From the very beginning of time, God purposefully designed and destined us for interrelationships. In Genesis 1:26, we have the first glimpse of God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) determining to create mankind when he said ‘Let us make man in our own own image’ And God did not just create man to display his power, he created Adam to have a direct relationship with him.
As primary as our individual relationship with God is, God also created us for other relationships. Still in creation, God said that it is not good for man to be alone. In Genesis 2:18, God said that It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable to him. For man he created a female helpmeet. He then instructed Adam and Eve to reproduce and form new family units. God defined and established marriage and the family for the purposes of community – to address loneliness and fulfill His purposes for the earth.
It is not just the genetic family unit that God designed for community. In Genesis 15, God made a covenant with Abraham and birthed the nation of Israel. The majority of the Old Testament is a record of God dealing with the community of his chosen people, the nation of Israel. While God continues to relate to people individually, it is fascinating to observe how God interacts with people groups through blessing and cursings, laws and instructions.
As we move on to the New Testament, we see that God establishes a new community of people – his church – the bride of Christ. Again, this new community does not replace our direct relationship with God, our spouse, or our family. Neither does it replace God’s promises to Israel. But this new community of God’s people is the largest and most diverse community yet. The church – which includes the fellowship that we are a part of today – is more than just one people group or nation. The church is made up of Jews and Gentiles, black and white, male and female, adults and children. It is not defined by a building or location. In fact God says that where-ever 2 or 3 meet together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. So in a very real way – church is more than 1 hour on a Sunday. It is all of our interactions with those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Redeemer.
As so throughout the New Testament, God documents his plans and purposes for the church. The very definition of church is ‘an assembly of called out people’. We are to be called out from the world in terms of our priorities and the way that we live – in holiness and dedication to God. We are to be a community of peculiar people. There should be an observable difference in the actions of a Christian compared to a non-Christian. Being a called out people means that we have a new worldview. We now understand right and wrong from God’s perspective, not the world’s perspective. And so being called out does not translate into moving to a monastery or remote mountain. As we learned last week, we are also given the Great Commission to share the gospel, make disciples and teach other Christians to observe all the things that God commands.
You may have heard of the term – to be in the world but not of the world. That aptly describes how we as a church community should live. Yet the church is not designed to live on earth forever. As the bride of Christ, we are waiting for our groom – Jesus Christ to return for us – and take us to heaven for the ‘marriage supper of the Lamb’. Heaven is our destination and as we meditate on that it will positively impact how we live life as pilgrims on this earth.
But we live in interesting times. For the past 500 years, the western world has experienced a lot of freedom to see the church grow. But the western world in now increasingly post-Christian and public support for Christian values is falling away quickly. In other parts of the world, the church is experiencing even worse persecution. The daily evidence of this antagonism should not cause us to lose faith or despair. In fact, our faith should be strengthened because God predicted such a falling away. In His sovereignty, none of this is a surprise to God. God told us that there would be increasing apostasy – before He returns. 2 Thess 2:3 The fact that we worship a Sovereign God who is preparing real and physical home for us in heaven is meant to strengthen and encourage us through difficult times.
Hebrew 10:25 exhorts us to ‘Not give up on the habit of meeting together, but in contrast, it says that we should meet together more frequently with believers for the purpose of encouragement as we see the Day of the Lord approaching.
The Day of the Lord is the return of Jesus Christ – His second coming. His return appears to be closer than it ever has been. Our response is to not only watch for it personally, but corporately as a church, we need to be meeting with each other more and more regularly for encouragement in the lead up to His return. It is that communion that will help us stand strong, faithful, and firm in the world.
And so as we are meeting together today, let me finish by encouraging you with the reality of our church destination. I sometimes think we can lose sight of the concrete nature of God and heaven. The busyness of this world and lure of possessions can distract us. But heaven is real. It is a physical place. It exists just as much as you and I are here today. Just as the first creation was real, so will the new creation be real. It will be our eternal community. When I walk out on freshly cut grass and smell the smell, and feel it between my toes, I like to remind myself that heaven will be that real too. And our Redeemer is real too. Jesus is not just a historical figure, He is still King of the Universe and is in the final stages of preparing for the reception of his bride – us – the church.