Since all of us are going to be home for the next couple of weeks (at least those from Sunrise Bible Church in Minnesota and Wisconsin!), I thought I would share a few lessons that I have learned so far during this time where we are not able to meet. I plan to share one a day for the next few days. Each of them is worth a long write-up in and of themselves, but I plan to make them short as a brief encouragement for your soul.
Today’s lesson is simple: being a part of a local church is a gloriously joyous privilege.
I have always known that to be true. I have been a member of one church or another for nearly 30 years. I grew up in a Christian home, trusted Jesus as my savior at a young age, was baptized, and joined my church. My whole life has been spent Sunday after Sunday in a church and most of my life as a member at that.
Not only have I been taught sound doctrine and teaching from wonderful pastors for many years, I have also been trained in a Bible-centered university and in a Christ-exalting seminary. Whether in my local church or in the various Christian institutions I have been a part of, I learned that the local church and being part of it was a precious gift from God.
I have always known that this is true. I have even felt it true at times. But I have not felt it nearly so deeply then over the past few weeks. Saturday night was particularly acute. Everyone in my house was in bed. I had just finished one book and started reading another. After a bit more reading I put that book down and thought about Sunday – the Lord’s day. I thought about how much I missed the people of my church. I shed tears. Not just a few either.
A local church consists of born again believers who have covenanted together for the worship of God and the celebration of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper. Nobody enters a local church as a perfect person. Rather, the church is a collection of saved sinners. We gather together week by week to celebrate how Jesus has forgiven our sins and given us a place in His eternal kingdom which will be filled with His redeemed people. Each week, the local church is a tiny, albeit imperfect, glimpse into the glory of that kingdom. We call each other “brother” and “sister” because we have been made part of the family of God – joint heirs with Jesus Christ and His glorious kingdom.
Missing that gathering is like missing a glimpse of heaven each week. That glimpse far exceeds the sometimes hellish realties of the world around us. Being a part of a church that points my affections to that heavenly kingdom is the highlight of the week for my soul. If you are reading this and are not a born again Christian, I cannot adequately explain that to you. But I can tell you that it is true. In Jesus Christ, a thousand times ten thousand joys are found. We, who are His redeemed followers, taste and see those joys in the gathering of the saints week by week.
All of this I knew already. I now feel it deeply.
Lord Jesus, come quickly!