***This post is a part of our current Sunday morning sermon series called “The People of Jesus”. Each week during the series, we’ll look at what it means to be a healthy church according to Scripture. You can listen to the sermon series here.
One of my favorite places to be is Truist Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves. I know this doesn’t surprise you. I wear my Braves fandom proudly.
Most people have some sort of hobby or interest that is similar to my love for the Braves. You may enjoy going to Bike shows, proudly wearing your favorite Biker gear. Perhaps it’s going to see the latest superhero movie while dressed as said favorite superhero. Perhaps it’s the entirety of the Christmas season. Maybe it’s a favorite band or author or tv show.
And what happens when we coincidentally meet someone who loves the same thing as much as we do? It brings joy! “This guy gets my love for fishing!” “She understands my passion for painting!” It brings at times an instant friendship over a common love.
And yet, we as Christians, and in this case the people of Grace Life Church, have been graciously given something far greater than any hobby or interest. We have been given the local church.
The gathering of the local church is far greater than any sporting event, concert, book club, or any other interest group. We gather together around the One who bought us and brought us together: Jesus Christ. There is nothing more joyful than that!
We have more in common with our brother or sister in Christ than we do with anyone else who shares an interest with us. The fans in Truist Park are not my brothers and sisters. The people dressed like the Justice League are not my brothers and sisters. The people I work with are not my brothers and sisters. No, my brothers and sisters are the ones who belong to Jesus!
Jesus in fact said something similar in reference to his own family!
“While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46–50)
We have more in common with our brothers and sisters in Christ than we do with our own flesh and blood.
This is why unity within a local church is vital to church health. Gospel unity means we understand we are different by God’s design (Psalm 139). Gospel unity means we understand who we are in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10). Gospel unity means we understand who brings us together (Ephesians 4:14-16). Gospel unity means we understand that first and foremost, we are people of the cross. No other group of people has what we have. They do not have the unity we have, the joy we have, the family we have. Sports will die. Superheros will die. Hobbies will die.
But because of Jesus, the Church will never die. While many local churches will close their doors for various reasons, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church as a whole (Matthew 16:17-18). The local church gives us just a small glimpse of heaven when all the people of God from all ages and places will gather around the throne of God to worship Him (Revelation 5).
The difference between the worship gathering in heaven and the worship gatherings we have here on earth comes down to the sin that so often entangles us in our walk with the Lord.
The story is told that The Times of London at one point early in the 1900s posed this question to several prominent authors: “What’s wrong with the world today?” The well-known author G.K. Chesterton is said to have responded with a one-sentence essay:
Yours, G.K. Chesterton
The problem within the local church is often us! We allow our preferences to become more important than people. We allow our beliefs on secondary and tertiary theological matters to anger us and become more important than the unity of believers. We allow our own sins of selfishness, jealousy, pride, bitterness, and laziness to disrupt the people of God. And because of this, we fight all the more for unity.
Yet, despite this, there is nothing on earth like the local church. Charles Spurgeon notoriously stated,
“If I had never joined a Church till I had found one that was perfect, I would never have joined one at all! And the moment I did join it if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect Church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, the church is the dearest place on earth to us.”
As we remind ourselves from Scripture of what it means to be a healthy church, let’s not forget that all of it begins with Jesus. We bear his cross. We bear his name. We are his redeemed people. Programs, personality, property, and preaching may only bring people together for a time, but it is Jesus who will hold us together.
We are people of Jesus and we are united together in Him.
By His Grace,