Grace Church Wellington met together for the first time on September 21, 2014. As we reach 3 years, I like to pause to consider gratefully what God has done. And, what He is doing. And what He will do. An anniversary seems to me to be a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the God’s timeless faithfulness – He is always good! Always in the present, ongoing verb tense.
At GCW we say together:
Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were
brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. Psalm 90:1-2
Before GCW, my doctrine and understanding of the Church was very limited. What a blessing the combination of truth and experience has been these 3 years.
If asked to identify particular blessing at Grace, or to characterize what God has been doing in our midst, I adopt:
speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Ephesians 4:15-16
GCW: loving and growing together, to the glory of God.
By our In-house Blogger
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” John 14:6
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:31-32
I remember when I first went to a church where the truth was preached. I mean that the Bible was preached, taught and explained; the truth of what God actually said in His Word. And by God’s grace my soul said “yes, that’s true!” My heart rejoiced and I couldn’t wait to go back for more. From then on, nothing less than truth would do.
Before that I had sometimes heard sermons where a verse of scripture was used as a springboard for man’s own thoughts, or sermons where a man’s ideas were taught then apparently backed up by some verses from the Bible (taken out of context and twisted to fit). I had frequently heard stories or ideas put forward as if they were of equal importance to God’s Word when in fact they had nothing to do with the truth and, therefore, had no life in them and left me empty, hungry, misguided and lost. I had attended church for years but had never really heard the gospel.
Through regularly hearing God’s Word faithfully preached I came to understand specific truths that cause me to rejoice: the truths of the gospel, the good news of salvation from the wrath and judgment of God; that our foundation is scripture alone; that salvation is in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone for the glory of God alone. I came to understand more of God’s holiness, my own sinfulness and the wonder of Christ’s saving work on the cross. God’s grace and mercy became more and more amazing to me.
But more than this, through encountering these truths I encountered the Truth, Jesus Christ, the living Word. In rejoicing in the truth I am rejoicing in Him.
By Guest Blogger
… Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her …
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it,
just as the Lord does the church.
For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.
When I think and talk about the church, so often I begin with what pleases me. I consider my preferences, see the faults, remember the disappointments, examine the scars from past hurts, and shake my head over the failings I’ve encountered. And I conclude that the church isn’t really my cup of tea. It’s not that I have a problem with Jesus; it’s just the church that doesn’t suit me.
But when I think and talk about the church in this way, I’m thinking and talking about the body of Christ, bought at immense cost, nourished and cherished, dearly loved, precious to Him.
God ordained the church local as the means for my growth, edification, sanctification. Do I really think He didn’t anticipate that our preferences would not always align and that we would sin against each other? It’s true; commitment to a local fellowship of believers exposes me to the sins of others.
But it also shows me my own sin; challenging my pride, reminding me of my continual need for God’s mercy, and causing me to rejoice in God’s forgiveness. The very things I would prefer to avoid are the things God will use to conform me to the image of His Son.
The enemy hates the church and is determined to destroy her. No doubt he is pleased when I insist on having my own way, or criticise, or stay away.
But Christ …
… loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish -
By Guest Blogger
“I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it”
The Church has an enemy who will do everything in his power to destroy her - the devil obviously doesn’t have such a low view of the Church as we often do.
Some of the methods he employs are to undermine, dilute and divert from the preaching and teaching of the gospel; infiltrating ‘churches’ with ungodly and even unsaved leaders; distracting with gimmicks and apparently good things that subtly replace God’s Word; substituting man’s ideas for God’s clear commands.
Another tactic is to keep genuine believers out of the Church local, so they stop contributing to the growth and building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:14-16) and are no longer benefitting from the means of grace ordained by God for their edification and growth in holiness (Acts 2:42). The enemy may use discouragement or disillusionment, distraction by earthly concerns, or personal divisions among Christians. He may magnify the shortcomings in different fellowships until we are convinced that we could not possibly commit ourselves to any of them.
The reasons we sometimes find ourselves outside of the body may be diverse and complex, but the outcome is the same: the local expression of the body of Christ is weakened, and so are we.
The remedy is simple, though not necessarily easy: obedience to God.
By a Guest Blogger
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another …
Love one another? You mean me? Love other Christians?
Well, of course I love them - I’m far too mature a Christian to fall at such a basic hurdle! - but that doesn’t mean I have to commit to spending time with them ~ … not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some … Hebrews 10:25
I do love them; I just don’t like them very much ~ … love one another fervently with a pure heart – 1 Peter 1:22
I love them up to a point, but if they offend me they won’t get a second chance ~ … with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love – Ephesians 4:1-2
Yes, I love them, but it’s important to get your doctrine right, and if I’m right then it gives me the right to be harsh and judgmental ~ … love as brothers, be tender-hearted, be courteous – 1 Peter 3:8
Well, I love these particular Christians because we have lots in common. You know, similar age, same interests, even the same number of kids … We’re from a similar background and we face the same kinds of pressures in life so we can understand each other … And we like the same kind of music … The Christians down the road are too old/boring/straight-laced/young/trendy/middle class … ~ There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus – Galatians 3:28
… as I have loved you, that you also love one another. – John 13:34
By a Guest Blogger
If you love me, keep my commandments.
Membership of the church local is the context in which I obey God’s commands about how I am to treat fellow believers. I can’t imagine how such obedience can happen apart from within an actual, specific fellowship of believers, regularly worshipping together and sharing life. I do, though, have some appreciation of how much easier it is to love one another, bear with one another, forgive one another, be kind to one another, give preference to one another … from a distance, rather than when people are in my face and treading on my toes.
Committing myself to loving others in the context of the church local demands actions, rather than merely feelings or words. It will require me to put others’ needs before my own; it will test my patience and my willingness to forgive; it may require self-sacrifice, either small or great; it may simply require plodding faithfulness in small things, possibly without recognition or thanks. But loving the church local is one of the means God uses to make me more like Christ, and it is a witness to the world (John 13:35). Moreover, it’s a demonstration of my love for God through obedience to His Word.
By our Guest Blogger
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father
in spirit and truth. John 4:23
“The worship was great!”
When I say something like this, what I’m really talking about is the music. This takes no account of truth, or the state of my heart, or my relationship with God. If it’s just about the quality of the music then it doesn’t even matter whether those participating know God; a believer and an unbeliever could both reach the same conclusion about the quality of ‘the worship’ based on whether or not the music is enjoyable and well-produced.
My evaluation of ‘the worship’ in this sense is presumptuous. It’s based on what it does for me, how it makes me feel, my own enjoyment of it. In reality, who am I to comment on whether the worship is great, or dismal? Worship is not for me, it’s for God.
Jesus said that true worshippers must worship God in spirit and in truth. This kind of worship is a much less tangible activity than music, quite likely invisible to an observer and, therefore, impossible to assess in the terms we often use to evaluate what we call worship. Only God, who sees the heart, is truly able to determine the quality of the worship that’s offered to Him.
By our Guest Blogger
For who in the heavens can be compared to the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the Lord? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence by all those around Him.
God has never invited men and women to approach Him on their own terms. He is not like one of us, only bigger and better; He is altogether beyond our comprehension in His holiness, majesty, wisdom and power. His love, His grace and His mercy are unfathomable, and ought to cause us to fall to our knees in adoration. We can come to Him only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. There is no other way for sinners to approach a holy God.
Because of what Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection we are now able to come to God freely, but we still come to God, the holy one who sits on the throne, King of kings and Lord of lords. We have entrance into the Holy of Holies, but it is no less holy; nor is God less holy because we have been reconciled to Him. His greatness is magnified by the saving work of Christ, not diminished.
Our worship of God requires reverence, awe, and godly fear. And when we worship Him in this way, He is exalted, we are blessed, and our faith is strengthened, because our focus is taken off ourselves, and we are reminded of how great our God truly is.
By our Guest Blogger
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
It’s only recently that I’ve begun to realise just how integral the Church is to God’s plan of salvation.
I understood that when I was saved I became a child of God and a member of His family but I didn’t fully grasp the implications. God’s family is more than a theoretical concept, and I am not an only child.
Christ died to purchase a people, a bride, a Church, a body (1 Peter 2:9-10; Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Corinthians 12:27). To think that I can remain functionally isolated from the rest of His body is to deny an essential aspect of the gospel.
Membership of a household clearly implies the kind of close, everyday relationships that families who live together participate in. Being built together and being fitted together are more than vague notions. These words don’t describe scattered or isolated individual believers, or a one-time event. They require ongoing close proximity and regular contact.
Belonging to, and being actively involved with, one specific local fellowship of believers is inseparable from individual salvation. It’s an absolute essential, not an optional extra. I was saved to be part of the body. If I’m not, I deny God’s Word and weaken the body of Christ.
By our GUEST BLOGGER
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
At times I have held back from commitment to a local fellowship for arguably good reasons. It can be difficult to find a healthy local church that is faithful to God’s Word. Church practice and style of worship can vary greatly, and is not always helpful. There have been times when I’ve concluded that to stay at home and listen to a sermon would be of more benefit to me than to attend a place of worship. But what if the purpose of assembling together with other believers is not only about what benefits me?
When I encounter brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I disagree on secondary issues or those who are immature, should my response be to withdraw myself from them? If things are not done according to my preferences do I have permission to remain distant and uncommitted? Do all the New Testament exhortations regarding the way I am to relate to fellow believers become void if fellow believers don’t meet my expectations? I don’t find any support for this in God’s Word.
Instead, I am to seek, pray for, and actively contribute to the good and the growth of my brothers and sisters in Christ.