Surely it is no surprise to you that Christians and congregations have experienced a difficult few years. Several events and issues have brought to the surface some real differences in the way we view the culture and understand the role we are to play in it.
One of the challenges in understanding the times and our place in them is the fact that many of the voices that have in the past been helpful to Christians in their discipleship and to congregations in their mission are now at odds with one another, and they are communicating very different assessments of the present and visions for the future. Christians are now rallying around the voices they believe best represent Christ and his kingdom, and the differences are becoming divisions.
We need to pray for those whose calling it is to be in the public arena, speaking and writing on the issues of the day. They have an important role to play, and they need the grace of God to play it.
But brothers and sisters, each one of us has a calling, too. Each of us is called to contribute to the ability of our congregation to fulfill our highest priority, which is to glorify God.
This is where Romans 14 and 15 come in. In these two chapters of the Bible, the Apostle Paul is addressing Christians who have different opinions (different ways of reasoning) about issues of their discipleship and church life. He spends a lot of time explaining why and how these believers are to live with one another while they share these differences.
At the end of his instructions for the congregation, Paul gives a benediction that speaks to the foundational purpose of the church. They are to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together they will with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5-6). Church is fundamentally for the glory of God.
When congregations make anything other than the glory of God their highest priority and their greatest end, things will go wrong. Church for the glory of God does not mean there are no other reasons to exist, that no other issues get addressed, and that no ministries to people happen. It means that God’s glory is our starting point. It means that we honestly, with full submission to a purpose higher than ourselves, seek God’s glory so that every other issue, ministry, activity, and relationship in the congregation is altered, shaped, and guided by this purpose.
God’s glory in the church cannot be merely a line in a purpose statement. God’s glory must be the burning passion of our hearts that subdues the desires of our flesh as well as our personal preferences. When it is, we can welcome one another, even with different opinions, as Christ has welcomed us, for the glory of God (Romans 15:7).
The first solution that the Bible gives for the differences that have become divisions among Christians and congregations today is a revival of passion for the glory of God, a return to this priority purpose, and a reunion with one another around the foot of the cross of Christ.
This Sunday at Grace Community Church we will take up Romans 14-15 and begin several weeks of prayerful preaching, repenting, and rejoicing in this passage.
Pray this weekend for hearts of faith to receive the word.