Christians often describe themselves as being a part of “God’s forever family.” That is an accurate statement. Last week I began a series of blog sessions about the purposes for which God created us, and this week we will see the second purpose: “You were formed for God’s family.
As Rick Warren states in this book The Purpose Driven Life, “because God is love, He treasures relationships.” Sharing in relationships with others is a natural thing for us as humans. The reason this is so is that God is relational and created us so that we could be in relationship with Him. As we stated last week, we were created for God’s pleasure, and One of His greatest pleasures is for us to know Him as our loving, heavenly Father . . . “It was a happy day for Him when He gave us our new lives, through the truth of His Word, and we became, as it were, the first children in His new family” (James 1:18, Living Bible).
It is important to note here that everyone is invited to become one of His children, but there is but one way to do that . . . through Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:26 expresses this truth when it says, “You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (NLT).
A moment ago I stated that God is love. That means that everything about Him, everything He does, must be seen from the context of His love. It also means that loves is to be the basic characteristic of His children, for we are expected by God to seek to grow in our likeness of Him. In order to express, that love we must be in relationship with others. Our first responsibility is to seek to grow in our relationship with the Lord (that is called worship – our first purpose), and the second is to develop a loving relationship with other believers (this is often called fellowship). And the main place to do that is in the church (which is the family of God).
Now, there is the church in general (sometimes referred to as the “Universal Church” or all Christians regardless of denomination) and there are smaller groupings or communities of God’s family (the local church). God intends for you and I to not just believe, but to belong. Our faith is to be a shared experience with other believers. That’s why it is so important for every believer to belong to a local church and to be active in worship, Bible study, and ministry. God never intended for any of us to be “Lone Ranger” Christians, people who seek to be aloof and disengaged from the church body. To do so is to miss the second purpose of your life.
As a minister, I know and proclaim the importance of every Christian being involved in a local church. It isn’t a matter of getting them in the door to count noses and dollars. As followers of Christ we are commanded to be active and contributing parts of His body, the Church. To fail to do this is to be in direct disobedience of His will and Word. “You belong in God’s household with every other Christian” (Ephesians 2:19b, The Message). To be disobedient is to throw away the blessings our Lord wants to bless you with, but cannot, because He will not reward disobedience. He wants to bless you through the church, and He wants you to become a blessing to others in the church.
Here is a crucial point that all of us must fully understand. The local church you attend is not your church, and it is not my church – it is Jesus Christ’s church! Please don’t fall into the trap of expecting and demanding that the church cater to your desires. That is not what the church is about. The church, the body of Christ, is to be about serving the Lord by meeting the needs of unbelievers through proclaiming the Gospel, expressing the love of God by acts of kindness and charity in the community, and loving one another in the church in such a way as to attract lost people.
One last thing. It is common for people to attend a local church for long periods of time, yet never join. That is sort of like a man and woman living together but never marrying. There is a basic lack of commitment! To simply attend is to be a consumer, but not a full contributor. Most churches will not allow you to serve in many ways unless you take the basic step of joining the membership. It isn’t very likely that you could attend a lodge’s meetings without joining, so why should we expect any less of a commitment in a church? God expects a commitment to Him and to His church . . . “First they gave themselves to the Lord; and then, by God’s will, they gave themselves to us as well” (II Corinthians 8:5, TEV).
I encourage you to be a real “family man” or “family woman!” Become a part of God’s forever family, and serve Him through a local church body.