributes, traits common to every believer the world over and throughout time. Those who have put their faith in Jesus and now have the Holy Spirit living inside of them giving them new affections devote themselves individually and collectively to God’s Word, to the community of faith (the local church), to corporate worship (i.e. singing, prayer, baptism, communion, preaching, teaching and the like), and to the mission of God-to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded and trusting in Him to be with us to the very end (Matthew 28:16-20).
Finally, the church is the God-ordained locale for fulfilling the “one-anothers” of Scripture. The Bible commands that we:
- Be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)
- Serve one another (John 13:14)
- Love one another as Christ loved us and so prove to be His disciples (John 13:34-35)
- Outdo one another in honor (Romans 12:10)
- Instruct one another (I Corinthians 3:4)
- Care for one another (I Corinthians 12:25)
- Comfort one another (II Corinthians 13:11)
- Agree with one another (II Corinthians 13:11)
- Greet one another (I Corinthians 13:12)
- Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
- Bear with one another, with all humility, gentleness and patience in love (Ephesians 4:2)
- Be kind to one another, tenderhearted and forgive one another, as God in Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32)
- Address one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19)
- Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21)
- Admonish or warn one another (Colossians 3:16)
- Encourage one another with the Word of God (I Thessalonians 4:18)
- Build each other up (I Thessalonians 5:11)
- Do good to one another (I Thessalonians 5:11)
- Stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as the day draws near (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- Confess sins to one another and pray for one another (James 5:16)
- Show hospitality to one another (I Peter 4:9)
- Use our spiritual gifts in service to one another (I Peter 4:10)
- Clothe ourselves with humility toward one another (I Peter 5:5)
Consider also II Thessalonians 1:3 which says, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.”
Heed the warning of Galatians 5:15: “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”
Reddicks Grove, are we going to be the church God has called us to be, the church that Jesus commissioned us to be? A people devoted to the Word of God, a people willing to receive it and believe it and speak it and obey it? A people devoted to the local body, coming together around a common confession, gathering regularly for corporate worship, loving one another, submitting to one another and to our leaders, serving one another? A people devoted to the mission of God, the salvation of His people, a people from every nation, every tribe, every language and every people group?
Will we be a people enslaved to our traditions and destined for death?
“If your church loves a past era more than the current mission, it loves the wrong thing.” – Ed Stetzer
“What would you be willing to give up, what would you be willing to change if it meant your kids and grandkids were worshipping Jesus long after you’re gone?” – Barr Fields