Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Community of the Called Out

"Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the City, the watchman waketh but in vain." (Psalm 127:1)

Man is a communal creature by design; we are not built to be alone. While some rare souls seek solace in the caverns of monastic retreat, the overwhelming majority of us are forever compelled toward community. It is how God has wired us. The question, then, is what kind of community do we seek? Like Abraham of old, we "seek a city, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb.11:10). That is to say, we hunger for a godly community in every sense of the word. Law and order, peace and justice, truth and goodness, love and mercy, freedom and creativity. In one word -- godly.

Jesus made it clear that He came to start just such a community on the earth. "I will build My Church," He said, "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The word He used is ekklesia, meaning "the community of the called out." This immediately makes us ask, "Called out of what?"

The old hymn gives the best answer -- "Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night; into Thy freedom, gladness, and light. Out of my sickness into Thy health, out of my want and into Thy wealth, out of my sin and into Thyself, Jesus, I come to Thee. Out of my shameful failure and loss; into the glorious gain of Thy cross. Out of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm, out of life’s storms and into Thy calm, out of distress to jubilant psalm, Jesus, I come to Thee. Out of unrest and arrogant pride; into Thy blessed will to abide. Out of myself to dwell in Thy love, out of despair into raptures above, upward for aye on wings like a dove, Jesus, I come to Thee. Out of the fear and dread of the tomb; into the joy and light of Thy home. Out of the depths of ruin untold, into the peace of Thy sheltering fold, ever Thy glorious face to behold, Jesus, I come to Thee. (William T. Sleeper, 1896)

Yet another question rises, "What, then is it that we have been called into?" To be sure, it is a community like nothing this world has to offer. The Bible refers to it in such comprehensive terms as The House of the Lord, the City of our God, and the Kingdom of Heaven. It is both local and global, as well as eternal. It is not institutional; but relational. It is gathered in the name of the Lord, governed by the word of the Lord, guided by the Spirit of the Lord, guarded by the power of the Lord, and garnished with the glory of the Lord.

And there is only one way into this Community; it is through faith in the Lord Jesus, evidenced by love for His people, which springs out of obedience to His word.

Are you in?


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