The huge redwood trees in California are amazing.
• They are the largest living things on earth and the tallest trees in the world.
• Some of them are 100m high and more than 2,500 years old.
• You would think that trees that large would have a tremendous root system, reaching down deep into the earth. But that is not the case.
• Redwoods have a very shallow root system.
• The roots of these trees are, however, intertwined. They are tied in with each other; interlocked.
• Thus, when the storms come and the winds blow the redwoods still stand.
With an interlocking root system they support and sustain each other. They need one another to survive. So do we!
We Need the Church.
Hence, God has given us His Church which is the body of Christ on earth.
• When one is baptized into Christ, one is baptized into the body of Christ.
• Through Christ we are bound together in a community of faith.
• Because we belong to Christ, we belong to each other.
From Genesis to Revelation – the Bible paints a picture of community, from the Garden of Eden to the Jerusalem City at the end.
• God Himself is a triune God. We are created for relationship, for community.
• The church is God-designed support system.
• As such, it is intended to meet some crucial needs in our lives.
Let’s look at the picture painted for us in Eph 4:11-16. • [Read Eph 4:11-16] God will rise up leaders (these 5 offices) and give them to the church, so that believers can be trained.
• Growth will take place. But always in a context – note v.16 – as a whole body.
• Growth can only take place in an environment; and this place is the church.
• In order words, we cannot grow without the church.
• We are created for community.
Some want to be Christians apart from the Church.
• They want to have the benefits of being saved, but nothing more.
• They don’t want to share their lives with anyone. Have nothing to do with the church.
• They don’t want to be involved in people’s lives, just like Cain: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’
• They want no responsibility. They date the church; no commitment, no responsibility.
This is not God’s plan, according to the Bible.
• In fact, you can be sure that you will never really grow in maturity if you are away from the constant presence of God’s people.
(We cannot obey all the “one another” commands in the Bible)
• You will not realise this until something happens. Growth or decay is not perceptible. You will only know it after a period of time.
• This is why we make such a big deal about faithfulness in attendance.
• Even if you’re going through a dull time, struggling with some problem or sin, the last place you want to be is away from God’s people!
• The church is one of God’s means to bring grace and strength back into your life.
• THE CHURCH IS IMPORTANT!
Henri J. M. Nouwen, D. Morrison, and Donald P. McNeil, in COMPASSION:
“We have lost the simple but difficult gift of being present to each other. We say, “Why should I visit this person? I can’t do anything anyway; I don’t even have anything to say. Of what use can I be?”
“We have forgotten that it is often in ‘useless’, unpretentious, humble presence to each other that we feel consolation and comfort.
“Those who offer us comfort and consolation by being and staying with us in moments of illness, mental anguish, or spiritual darkness often grow as close to us as those with whom we have biological ties.”
“Our God is a God-with-us – a God who came to share our lives in solidarity.
It does not mean that God solves our problems, shows us the way out of our confusion or offers answers for all our questions. He might do all of that, but His coming shows that He is willing to enter with us into our problems, confusions and questions. That is the good news of God’s taking on human flesh.”
Jesus entered our world. Jesus is God’s compassion made visible to us.
• He is still doing that today when man receives Him as Saviour.
• He enters our life and expects us to do the same with others around us.
• Acts 2:44 says, “…ALL THAT BELIEVED WERE TOGETHER…”
Notice something – the picture that stands out from ACTS is not a picture of a strong Christian, but rather a strong CHURCH.
• Believers were under persecution. Yet they were able to overcome the odds because they were TOGETHER, often together!
• They were strong individually because CORPORATELY they were strong.
We are strong today because we belong to a community of faith.
• We will be able to overcome discouragement, doubts, temptations and trials, because we belong to a church.
• God has given us each other. God expected us to be there for each other.
Give priority to the church. Give priority to worshipping God together as a church.
• In his book The Connecting Church, Author Randy Frazee writes: “The writings of Scripture lead one to conclude that God intends the church, not to be one more bolt on the wheel of activity in our lives, but the very hub at the centre of one’s life...”
