In our world, we
sometimes hear people who speak of how they want a relationship with Jesus, but
they do not want much (if anything) to do with the church. This is not new; in
fact, some of you will remember the days when the saying, "give me the Man,
but not the plan," was in vogue. Still, in our day, the numbers seem to be
growing of people who want some connection to Jesus but not to the church. There may be any number
of reasons they give for that. Some might say it is because Jesus is perfect,
while the church, being composed of people, has so many flaws. Others, though
they may not actually say it, want the Jesus of love and acceptance and not the
"rules" they believe the church puts on people. Whatever the reason,
those who think that you can have Jesus without the church are sadly mistaken.
For one thing, Jesus is the Head of His body, which is the church (Ephesians
1:22-23), and you simply cannot remove the Head from the body without it being
ugly and deadly. There is another reason,
though, that I want to consider for a moment. It is found in a verse that many
of us know and love. It is a passage that is filled with praise to God from the
pen of Paul. Quite often in his writings, Paul just seemed to not be able to
hold back praise to God, and words of praise just flowed from his mind onto the
parchment. As he wrote about the
plan of God through Jesus, Paul wrote these beautiful words of praise: To Him
be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever
and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:21). Why would we look at that verse as we
consider our subject? Notice that Paul is making it clear that the glory of God
is given, yes, by Christ, but also by the church, and that is to be done until
the world ends...and beyond. It is vital for us to
remember that in connection with our understanding of the importance of the
church. Paul's words should help us realize that God cannot be praised as He
desires unless the church is praising Him, and that is to last for as long as
the world stands. Those who want to try to have a relationship with Jesus
without having a connection with the church are simply unable to praise God as
He has demanded. I would hope that each
one of us would have a desire to praise God to the very best of our ability.
Certainly, we would each say that we fall short of being able to praise God
perfectly, but we should also want to praise Him as best we possibly can. If that
is true, then we must be part of the church! We must be active in the church.
For it is both "in Christ" and "in the church" where God's
praise is lifted to the fullest in this life. Those who want to have a
relationship with Jesus without having a connection with the church are missing
out on so much. That includes their ability to praise and worship God fully.
Why would anyone not want to praise Him completely?