Monday, September 5, 2011

God Wants Believers To Work Together In Local Churches

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. Philippians 1:27, ESV
Philippians is a letter from Paul to a local church. The apostle wants to make sure that whether he is with them or is away, one important task is not neglected: that the members of that local church work together in the gospel!

He wants to be certain that they are:
Standing firm in one spirit.
With one mind.
Striving side by side.
For the faith of the gospel.

What an image these words paint! This was written to real people in Philippi. Lydia, the business lady whose heart was opened by God to the gospel message (Acts 16:14). The jailer and his household, who believed on the Lord (Acts 16:31-34). Real faces and names. Paul wants them standing strong in Christ together with one focus and goal, and one work: 'the faith of the gospel.' Building one another up within the church in the doctrine ('faith of the gospel') and going out together in the mission of the Spirit of Christ - the gospel in word and deed.

Paul gave a similar call to another local church. He wrote to the church in Rome:
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 15:5-6, ESV
Now the image Paul paints is not one of striving and laboring and standing firm in unified gospel work; his new picture is one of gospel-saturated, unified lives singing Christ's glory to the world! He sees the local church as a sort of choir, but it is our gospel-empowered godly lives that are singing. Paul doesn't have a solo in mind! One local church member's life-voice is joined by another's. But rather than trying to out-sing each other, the result is harmony. Because they are singing the same song! Just in different parts.

What a picture of the local church!

Can you see it? The believers in the Roman church living gospel lives - TOGETHER. Their lives rise up as "one voice" to "glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

So, let's apply God's word.
Are you standing in unity and love with fellow believers in your local church - working together with them for the gospel? Or are you doing your own thing? It's EASIER to do ministry by ourselves, isn't it? But it's not God's will. He wants us to rub shoulders with other believers; people who are not like us; people that, apart from Christ, we might not even like too much. God knows that we will get our feelings hurt, and that we will hurt others. Church is messy, because we are not yet in our glorified bodies. But it's God's will! God has chosen to glorify himself through believers who connect with and commit to each other. When they get hurt, (here is a novel idea) they forgive each other, just as God in Christ forgave them! They work together "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:2-3).

Are you singing a solo or joining with a local church to sing together in harmony, with "one voice" that rises up to the glory of God?

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