Through our relationship with him and our relationships with other believers, God is in the process of restoring his image in us. He is making us like himself.
He does this by his Spirit, as his grace and Word are applied to our lives through the incarnational ministry of believers one-to-another. God uses means to inform and transform us, and the primary means that he uses to do this are relationships in the local church.
“The kind of fellowship flies right in the face of our American individualism.
As I’ve traveled around the country, speaking at good Bible-believing churches, I’ve discovered that the kind of biblical relationship to which I think the New Testament calls us is almost nonexistent. For example, I recently spoke at a conference that was well attended by women who were serious about their faith. They weren’t “playing church,” and they wouldn’t have thought of themselves as tourists. But when I asked for a show of hands of those who were in a biblical relationship with others to whom they regularly confessed sin, expected accountability, and regularly confronted the sins of those same others, only a smattering of hands went up. That’s not to say these dear sisters weren’t eager to follow the Lord. It was just that this kind of relationship, this depth of biblical fellowship, was way beyond their normal practice.
The kind of fellowship I’m enjoining flies right in the face of our American individualism and desire for privacy. We don’t want anyone poking around in our affairs, and we certainly don’t want to be accused of poking about in anyone else’s. This idolatry of privacy and individualism is one of the greatest detriments to sanctification in the church today. God has placed us in a family because we don’t grow very well on our own. It’s still not good to be alone. We need the encouragement, correction, and loving involvement of others who are willing to risk everything for the sake of the beauty of his bride.
The whole point of what I want to encourage you to be involved in has its genesis, expectation, and motivation in Jesus. Paul wrote in Ephesians:
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Jesus is the one we are to “grow up in every way into.” His character fleshed out in our lives is his goal. He is the one who powerfully holds the whole body together and who causes it to grow strong so that it builds itself up in love. This growing together into his nature would be impossible without his transforming power and, apart from his will, we would never desire it. It is for his pleasure that we work to beautify and adorn his bride. This intentional communal life is for him, through him, and to him.
HOW WE GROW
But how does this growth happen? How are we built up in love? We grow and are built up when the truth is consistently, courageously, and lovingly spoken to us by others. This is not merely the truth of one isolated or disconnected doctrine, but rather how that doctrine specifically relates to, impacts, and transforms the way that we live on a daily basis.
We grow when each part is “working properly” in tandem with every other one, using the gifts of wisdom, insight, encouragement, confrontation, comfort, or prayer that he has supplied by his Spirit. Maturity in Christ does not occur because we attend Bible studies. Maturity in Christ occurs when, by the Spirit and in God’s grace, our brothers and sisters take biblical truth and apply it lovingly, patiently, boldly to our hearts. I’m encouraging you to see that the primary way he’ll minister truth to you is through deep and transparent relationship with others.
This post is excerpted from Elyse’s book Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life.