Yesterday I wandered around the big, beautiful sanctuary that houses our congregation. It’s a place I love, where we ‘worship’ with joy and practice parts of our faith. I felt such a sorrow, such a sense of loss as I stood hearing echoes of ministry past. But, the church is not the Church, the building just a house, not the core. Christianity is not the songs, the sermons, the sanctuaries in which we gather.
Christianity is Christ JESUS in me, in you. Events of the last few months have stripped away so many of the functions of our faith, hasn’t it? Restrictions on gathering, fear that prevent practice of our shared rituals, and diminished numbers in a buildings – these are sad developments and will certainly have a long-term effect on church life. Yet, my prayer is that this time will restore Christ to the heart of our faith where He belongs.
These inspired words speak deeply to me. “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11, NIV) In that opening line, when Paul refers to ‘everything’ he is speaking of his religious past. It was one full of beautiful ritual, the law of Moses, Temple meetings, and study of the prophets’ words. It was a religion that demanded much, that provided an identity to Paul, that was comforting in its familiarity. Yet, he says that all that is ’rubbish’ compared to knowing JESUS!
Friend, let me ask you a question that I have been asking myself.
Which do you love more – Jesus Christ or the “Christian life?”
With weekly gatherings limited, children’s programs curtailed, the energy of a full church not available, are you feeling lost, dislocated, adrift?
I confess that I miss those things and more very much, but my hope in the Lord remains unshaken.
Christ is very much available to us, even in these chaotic times. Nothing can cut us off from knowing Him, from the practices of contemplative prayer, personal worship, and receiving the Scripture’s wisdom. The heart of the Christian life is Christ, Who we know by the work of the Holy Spirit. He is not resident only in building, known only in our congregational gathering. Oh yes, there is no devaluing of ‘church’ in these words. Christians are to gather as the Body of Christ, the mystery of His Presence among them a powerful shared experience. The gifts of the Spirit are given to the Church and when we do what He equips us to do – the whole Body is built up. But, there are times, like now, when we are pressed to know Christ personally, through faith, in the quiet corridors of our own heart.
Do you know Him as the anchor of your soul?
Or, is your faith and hope centered on Him or on a church, a pastor, a fellowship of Believers?
In my sanctuary wandering yesterday, He reminded me that He is still Lord of all, that His kingdom cannot fail, that my destiny is secured in Him, not my religion.
Today I return again to a passage I quoted a couple of days ago. This powerful word from the Word comes from the final letter of Paul. He was cut off from fellowship, unable to join the worshiping Church, in a cell alone. No, he really wasn’t, because Christ Jesus was there with him, as He is with us. Here is his declaration which I pray is ours, too.
God “has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am.
Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:9-14, NIV)
Re-center your faith in Christ. Reclaim the faith that saves. Be born anew in the power of the Spirit. And, in God’s time, the Church will emerge again; alive, the beautiful bride of Christ, made up of those who know Him, love Him, and hold onto faith.
(a song that reminds us of Christ, the center)
Make it count leave a mark
build a name for yourself
Dream your dreams
chase your heart above all else
Make a name the world remembers
But all an empty world can sell is empty dreams
I got lost in the light when it was up to me
To make a name the world remembers
But Jesus is the only name to remember
And I I don’t want to leave a legacy
I don’t care if they remember me
And I I’ve only got one life to live
I’ll let every second point to Him
All the kingdoms built all the trophies won
Will crumble into dust when it’s said and done
‘Cause all that really matters
Did I live the truth to the ones I love
Was my life the proof that there is only One
Whose name will last forever
Jesus is the only name
Jesus is the only name
Jesus is the only name to remember
I I don’t want to leave a legacy
I don’t care if they remember me
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