Saturday, November 28, 2009

Can one follow Christ solo?

A person visited our church recently. "Are you a Christian? I asked."

"I have been a Christian for many years."

"Where do you normally go to church?"

" I don't go anywhere. I don't believe in church. You don't have to follow ‘churchianity’ to follow Christ," she said.

"May I ask why you don't go to church?"

"Too many hypocrites. I love Jesus, but sometimes his followers are hard to take."

She was right. Being a member of a local congregation can be painful, but it is God's will for our lives. "For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13). We are not just baptized into Christ. God immerses us into a group of people, a church. That means the church universal, but it also means a specific local church. Baptism is renunciation of the excesses of individualism. It is a commitment to live out my life with a specific group of people. Why is this so important?

The Trinity is ultimate reality. The godhead has always existed and always will. The material universe exists to glorify the godhead. Ultimately, God's creation has no other purpose. Here is the punch line. The Trinity is social—one God yet three Persons. That is why, when God saves us he baptizes us into a community. He does it to glorify the moral beauty of God, a group of people so loving and serving each other that many become one.

This unity is costly. It means pushing oneself. It means forgiving the unforgivable, wrestling with your insecurities, dousing the flames of pride with humility, attending events when you would rather stay home, submitting to pastoral authority, and serving others with your time and money.

Is this they way you see it? Have you discovered the joy of losing your self "so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 3:10).

It is impossible to follow really Jesus solo. You must join a local congregation.

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