The church is described as a body with many parts, a building of many stones, a vine with many branches. Whilst being a Christian is something individual, it cannot be only individual. It must have a strong corporate ‘together’ dimension. This is a constant theme of the New Testament.
‘I’m a Christian but I don’t go to church’ does not sit well with Jesus’ teaching or the message of the Bible!
The more a Christian is devoted to Jesus Christ, the more this will be expressed in the life of his or her local church. Two main areas will be involved – what I receive and what I give.
What I receive
The local church is a key means the Lord has established whereby I can ‘grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 3:18). The early believers at Jerusalem displayed devotion to Christ in four obvious ways. ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer’ (Acts 2:42). In the heat of early devotion, they did this every day!
This much is clear; because they were devoted to Christ, they loved to be where his word was preached, where his people talked about him, where his death was remembered and where they would commune with him together.
Of course there would be those whose attendance was a sham, a mere external tradition (Acts 5 shows this to be the case with a husband and wife) but those devoted to Christ will love these ‘means of grace’ and make every effort to be there.
The New Testament emphasises our need of each other and our need to meet together (Heb. 10:25, 3:13). The more we love Christ, the more we will love and value and hunger and thirst for these means whereby we can grow to know him better.
What I give
The Apostle Paul speaks of living his life for ‘The Son of God, who loved him and gave himself for him.’ Devotion to Christ in the life of the local church is not simply what I get but equally importantly it is what I give.
‘I get nothing from this church, so I’m leaving’ is a complaint heard sadly all too often. But before making that complaint we need to ask ourselves, ‘What did I ever give to this church?’ A believer devoted to Christ will find it impossible to be a mere ‘consumer’ in the local church. It will just not be possible to be a mere ‘pew filler’ and a taker – my desire will be to serve the Lord with gladness.
Every believer has been given gifts by the risen ascended Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:7-8; 1 Cor. 4:4-7). Notice in the latter reference why the gifts we have were given – ‘for the common good’. Your gifts (and you do have them) are for you to use for the good of others and for the glory of the God who gave them to you. The believer who is devoted to Christ will be eager to use any gifts they have in the life of the local church.
In far too many evangelical churches today it’s a sad reality that a large minority (or sometimes a majority) are there as mere takers and not as givers.
How about me? How about you? Is my devotion to Christ real? Is yours? Is that devotion being seen in the life of our local churches?