By Chris McRae, BCI Discipleship Team Leader
We are the people of God…a holy people.
That’s not bragging, it’s just reality. To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed to make that claim out loud. Why? Because you and I both know that I don’t deserve to be a part of God’s people – none of us do. We’re certainly not all that holy…that’s clear from even a cursory glance at any one of us. Dig deep into the soul of most of us and one begins to wonder what God was thinking when he got into the creation business. What was his plan? What’s the end game? Why the bother?
It seems as if a cosmic mistake has been made. With evil not simply flourishing, but seemingly victorious.
But there you have it. A holy people of God’s own choosing. God made me to bear his image, to be marked by his character, to be like him as a moral agent in the universe choosing righteousness and holiness and goodness and love…just like he does. Jesus was the model. The eternal, everlasting Son of God was the prototype for a vast household made up of many children of glory. But then, he ended up with us!
We had to go and ruin it all. In any honest, self-reflective moment we understand the scarlet letter to be tattooed on our forehead is a large “L” for loser. Or “S” for Sinner if you want to be more theologically correct. Choosing to go our own way and do our own thing, thinking somehow we could improve on God’s plan, we made a mess of it. What were we thinking? “I know better! I’ll do it my way!” We’ve chosen to eat from the ash pit of a detritus scattered life scavenging for scraps of self when we were made to sell out for the satisfaction of surrender in living a life of love for God and others. One of the wise guys described it in saying, we chose “to worship and serve created things rather than the Creator.”
We are the church…a family of faith.
God did not leave us there in the landfill of our life. He picked through the garbage, cleaned us off, dressed us up, and embraced us into his life. We became family to him. You know that it had nothing to do with us, right! We were chosen not because we stood out from others as being prettier or smarter or more athletic, talented or desirable. Out of all the others God brought us into his family as a vast swarm of brothers and sisters brought together in Christ Jesus, our elder brother in faith to be like him.
We are the Bride of Christ…beautiful and beloved.
It gets even better. Not only are we adopted as brothers and sisters but we’re engaged, betrothed to the heir. We are to be married to the King of kings at a great wedding banquet. Virginal in purity, glorious in brightness, the Bride stands before her beloved without wrinkle, spot or blemish. And she shall reign with him as co-heir over creation.
I don’t really get how all this comes about. I do know and believe and trust that God makes it all work. Well, he’s God isn’t he? We ought to suppose he can do as he wills.
We’re to be people of faith. But any thinking person has doubts and questions and many “I don’t understand” moments. Seldom though do those overtake us in a flash of despair. Little by little we let questions go unanswered and we feed our doubts.
Losing faith begins small but crescendos mightily. It might begin with a ripple of doubt, progress in a wave of disbelief, overwhelm us by a flood of panic, and, if unheeded, ends in a tsunami of grief.
So, at the beginning and unto the end we feed our faith. Through the many long centuries of life on this planet, God’s people have learned a few things that today we need to remember and renew and rehearse. We draw near to God in some very specific ways. No, it is never that we obligate our Father to us by performing for him. He’s already obligated himself to us by making us his children, by aligning himself with us. We please him in joy as we live for the good and the glory he created us. What are these ways in which we meet with God and so nurture our faith?
One is in the sacramental gathering of God’s saints for worship. Don’t get bent out of shape by the language I use to describe our time together. God’s grace appears along these paths not in any magical or superstitious sense, but rather in his very real presence. To deny such is to deny the very personhood of God and that is the very definition of sacred. So, we gather together…assemble ourselves into a congregation. We separate ourselves out of the busyness of day-to-day routines, out from the divine-veiling shroud of worldly concerns to fix our attention on our forever destiny. We remember and recount the wonders of God alive in our midst. We pray and sing and confirm and proclaim that God indeed reigns sovereignly above the cosmos, among the nations, over our lives and in our hearts. He delights, and all heaven rejoices as we experience a taste of his glory!
Two is joining in smaller gatherings with like-hearted others to serve, comfort, encourage and bless one another. It is summed up in the idea of looking out for the interests of others. Gathered around the good Word of God’s choosing we learn the heart attitude of his Son whom we are learning to imitate. Much more about this will come in later posts but for now it’s important to know that God meets with his people when they listen to him speak through his Word and when they listen to the heart cry of another.
Three is in discipleship. Much is made of this in the church. And few things are less understood. We have some vague ideas about what a disciple is. Learners. Followers. Obeyers? We need to do some serious work in grasping what Jesus had in mind when he called men and women to be his disciples. I personally need someone who knows me well, who will call my bluff and who isn’t afraid of “offending” me. Someone who will tell it to me straight and to whom I can go for wise counsel. Left to my own devises, I’ll not simply wander away—though there is that danger as well—I will run headlong into the open maw of a world intent on devouring my soul.
Four is in personal worship. We listen privately in the closed up space of our own soul for the quiet, seemingly inconsequential voice of God as he makes his written revelation come alive and personal to my own needs and for my utter transformation. Often our prayer devolves into a laundry list or a shopping list or a contact list. God doesn’t need our endless repetition of recurring entries in a ledger. God longs for our hearts yielded before him knowing that to no other would we turn. For he is the very breath of life, the source of satisfaction, and the answer to our longing.
This is what it means to be people of faith…the people of God.