The ice will melt, and the effects of COVID-19 will subside… someday. The question is not when will we come to church, but how?
As a congregation, we are walking through Romans 12 in prayer and in preaching. This chapter opens with a reference to the mercies of God. The first part of Romans is all about God’s mercy shown to us by saving us through the death of Christ. The mercy of God in Christ opens a flood of mercies that continually come to us every day. Romans 8 provides ample proof that God’s mercies accompany us all the days of our lives.
When we come to Romans 12, we enter a major section of commands and exhortations given to us in light of God’s mercy. Mercy is making an appeal to live transformed lives.
As I prepared to preach from Romans 12 this week, I had a vision. I wasn’t transported to another place, nor did I see strange occurrences that need to be interpreted. I simply had a mental image of our congregation gathered together and relating to one another by the mercies of God.
In this vision, there is a demonstrable sense of being delivered from sin and condemnation, and we were worshipping God. I discerned in the minds and hearts of people a deep humility toward God and one another that was birthed by the mercy we have received. I watched as church members greeted one another, accepted each other as brothers and sisters, and prayed together. The place smelled of grace and gratitude. The sound of truth, the feel of forgiveness, and the offerings of service were everywhere. Everyone knew Christ was among us. And some who were with us realized the reality of the gospel because they saw its power in us. They believed.
So, I ask myself this question. How will this Romans 12 vision of Christian community become a reality?
I am completely aware this kind of church life is a gift from God and is birthed by his Spirit. I know it can’t be manufactured by human plans and effort. But I do believe that the appeal made by the mercies of God in Romans 12 is there for a purpose. I am convinced that with Christ in us there is a way we come to church that makes a difference.
How do we come to church? By the mercy of God. We enter as living sacrifices to God, bodies given to his service, minds renewed in his truth, and our whole selves transformed from rebels to worshippers. We come to church thinking soberly about ourselves, remembering that we found mercy at the foot of the cross. We see ourselves as those possessing gifts that we use in service to others. We come with love, zeal, and a readiness to meet the needs of the saints. We come with blessing and not cursing, even for those who may curse us. In this way, we overcome evil with good.
When we come to church, let us come by the mercies of God. May God in mercy revive us according to Romans 12.