For yesterday, I was thankful for the comfort of God’s people, preaching, prayer, and the Lord’s supper. I know I cried through most of the service, but I feel more at peace after our service. God is gentle. God lifts us with truth, and I’m thankful.
Last year, I had a new Thanksgiving go up every single day for the month of November. This year, the idea seems overwhelming. It’s funny how life ebbs and flows sometimes. I still wish to express my thankfulness, especially for those of you who know how much I love Christmas and may think of me as a holiday skipper. I promise my tree doesn’t go up until after Thanksgiving. 😉
This year I am thankful for the means of Grace, the Preaching of the Word. The older I get and the longer I live on this earth, the more attached my heart grows to the Lord’s Day and to the Preaching of His Word. It is here that I find help in my battle against sin, it is here that I’m armed for the fight and given courage. It is here that I’m reminded of my standing as an adopted child who has been given great mercy. It is here that the truths of God are made understandable. I long for each Sunday. In this, I’m thankful for faithful men who spend themselves in the study of the Scriptures for the sake of our little flock here in Texas. I’m thankful for fellow saints in the trenches who encourage me with their faithful attendance. God is good to us!
My Church is a failure. We’ve probably lost more members than we’ve ever gained. We don’t have a youth group, children’s church, or an outreach into our community. We don’t raise money to feed the poor, or bus in children from the inner cities. We don’t protest at abortion centers as a church, or have political candidates in our pulpit. On top of all that, we don’t focus our encouragement on personal devotions, or lots of prayer time in your inner closet. We don’t keep a list of what not to watch and what not to read and what not to wear. Even worse than all that, we encourage young men to give up their careers, money, power, and influence. Why? So they can study an ancient and out of touch document. We encourage young women to pass on the idea of a career and consider their calling as wives, mothers and homemakers. We encourage men to lead and women to submit. We encourage people to give up on their dreams.
Have I made you gasp yet? Do you think I’ve gone and joined a cult?
We want so desperately to live by sight. We just want to be able to see the Kingdom of Christ soooo badly we can taste it. And often, too often, we willingly give up the truth, the gospel, the commands of the gospel in order to see heaven here on earth.
See, we don’t like the way Christ set things up. We want it to be about us. We want to do “great things for Christ”. But that’s never been what Christ called us to do. You want to know what he called us to do? He called us to live quiet lives of service, and service specifically to our church. He didn’t call us to end the ills of this earth. If He had, you’d think Paul would have led a slave revolt instead of telling slaves to obey their masters. You think the apostles would have told women to preach but they told women to be silent, modest, to sit at the feet of other silent modest older women, and to submit to their husbands. Paul had the perfect opportunity to change his world, but he didn’t. Instead, he preached the gospel to sinners.
You want to see heaven here on earth? Okay. Ready for this? Look at the person sitting next to you on the pew. Yes. Them. The ones with the wiggly kids, the gum smackers, the off-key singers, the bad dressers, the questionable movie watcher, the couple with no kids, the couple with way too many kids, the strange, the odd, the nerdy, the geeky, the least of the earth, the greatest of sinners sitting beside you on the pew each Sunday. This is heaven. Heaven is not what you want it to be. Heaven is the True Kingdom finally made sight for us instead of just faith, and your local congregation is your little taste of heaven.
Church is heaven.
Our church may be a failure in the eyes of the world, or in the eyes of big, modern churches, but Christ has blessed us with elders who encourage us that true Christianity is not found in independent bible study, but in the gathering of the local saints. True Christianity is based on the means of grace: preaching, the Lord’s supper, baptism, and prayer. This is where we are promised blessing if we remain faithful. It’s not about daring and change. It’s about trust, a quiet life, and Christ making us more like himself.
Stop being so worried about whether you missed out on your private Bible time, or the ills of this world, which you can’t change, and start worrying about whether you make it a point to be at church every time the doors are open. Are you a faithful attendee by God’s grace? When you’re there, do you engage others, or do you try to hide as much as possible? Do you pray? Do you engage yourself in the Lord’s Supper? Do you participate in the baptism of new believers? Do you visit sick church members? Do you sacrifice what you want for what the church needs? Do you serve those around you?
See, none of this is amazing. None of this is pretty, or powerful, or mighty according to how the world judges might. It is lowly. It is humbling. It is even stupid sometimes. I mean grown men who sacrifice time and money to study and teach in obscurity. And even if they are ever ‘well known’, who knows them? A few other stuffy old men? And women? Smart, talented young women who turn their back on art, music, jobs that let them travel, their own destinies for what? To change dirty diapers? To visit sick people they’re not even related to? To submit, obey, and serve their husbands? It’s not very glittery. It’s not very pretty. It’s not popular.
But, it is heaven here on earth.
A careful exegeses of the scripture does not call the Church to change our society. It doesn’t call us to right the wrongs. It calls us to love our fellow church members, to serve them and take care of them, to live quiet lives, and to store up our treasures in heaven, not here. This is not heaven. This is a world under the wrath of God, filled with sinners, out of which Christ is calling his own. Someday, Christ will return and destroy this place with fire. It won’t be pretty. It won’t be nice.
Heaven is on the other side of death, or Christ’s return, and the only place we can find an inkling of it here is in a local church where the word of God is consistently preached by elders called by Christ who hold fast to their confessions of faith. This is our heaven here on earth.