WHAT ARE WE TO DO IN THE CHURCH?
Unfortunately, all too often, Christians miss the boat when it comes to what they ought to be doing in the local assembly. There are numerous and various reasons for this. In fact, even the most faithful Christian can misstep in their walk unto God. God, in His word, isn’t shy or bashful to clearly and honestly share the failures and miscues of those whom He has used to accomplish various ends. Therefore, in one sense, we can and often do justify our failures as part of our flesh, our natural inclination to sin to not walk after God, or normalcy of our weak conduct and behavior to the point we not only easily dismiss our behavior (maybe for some, a large portion of their life), but also easily dismiss changing things. This attitude and perspective of allowing sin, our flesh, and normal tendencies to run and operate unchecked are not only inconsistent in general to who God has made us to be in Christ, but it often goes unchecked at church. Yet, in a whole other sense, when it comes to who our Heavenly Father has made us to be in Christ and what He teaches us, we ought not simply justify our misconduct or improper attitude. We ought not chalk up our attitude and behavior toward another in the local assembly to, “boys will be boys”. This kind of thinking completely neglects one members role in another members life. It also neglects the power of God’s Word at one’s disposal for change. If it does characterize our spirit, then we are found wanting when it comes to a desire for godliness and to please our Father. Oftentimes, don’t realize what we are saying and what we are thinking in light of God’s Word. Herein lies the issue.
THE PROSPECT OF GODLINESS
For a brief moment let us entertain the thought of the mind of God when it comes to His desire and goal for us and do so in light of our functionality, life, and role in the local church. Maybe a question is best to probe our thinking. What is God’s desire for you when it comes to your interactions with others in the local assembly?
If this question comes to a surprise, as if we didn’t know or neglected the godly reality of interacting with others in the local assembly then we must examine ourselves in front of the mirror of God’s Word in regards to what He says about the local assembly’s designed role and purpose in our lives.
If this question is asked and easily forgotten without thought or regard, then our perspective and mindset are constrained toward our Father, His education, and how we are to view and engage others.
If this question is asked and excuses are generated by unhindered examination of others in regard to their social status, personalities, quirks, etc instead of an examination of oneself, then maybe we have believed the gospel, but the weight of its’ truth may not have truly taken hold in our mind and hearts.
Our Father has designed to build us up by impacting our mind and how we think to think like He does and thereby impact our conduct and behavior toward others. Participating in godly edification assures the fruit of this.
EXAMINATION A NECESSITY FOR THOSE WHO DESIRE CONFORMITY TO CHRIST
God’s grace abounds when it comes to His patience with us and the renewing of our minds toward others in the local assembly. It never starts with the other person changing, but with our own mind and heart being changed by God’s powerful word. So many things do, can, and ought to factor into this change: God’s word, prayer, meditation, time, etc. Yet, one factor is often neglected these days to the point that if it wasn’t on the pages of God’s Word it would be extinct. This factor is an examination, a by-product of true edification. It is often neglected because it is viewed as a work. A vain thought that if I have to examine myself than I am relying on myself and it isn’t Christ in me. This misses the entire point of what we are to examine. We are to examine if we are living godly in Christ Jesus. The “how to walk” is fundamental to our apostles’ letters and soundly teach how we are to behave and examine whether we are walking after the Spirit or the flesh.
EXAMINATION, EDIFICATION, & HONESTY
Edification and examination go hand-in-hand. When we examine we are to inspect carefully, with a view to discover truth or the real state of a thing. In regards to our walk we are to inspect carefully what is going on, first, in our minds consistent with the mechanics of “walking after the Spirit”. We “walk after the Spirit” (Romans 8:5) by first “minding the things of the Spirit”, which is why God wants to “renew our minds” (Romans 12:1-2) and have us “serve in newness of spirit” (Romans 7:6). It is vital to fulfilling the desire to please God. It is so vital to know that from His perspective where the work takes place. It takes place IN THE MIND. Therefore, examining ourselves involves examining our mind, our thoughts, our attitude, our perspective toward and in “all things” (Romans 8:28). In our case examining our mind when it comes toward the church and toward others in the local assembly. One of the definitions of examining describes interrogation. This explicit term is not shy of the measure we should participate with what is going in our minds as well as what we are thinking. In fact, such inspection is the basis of meditation (1 Tim. 4:15-16).
Edification is the process of building in our mind and heart the sound doctrine through the apostle Paul’s epistles to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18) and thereby possess “the mind of Christ” which is the purpose of the New Testament. It should be noted because of this process, emphasis should be put upon learning and studying. An English Grammarian from the 19th Century stated this about edification: “he who is edified is conscious of an accession to his stock of practical knowledge, and an increase of his moral strength.” This was true of Paul, on many occasions he states his “accession” or in Paul’s terminology “perfection”. One of those occasions he says,
“…if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this on things I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you (Php. 3:11-15).”
True godly edification means we are conscious of the stock of knowledge we are learning, but also our use and practice with it. Therefore, edification is consistent to “walking after the Spirit” and twofold: 1) we ought to be learning the knowledge or learn Christ (Eph. 4:20-24), and 2) we ought to be practicing it.
Honesty becomes a vital component to examination and edification.
Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates. (2Co 13:7)
The Lord spoke about this a lot during His earthly ministry as well:
But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luk 8:15)
It is easy for us to examine others; however, it isn’t easy when we examine ourselves. We have a tendency to turn our head to our ungodliness instead of confronting it, covering up darkness instead of manifesting it. We don’t want God to know, as if He doesn’t already, and we don’t want others to know what or how we think even though it is often portrayed in our actions, what we say, and how we say it. We live out of what is going on in the mind and what we have in our mind; therefore, what we do and how we do it, what we say and how we say it are reflective of the knowledge we have learned and our choice to yield to it or not and act in accordance with it or not.
WHAT ARE WE TO DO?
Simply – learn “the things of the Spirit”, “mind them”, spend time with them, interact with them, understand them, examine their usefulness and profitability, love them for in so doing you are interacting with Christ and your love for Him is increasing and then begin to prove them or apply them in your situations and circumstance of life. I leave you with a few samples of that packet of information with grand practicality.
“…not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;”
“Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality”
“Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”
“Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.”
I encourage you to take stock of this knowledge and examine not only if you have these things in you, but whether you are operating upon them, especially in view of what we are to be doing at church. These are the things of the Spirit we are to mind to walk after the Spirit, they are the mind of Christ and therefore conform us and renew our minds. These are also things we are supposed to be “proving”. The depth of practicality is gained by your understanding of them and your honest assessment of their use in any given situation. May we think on these things and decide to prove them in our lives among others for their profit and not simply be concerned about ours.
Josh Strelecki, Pastor-Teacher