Missionary statesman and theologian E. Stanley Jones told of browsing in a bookstore and seeing a set of books on a table with a sign reading: SECOND HAND THEOLOGY FOR SALE. Jones said that upon seeing that sign he vowed never...
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
As an encouragement to pray I often quote to myself the first lines of today’s Scripture text, about how God answers prayer, “abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine”! I need to be reminded of this, and of how God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God flies way above our radar!
But I also frequently need to remind myself of the next part of today’s text; that God will be glorified “in the church…to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” I can understand saying that God will be glorified “in Christ Jesus”, but that God will be glorified in the Church! Really! Years ago, I learned the little ditty:
“To dwell above with the saints we love
O that will be glory!
But to live below with the saints we know,
That’s another story!”
Ah yes! The saints we know! That is another story! How will God glorify Himself in the Church!
Recently I came across the Facebook account, “Yes to Jesus, No to Church”. And a lot of people have checked the icon for “Like this”. The Facebook account seems to reflect the thinking of many people today. As a community of sinners the church is getting a lot of bad press. Some deserved, and some not.
As a member of the Baby Boomer, faux idealist, Me Generation, I have often thought, if not said: “It’s just Jesus and me!” “I don’t need the Church, I’ve got Jesus!” The Church has often made itself an easy target for her critics. We all likely know people hurt by the Church, including ourselves. Much like any family, the Church can be a source of some of life’s greatest pain, as well as greatest joy. So, we might wonder, how is it, that in spite of us, God will be glorified in the Church to all generations, forever and ever?
To answer that question, it is essential to know that the apostle Paul is writing to Ephesian Christians about the Church as being the very Body of Christ. In Ephesians Paul reveals God’s grand design and destiny for the Church. It is in this third chapter of Ephesians that Paul tells how God is using even him, “the least of all the saints” (3:8), to make known to others “the news of the boundless riches of Christ” (3:8). Paul testifies to how God uses sinners to glorify Him:
My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels! (Ephesians 3:9-10, The Message)
God is working in secret and behind the scenes through churches like the Ephesians to carry out His extraordinary plan of world redemption.
The critics of the Church are right! The Church is filled with sinners. It is filled with sinners called by God to let themselves be loved by Him, and be transformed and renewed by His love. So in the Apostles Creed we do confess: “I believe in the holy Catholic (Universal) Church.” Yes, I do believe this! We are a holy Church of sinners, set apart by God to tell others the good news of His saving love.
We do not all belong to the same denomination. We do not agree on all points of doctrine, or worship in the same way. But God is at work glorifying Himself in His Universal Church. And God is doing this in ways that are “abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine”.
I encourage you to remember that God is at work to glorify Himself when you, for instance, lead or attend a Bible study, serve your church youth group, pass on a devotional, volunteer for a committee, sing in the choir, or pray for your church. God is working in secret and behind the scenes, in ways above all that you could ask or imagine.
So, I say, “Yes!” to Jesus! And I say, “Yes!” to His Church. In spite of His Church’s problems, and persistent predictions of its’ demise, I say loudly, and I say confidently: “I believe in the holy, Catholic, Universal Church.”
Grace and peace,
P.S. Water from Rock’s Advent devotional “And the Word Became Flesh: Daily Reflections on the Incarnation for Advent 2015” is available now. Order copies for yourself, your family and friends, study group, Sunday School class, church, etc., by using our order form.