Summary: Membership - choosing where to apply our freedom...To the kingdom of God.
Limits of membership
In the past several weeks we have been discussing Christian freedom. We have examined Jesus’ and Paul’s words related to the subject and I have suggested that when each one speaks about Christian Freedom we can be sure that their use of the word is absolute…Free means free. But the actual focus of our study is to notice how WE limit our freedom as Christians.
We have also discussed how we allow our view of what God is like affects how freely we live. Some people live less than free lives because they want Got to respond to their needs…Sort of a Santa Clause concept. There are people that live out of fear of God and choose to restrict their lives to avoid punishment.
Last week we examined what kind of prison perfectionism creates. How it is self imposed limiting of our choice. I suggested that the only way of freeing ourselves form a false representation of our human condition was to jump off the pedestal that places us above other people and to admit that we still have problems with sin. That way we choose to join the rest of the sinners and look them in the eye.
The one element of our relationship with God that I hope you never lose sight of is that when we fail in our Christian life and fall into sin. No matter what the sin, God will NEVER stop loving us and will always be waiting to accept us back and to trust us with our personal freedom again.
In a way my discussion about Christian freedom has been some what pointless.
The majority of people here have already given up absolute freedom as a Christian because they have placed themselves within the membership of this church.
Don’t get me wrong I believe that submitting to membership in a local church is the best choice that a believer can make.
So, for the past few weeks the messages about freedom have hopefully been for every person that is a Christian. The guidance or help toward faith for a non-believer was minimal.
-- Today the sermon is even more limited. Today the remarks that God has placed on my heart are only for the members of this church.
Everyone is welcome; there is no need for the few that are not members to leave.
However, the subject is directly related to the limits of our freedom because of our commitment to the local church.
It seems a little strange but when I looked in several of my Bibles I did not find anything that looked like a membership application. And there are lots of people that believe that you can be a Christian without being a member of a church.
Let me just say that there are a few flaws in that thought. First, according to Jesus the church is his creation.
In Matthew 16:18, He said, " And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
Ephesians 5:25 says that Christ "gave Himself for the church." Jesus prayed for the church in Gethsemane before He died on the Cross.
Add to those basic references that Paul wrote to specific churches, he named specific community members that were a part of those churches Makes it pretty clear that some type of membership is identified indirectly in the New Testament.
I believe that scripture is clear that it is hard to live as a Christian when connected to a church and that some individuals are sent out of the church to learn what the loss of community feels like. I am not sure that too many people would be able to live a fruitful Christian life in isolation away from other Christians.
According to Paul, any person going the path alone will ultimately choose other forms of slavery, many that are sinful. They seem to do this just to be accepted as part of a bigger community.
So as a person that is “preveniently” (in advance of faith) brought by God’s grace into a relationship, they are Christians and automatically members of the catholic….the universal church of believers. They are without a doubt Christians.
However, a Christian without a church is limited in their access to God given resources. They probably have fewer understanding people in their life that share their joys and concerns. Fewer people that celebrate their excitement about God and his personal interaction in them. They may feel the need to hide their acceptance of the good news because the people in their life will think them a nut.
A Christian that is not connected to a church family will also have less opportunity and ability to have a purpose in the kingdom of God.