Do You Love Christ's Church?

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One of my favorite hymns is Timothy Dwight’s “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord” (ca.1800). I would like to share a portion of it with you:  “I love Thy Church, O God/Her walls before Thee stand/Dear as the apple of Thine eye, and graven in Thy hand/for Her my tears shall fall, for Her my prayers ascend/To Her my cares and toils be given, till toils and cares shall end”.

These lyrics depict what should be the heart-conviction of every child of God, namely, that the gathering of Christ’s church for worship and the work of His church in the world are like a precious jewel to Him. In a similar vein, King David once confessed (in Psalm 26:8), “O LORD, I love the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwells.”  In other words, he loved to worship God in the assembly of the righteous. He loved to be in God’s house on His day (Psalm 118:24), because “a day in [His] courts [was] better than a thousand elsewhere.”  David said that he “would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of [his] God than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10). A heart for God and a love for His worship is produced by God in every one of His true children (John 4:19-24).  Therefore, is it any wonder that Paul held the local church, its worship, and its mission in high esteem? Notice how important the local church was in Paul’s thinking: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21). Therefore, the importance of the local church in the New Testament and in our daily lives cannot be overstated.  It becomes obvious that the author of the book of Hebrews (12:22-24) held the same conviction as Paul, when we read, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (cf. Psalm 87:3, “Glorious things of you [the Church] are spoken, O city of God”). Is our priority list in sync with the writers of Holy Scripture? If it is, then we will love the Church – Christ’s Church. Such a perspective will become contagious and instructive. Lives will be changed and thinking will be altered. When local churches are maturing, we should see many people rising up who think about New Testament church life in this way. Beloved, this is when we will consider it a foretaste of heaven to observe the genuine members of Christ’s church (the sheep) far out-numbering the mere visible members (the goats/tares – i.e. those who only profess Christ, but do not possess Him) in our local church. Does your church mirror what I have just described, or is it experiencing, at present, something of a Babylonian Captivity (See Psalm 137:1-6)? If your church is like the former, bless Jehovah; continue to show your love for Christ through your love for His church. However, if your church is more like the latter description, then strive from this point on to serve Christ with your whole heart (Colossians 1:18; 3:16), and seek to call your church back to its mission by Biblically loving and strengthening Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 14:12,26). How are we to do this? We can accomplish this by joyfully worshiping and diligently laboring within Christ’s Church (1 Corinthians 15:58), and by sincere, sober-minded service outside of His Church (Philippians 2:12-13). I believe this mindset was what sparked King David to cry out, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD’” (Psalm 122:1). Remember: “…let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day of Christ drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Do you love Christ’s Church?

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