The Way He Wants You to Live
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
12-13 And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!
13-15 Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.
16-18 Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.
19-22 Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.
23-24 May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!
25-27 Friends, keep up your prayers for us. Greet all the followers of Jesus there with a holy embrace. And make sure this letter gets read to all the brothers and sisters. Don’t leave anyone out.
28 The amazing grace of Jesus Christ be with you!
I’m finding myself jumping sides all the time, one minute I’m irate that churches are not considered an ‘essential service’ and the next minute I’m happy the church and it’s attendants are having to ask themselves what ‘church’ really is and what personal faith really means.
I attend Al-Anon meetings, not super regularly, but I started going again once they were declared ‘essential’ by the province of British Columbia. I more wanted to go for the purpose of gathering together with people. Once there I couldn’t believe the impact of being in a room with other people had on me. I left that meeting furious that churches were not allowed to meet in the same way Al-Anon was. It just doesn’t make any sense!
Rhett and I have talked a lot about the church in the past few years. When we first got married we were starting to feel quite strongly that the church was falling off course. The main area we felt this was in community. We no longer wanted to be part of a ‘service’, an organized two hours together where everything was planned out and pre-arranged. It felt fake. We wanted to connect with people, to be in community, eat together, share our lives, our struggles and lean on one another for support. This desire lead us to build a small group with some close friends. This small group was a major cornerstone of our lives for a few years and it was a really impactful thing to be part of. After some experience in this setting we felt this was the direction the church needed to go, often commenting that we felt a change was coming for the church at large. Church should be small groups of people, gathering together for a meal and for the intention of building one another up in the spirit.
This is the church.
It felt to me like the church at large was becoming more of a social club than anything. A place to meet people, listen to some cool music that might get a following on You-Tube, and hear a ‘Christian Ted Talk’. I know, I’m being pretty harsh right now, but I think most people reading that would agree there is a large element of truth to what I’m getting at.
COVID has forced us to isolate from our church experience. Sure, church has moved online, but are you as inclined to ‘attend’? The difficulties this year has imposed on us is forcing us to acknowledge what is true for us. The struggle and tension of it all could either draw you deeper into your faith, or expose your faith for what it is, a surface level experience you attend once a week.
Isolated, we are forced to face our relationship with God and the stability of our faith. Some may find themselves questioning what it is they believe or discover their faith was simply a ritual they participated in. Either way, with churches closed, this is providing an opportunity to seek God one on one, to build that relationship into something deeper or create a faith that may not have yet been there, without the reliance on a service to carry your faith for you.
The desire of Christ is to draw us close to himself. It can be difficult to do that when there are so many distractions; fancy coffees to order before you grab a seat, scrutinizing the sound of the worship music, too many power points, not enough power points, debating the theology of the sermon. The list goes on. Somehow we can go through an entire service and leave without even thinking of Jesus at a one on one level.
This would be like being married to someone, but you only ever saw them at a wedding on the weekends. God desires for more, he desires to be close to us, to be with us in our struggle, to encourage us and give us his peace in times of storms. Do we desire to be with him in all this? Do we even need him or are we good on our own? 2020 has caused the cracks to be exposed, it has caused us to acknowledge our weaknesses and areas of lack. It should also expose our need to rely on Christ and our fragility as a human.
You only depend on God as much as you need him, and I would say we’ve had a pretty sweet ride the last many years, without much need for God. I said to Rhett the other day, as we were going for a drive and discussing the chaos of the year, I think God is lifting his hand and allowing the fragility of the earth and humanity to crack, so that we recognize our need for him, so that we rely on Christ again. He is drawing us back to himself.
I would encourage you to use this time to build a church of one; one on one with Christ, you and Jesus. Reform that foundation of your faith and dig deep into what he has for you. Once that relationship is firmly established, invite one other in – even if it’s digitally from a distance. Encourage that one other to also reform their foundation of faith and spend time building each other up in your walk with Christ. Once the two of you are established, invite someone else in. Build a church. Not church as we use to know it, but a community of believers who can build one another up in the faith. Share your struggles, your joys, your short comings and spend time encouraging one another, making space for the other to share.
This is the church. This was the early church, how it all started.
We’ve strayed too far from God’s design and you know what, I’m happy churches are closed, because WE are the church. It’s time to shed the unnecessary weight of what’s been distracting us from our connection with Christ. It’s time to re-evaluate what it means to be the church.