The way Jesus describes God in prayer and thus relationship is as 'Father'. It seems simple enough and particularly in the west we then position ourselves rightly as sons or daughters of God. Unusually though, many then proceed in their faith in a place of isolation forgetting that Jesus starts the Lord's prayer with 'Our'.
Though God wants you individually, the scarier element for most is that God's primary affection, God's direction, and yes even God's 'election' (I swear that was not supposed to sound alliterated) is not upon the individual it is upon his chosen people.
In the Old Covenant, Israel was 'chosen' (or elected) by God because “they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.” (Rom 11:28). Deuteronomy 4:37 tells us that "Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them".
Romans 9:11 – 12 tells us that... "though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him, who calls, it was said to her, 'The older will serve the younger'".
Some misunderstand this verse (and passage in general) because we are obsessively individually focused, however it is not individual election God is primarily talking of in Romans 9 but the election of a nation for his purposes. Genesis, giving a fuller background tell us "Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples shall be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger" (Genesis 25:23)
God chose Israel in the forefathers. Each individual was 'chosen' because they were born into Israel by birth and participated in the covenant through faith (yes, even in the in the OT). In the exact same way, we are told in Ephesians 1:4 tells us “For he chose us in him...” The Church is chosen as a new covenant community in Christ, through Christ and for Christ. Repetitively throughout Ephesians 1 and 2 we are told that our salvation, our identity, our sufficiency is in Christ.
BUT... what does this matter to us?
The Short answer is that the call of God, the direction of God and the affection of God is unconditionally towards his Church, Christ's bride. The Church has been unconditionally elected not you as an individual. This is important because such an understanding readjusts the way we consider our place in the world.
You cannot be walking in the will of God and be practically apart from the body. It is inconsistent with the community call of God in Christ. No where in the New Testament do we even get a glimmer of the idea that one might be a disciple and in a casual relationship with the Church or indeed practically and relationally not part of it. Baptism was the initiation and declaration of a repentant person coming into a new family, a new way, a new identity, a new community.
God is NOT about building your dream, God is about building his.
Psalm 37:4 tells us “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Unfortunately we frequently approach this completely opposite. We say to God (and to the Church for that matter) 'give me the desires of my heart and I will delight in you'.
God is about building a home defined by him.
a) Home is WHO we are (as defined by our father in heaven)
The good, the bad and the ugly. Christ is beautifying his Church and she is loved even when not perfect.
1 Cor 3:9 starts “For we are God's fellow-workers; you are God's field, God's building.
For we are GOD'S...!!! We seem to continue to forget this little detail, we are his.
This is not about God blessing what we do, but about us standing in what he is blessing.
This is not about us creating a monument to our comfort but a home that positions for the ultimate fight.
Psalm 127:1 says...
More important then strategy, vision or style is our Identity, an identity found in Christ, expressed and shaped consistently in, through and because of the local community we are dedicated to because it is home.
b) Home is about our place of grace
The Apostle Paul continues talking of his call and the Church in saying...
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor 3:10 – 11
What is the grace on your life?
What is the Grace on the house?
The local expression of the Church is as diverse as the grace of God that he puts on our lives.
So often, individual's, Churches and Ministries get caught in a comparison trap. We get 'home' envy because the grace of God on another has built something unique to the call of God on that person or community.
When we try to live in a place of comparison rather than grace, we get intimidation.
key sign of health in Church community is not simply growth or size
(that could easily be obesity or a tumour), it is maturity expressed
in healthy reproductivity.
c) Home is about our hopes & dreams
I remember drawing my dream home as a child, it looked remarkably similar to family friends of ours. Have you ever had home envy? As you grow in life and mature you discover another persons home is not your home.
When we shape a home we shape it in expectation and anticipation of a preferred future.
The expectant parent prepares the new babies room, the couple creates a home with quiet dreams of a child filling the empty room. God is not building us for where we are but where he is taking us
1 Cor 3:12 continues...
“If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.” 1 Cor 3:12 – 13
We build in expectation, anticipation and hope that what is built lasts in eternity.
We build not for the life that sits just in front of us but for eternity that extends this life.
We build for the vision of Rev 7:9 – 12, a vision of people from every nation tribe and tongue standing before the throne of God clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
In the Message Paraphrase of Ephesians 2:16 – 22 it says...
“Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father. That's plain enough, isn't it? You're no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You're no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He's using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he's using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”
The direct recipients of this passage were largely Gentile believers, feeling rejected at times because they were not 'chosen' like Israel. Paul however stresses in Ephesians that we now have been 'chosen in Christ' and he is building a home. He is not building a full service restaurant where we can come and go, where we can demand service and treat it like a consumer treats a business rather he is building a home.
So often people have become consumers of a spiritual product and seek more and better service, picking and choosing from different providers. Going from Church to Church to get their fix.
Are you a Spiritual Consumer relating to the Church as a provider? Or are you part of community on mission?
Listen to 'WELCOME HOME' from our sermon Series 'The Code' (note: the recording is initially not great before improving)
NEXT BLOG – ARE YOU A SPIRITUAL CONSUMER?