God has ordained that we play a vital part in each other’s faith.
• In order words, going it alone (like the hermits of the past, going into the desert) to meditate or worship will not do.
• You will not find yourself holier, nor will you find yourself loving God more.
• In fact, you may find yourself growing in the opposite direction – becoming more self-centred, selfish, prideful and cold.
• Why? God’s ordained environment for our faith to thrive is the church.
Remember the banana - when it left the bunch, it got skinned.
Look again at ACTS - God used this community of faith to do powerful things in the lives of countless people.
• They became the light in the midst of the darkness. They stood out, not individually but corporately.
• Despite the harsh circumstances, they changed the world.
• Almost the entire NT was written to churches and for churches.
God’s plan hasn’t changed.
• He still desires to use the “community of believers” to do great things.
• God intends that we be supported, strengthened, encouraged and empowered through the church.
• God has chosen to come to you through other believers.
• It is through other Christians that you sense and know His love and care for you.
No wonder the Bible called us the ‘Body of Christ’.
• We cannot see Him or His love. We can only sense it, through His Body.
• People will sense His love and care through you and me.
1 John 4:20-21 "Anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
• This is one command you will never be able to keep, if you are not in church or in fellowship with other believers.
• How much do you love God? God does not measure your love by what you say or what you sing - the measure of your love for Him is precisely the measure of your love for your brothers and sisters. That’s the gauge He uses.
• It’s as simple as that. We cannot say we love God and shun away from His children. We cannot say we love God and be blinded to the needs of His children.
A family of five is sitting down for a meal. There’s a missing place.
FATHER: "Seems like someone is missing here; the numbers don’t appear to be very high today.
BROTHER: "Yeah, it sure does seem like someone is missing!
SISTER: "Yes, that’s Johnny’s place and he’s not here!"
MOTHER: "Yes, that’s right, in fact he’s not been here for three weeks"....
OTHERS: "Perhaps he’s been out of town."; "Maybe’s he’s sick - there’s a bug going around"; "Perhaps he’s having company"; "Really, it’s probably none of our business where he’s at!"
Fellowship is not the church’s idea. It is God’s idea.
• The closer we stand in community, the more we will be able to hold up.
• Since we are made differently, with different personalities, coming together will have its problems and conflicts.
• It cannot be otherwise, since we are sinners, saved by grace and still growing.
So the mark of a good fellowship is not the absence of conflict and problems –
• Paul and Barnabas clashed over Mark, the church had problems over the distribution of food, Paul even rebuked Peter (Gal 2:11) for being hypocritical.
• The mark of good biblical fellowship is maturity - a reconciling spirit, for the good of the whole.
We don’t back away from the fellowship because of problems.
• We stick with it so that the problems can be resolved, and God’s will be done.
• In a broader sense, it means we should not church hop; don’t date the church.
• We should be attached to a church and be committed to the fellowship.
PORCUPINES IN THE WINTER
It’s like a group of porcupines that the famous philosopher Schopenhauer once used to illustrate a point.
A group of porcupines were marooned one bitter cold night in the middle of a large frozen field. There was no way to escape the biting wind. They could not borrow into the frozen ground.
As they huddled together to keep warm, their sharp quills began to pinch and hurt. The closer they moved together, the more the pain increased.
Some of the animals could not bear the pain and drew apart to sleep alone. In the morning they had frozen to death.
Our natural tendency is to pull away and go it alone.
• We must resist that temptation. We will fall into the devil’s trap if we do so.
• No wonder Jesus prayed about our unity in his last prayer.
• It is a challenge for us today, within the church and in a broader sense, among churches.
We were created for community. We are not called to do it alone.
• God has given us this family – “members of God’s household” (Eph 2:19), the family of God, His family.
• It is an absolutely essential that we stick close to it for strength and guidance.
• Therefore let’s make this community of faith a priority in our lives.
Be devoted to it, the same way the believers in Acts did.