One more lesson tonight in the “Divine Initiative” series here in Chillicothe OH, on “The Family of God.” The Lord’s grace gives us community. We cannot survive alone. We need each other. God created us as social beings, as souls who need fellowship for growth and service. The key word is love. The spiritual family deserves greater priority than the physical. It is more important. Let us live in family, and learn to serve and love.

Others will put forth their ideas about how to accomplish the divine mission. We will do our best, also. We are glad for the efforts of each one. In the end, God will judge the work of all and he will approve or find us lacking. Whatever of our work may survive the test, we look forward to salvation.

I am not interested in building up an institution, but only the church of God. My investments will go into the hearts and lives of men and women, for eternal life, and not into the creation or strengthening of a human organization.

The closer you are to the people of God, the closer you will be to God. Arms-length faith is a dying faith. Punch-card religion knows nothing of the Lord. Those who would walk closely and continually with the Lord must often be in the presence of of Christ’s church. To love in deed and action is to seek out opportunities to serve and encourage one’s spiritual family.

The humble man and woman who act by faith, who walk in the light, who make the Lord Jesus Christ their strength, are mighty and powerful in the will of God. The family of faith appears weak, people whose only link to each other is their commitment to love God with all their heart, soul, and mind. Their number is often small. Struggles among them abound. Differences surface. Sin sometimes leaves its mark. But the persevering church is “powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds” 2 Cor 10.4 CSB. Convinced of this truth, God’s spiritual army marches to certain victory. If they lose sight of it, however, they will fall before the forces of evil.

The writer has it right:

A church relying on human wisdom, wealth or resources ceases to be the body of Christ and becomes an earthly society.

Ironically the writer belonged to a denomination that had no existence in the New Testament and no basis for its doctrine in Scripture. Let us not be self-deceived. Among us are churches relying on their own resources, working only as far as their eye can see.

Today’s devotional uses the first phrase of Hebrews 12.15. What a great responsibility we have to each other as the family of God!

Christians are compared to a band of pilgrims. While on their journey, they must check for stragglers. Has anyone been left behind? It is easy to wander off the path. In so doing, the believer “turns away from the living God,” Hebrews 3:14-16. He “misses the grace of God,” Hebrews 12:15. Through carelessness, he loses his salvation. Hence, believers are advised to be watchful.

Focus question: How to recognize if someone is beginning to miss the grace of God?

What concerns us most? If you look at church bulletins, it’s physical health. They’re chock full of notices of sicknesses, surgeries, and accidents. Where are the notices about spiritual weaknesses, failures to obey the Lord, prayers of repentance, confessions of weakness?

Why are we squeamish about spiritual needs?

Are we pretending to be a house of sinless saints, rather than a hospital for struggling people? Are we not missing something here? Are we failing to be honest about sin in our midst? Are we accommodating to a culture that refuses to acknowledge sin? Have we lost our mission of getting ourselves and others to heaven, so that sin is taken seriously and its influence duly dealt with?

It’s baffling.

There’s not much said in the NT about church planting. Plenty is said about proclaiming the gospel. So how did people know how to gather together in community? Reckon the saints said something about the church in their message? Something like,

“God formed a people centered in his love. He brings the followers of Christ together. The new life is lived in community, nothing like you’ve ever seen before. His people are not Jews or pagans, it’s not philosophy or pleasure-seeking, but what we’ve all been looking for. God assembles them now as they wait for the Great Assembly in heaven when the Lord returns for them.”

Reckon? The kingdom message implies a chosen people. Contrary to some who want to leave the church out of their message.

Someone wrote this sad statement yesterday, “We have no Christian friends here to call on.” The situation was one of death in the family. Having friends in Christ is a blessing in so many ways. Being part of a congregation of God’s people enriches our lives here on earth and enlivens our hope for heaven. God put us in community for our present and everlasting good. In the body of Christ we serve the saints and, in our need, are supported by them when our burdens are heavy.

Obviously, no congregation will be made perfect, except by the blood of Jesus. Still, we have to face each other’s faults and our corporate faults each time we come together.

In her free book, Worship the First-Century Way, Katheryn Haddad seeks to revive congregations by dying to self.

Some churches are in denial about their faults and need. Humility is required to confess our faults and ask God for help in our need. The church of Jesus Christ receives the weak, forgives one another repeatedly, and loves all the saints, regardless of the progress of their journey. This is not a denial of following God’s pattern, but an embracing of it.