A Case of Mistaken Identity –8

We’re here at the eighth and final posting in a series dealing with the trend among US Christians who are abandoning the church. I’ve mentioned before that when Christ saved us and reconciled us to the Father, he introduced us into his family. We now belong to his community of Christ-followers. Look at how Peter describes our new identity in Christ: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

The point is, Christ saved us and called us into community with him and with all others who call him, “Lord.” Our initiation into the family of God, to the church of Jesus Christ is not a sentence! Jesus Christ has liberated us into identity with our heavenly Father and all his children. He introduces us into fellowship with each other in which we can enjoy love, care, unity and the thrill of working together to see a lost world reconciled to God through Jesus Christ!

Among the many benefits that we enjoy in Christ’s community of followers (the church) is the leadership and communication that the Holy Spirit authorizes and provides. This is not to say that the Holy Spirit does not speak to and through individuals—he does! But God designed his church family to find protection and leadership through elders who shepherd Christ’s church. When we remove ourselves from the church, we also remove ourselves from under the leadership canopy that God put there for our protection and growth.

The writer of Hebrews urges us, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” (Hebrews 13:7, 17)

After Paul, Barnabas, Silas and other apostles established new churches, they appointed elders for them to shepherd and care for the people. How can we possibly think we are above the need for such spiritual leadership that Christ sees as so necessary? (See Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 3:1, 14-15; Titus 1:5.)

Consider also the high view of the church that the New Testament portrays. Paul referred to the community of Christ-followers as, “the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15) He also explains that Christ “is the head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23) Wow! This is not the description of an out-dated, irrelevant institution, but a living and vibrant organism—the body of Christ!

Finally, the Lord warned us of this trend that is now upon us. In fact, when we look back over history, we recognize that this is no new trend at all, but an old practice sneaking back to try to supplant and destroy Christ’s church again. In Hebrews 10:24, the writer urges us, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

You see, we can’t possibly say we’re following Jesus and abandon his church, for in doing so we forget who we are in him and who he is to us—the Head of the church. This indeed would be a serious case of mistaken identity!

©2010 Rob Fischer