So, you think you are a Christian. Well, you are, if you have a personal relationship with the One whose name you claim. You enter into relationship with Christ by agreeing with Him that you are a sinner, admitting your need for a savior and publicly confessing that He and He alone is the Savior. When you enter into a relationship with Christ, He adds you to His church. The New Testament describes the church in at least two ways. The church is the worldwide, universal group of believers who are in union with Christ. Church also refers to a local group of believers, who have bonded themselves together, meeting in a specific location, caring for each other, ministering together in the name of Christ.
God never intended for people to be alone. He created two, not one and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. He called Noah and his family. He called Abraham and his family. He called the nation of Israel. He established His church and said nothing would overcome it. Christianity has never been about me and my solitary relationship with Christ. It has always been about a community of believers related to Christ and each other.
The beauty and purpose of the church is wrapped up in two facts. Christ has entrusted His glorious and majestic name to those who trust Him. Our actions bring either honor or reproach to His name. Be careful.
Second, our God given purpose is to display His character and glory and majesty to a watching world. That really cannot be done alone. The watching world will receive your witness to His character and glory in only one way, that is in your relationships with others. The Christian must treat every human being with love and respect because he or she is created in the image of God. The way you treat non-Christians is important; the way you treat other Christians is more important; the way you treat members of your own local church is most important.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” The watching world will be absolutely amazed as they see the character, love and glory of God revealed in: the joyful giving of your money to the local church to be spent as that body of believers corporately sees fit; the giving of your time to attend all of the functions of your church regardless of how you think you will personally benefit; the investment of your talents and efforts to improve your church, your willingness to go out of your way to serve others, your graceful, voluntary submission to authority, etc.
Certainly, the most effective way to display the character of God is to extend mercy and grace and forgiveness to your brothers and sisters in Christ who have discouraged you, offended you, hurt you. Their unintentional and intentional offenses against you are your best opportunities to display God’s love, grace and mercy to a lost and dying world that desperately needs to meet God. Living at peace with your fellow imperfect Christians, who still suffer from the same effects of sin that you do, is the best way to display the character and glory of Him who sacrificed, suffered and died so that you could have peace with Him.
You can only do that through a firm commitment to a local church.
STEVE ELLISON is director of Ouachita Baptist Camp in Arkansas. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.