The Gift of Biblical Fellowship1
In his book, Disciplines of Grace, Jerry Bridges make this life-changing point:
"The gospel, applied to our hearts every day, frees us to be brutally honest with ourselves and with God. The assurance of His total forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Christ means we don't have to play defensive games anymore. We don't have to rationalize and excuse our sins. We can say we told a lie instead of saying we exaggerated a bit. We can admit an unforgiving spirit instead of continuing to blame our parents for our emotional distress. We can call sin exactly what it is, regardless of how ugly and shameful it may be, because we know that Jesus bore that sin in His body on the cross. With the assurance of total forgiveness through Christ, we have no reason to hide from our sins anymore."
We at Redeemer Church are enjoying the fruit of this kind of thinking. In our brief weeks together I have observed numerous evidences of the humility that living this way requires. So today I am "boasting in the Lord" by celebrating His grace at work in our little church -- a work that only He can do. Here are some evidences of that grace:
- Humility on display at our Community Group: We are reading You Can Change by Tim Chester; a book about God's transforming power that Paul Tripp says is "shockingly honest, carefully theological, and gloriously hopeful all at the same time." While we've only met 3 times, I have been inspired by the eagerness of those participating to confess specific sins (some, for the first time in a group setting); communicate compassion; and tenderly care for one another. We are all excited about seeing new groups begin in April as the Lord identifies leaders to take what they are learning about biblical fellowship and the hope of the gospel to others in the church.
- People asking for prayer or counsel for longterm struggles in their lives: Whether it's on a Sunday morning during a ministry time; at a church picnic; or over email people have been asking for help with parenting; longterm struggles in their family; or counsel to overcome lust, bitterness and hopelessness. I feel very at home with this group of people, and have joined them in admitting my own struggles and need for God's help!
Mr. Bridges is right. This kind of openness begins with us and God. The questions at the end of the chapters in the book we are reading are requiring me to allow the search light of the Holy Spirit in to my heart to find out: What pressures I regularly face. Who the people are that I find difficult to cope with. What situations cause me to worry, get angry or brood. What triggers these patterns in my life. If I look to myself or God to change me, and what that looks like. Do I really believe God is powerful enough to change me?
God and I are having a depth of interaction that is forcing me to regularly remind myself that because He died and saved me, I can be honest about who I really am (after all, He knows and loves me anyway!)...and find wonderful hope in His unrelenting pursuit of and power to change me and those I love! Then I can take that transparency to others, trusting Him with the risks of being vulnerable to fellow sinners and sufferers.
Redeemer Church isn't the only place this is happening. You may be in a church where you can admit you don't just exaggerate but lie...are struggling with pornography...no longer love your spouse or are worried about a wayward teen -- and find prayer, accountability, hope and compassion. But if not, and until you can find that place, there is a Redeemer to Whom you can run. He sits on a throne of grace where sinners can find mercy and help in our time of need.
"With the assurance of total forgiveness through Christ, we have no reason to hide from our sins anymore."