Our assigned part of God’s plan is to be ‘in Christ’. Our priority is not to be ‘in Church’. In the last 50 years in America we have replaced ‘in Christ’ with ‘in church’. Have we traded Exodus 20:3 (‘no other gods before me’) for Hebrew 10:25 (‘forsake not the gathering’)? When was the last time you heard someone say, “we missed you in church today?’ In contrast, when was the last time you heard someone say, ‘Are you living ‘in Christ’ today? When someone is not living right, we say, “they need to be in church” or “I’m trying to get them back into church” when in reality showing up on Sunday morning alone may not solve the problem or fill the need that only Christ can fill. The promises of God are NOT true and “Yes” in the physical church, rather they ARE all “Yes” in Jesus Christ.
Has America’s modern-day church traded attendance or participation in a community of ‘believers’ for living ‘in Christ’? The latter pursuit and position, ‘in Christ’, is finding your surrendered identity in Jesus and living in God’s kingdom today (see Part II regarding kingdom differences). The prior, participating in church, is a good joint venture for sharing life with and supporting like-minded believers. Wake up church! The kingdom doesn’t exist for the local church — rather, the local church is to be for the building of the kingdom. Similar to personal placement of ‘God first, me second’, at the scale of the church, it needs to be ‘kingdom first, local church second’. And when it is done well, ‘church’ is kingdom empowering. When an individual Christian fully surrenders to Christ and serves in obedience, he or she becomes the living will of Christ, i.e. ‘not my will but thine’. This is beautiful, fruitful, and kingdom supporting. Similarly, when a group of believers in a local church collectively surrenders, putting church goals subject to Christ, the promises of God are witnessed at a great level.
Don’t wait ‘til the judgement to discover the mystery of Matthew 7:21-23. It is not your church membership or local church growth that includes you in the kingdom of God, i.e. not your physical gathering and attendance and church numbers that get you included. Rather it is your true knowledge of Christ (through relationship) and service (faith with works) of his Father that include you. You see, if you are not ‘in Christ’, you are not in the eternal Church, i.e. Jesus Christ is the Way. There is no physical church in this direct equation.
Matthew 7:21-23 says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Surely, members of the physical American church will not be turned away from heaven? Wake up! The truth is that many, many church members, pastors, song leaders, Sunday school teachers, elders and deacons will not make the cut. Jesus Christ is the only Way. There is no substitute and there is no participation trophy. God sees the heart of a man, not just his physical appearance and empty words and posturing. If you are hiding behind your Bible, your attendance record, or your service record and thinking that saves your soul or impacts the life of others with a great return, wake up, repent and seek Him today.
What about your denomination? Will it save you? Will it distract you or others? Is there a verse in the bible that says, “Blessed are the Baptists (or Methodists, or Pentecostals, etc.), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”? For fear of false doctrines, have we really disunified God’s kingdom? Is there more than one Word and more than one Holy Spirit? And do we really defend kingdom disunity under ‘different styles of worship’ and different interpretations of secondary scriptures? Who benefits from disunity? Maybe the author of confusion? And how does this bring clarity to the potential new believer? We can create lots of groups, i.e. family, church, denominations, but Jesus distinguished like this in Matthew 12:48-50, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” Pointing to His disciples, He said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
God’s plan is a redeemed man living in God’s presence. His method for making this so is Jesus Christ. Jesus extends the plan and includes His disciples when He says, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” As we follow Jesus in our personal life, and serve with others in our corporate worship life, remember, there is but one Lord, and if we serve Him, we cannot be first. Similarly, there is but one kingdom of God. If we are a subject of it, we cannot be first. So, whose kingdom are we building? And is our church working to increase membership in God’s kingdom, or its own? And is our denomination adding to the unified kingdom of God, or running its own venture? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul.