Wednesday, April 29, 2009

4/29- The Visible Church

(St. Pierre in Geneva where Calvin preached)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

4/29- The Importance of the Visible Church

19 "Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Jesus- Matthew 18:19,20);

Calvin: "But because it is now our intention to discuss the visible church, let us learn even from the simple title “mother” how useful, indeed how necessary, it is that we should know her. For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels [Matthew 22:30]. Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives. Furthermore, away from her bosom one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation, as Isaiah [Isaiah 37:32] and Joel [Joel 2:32] testify. Ezekiel agrees with them when he declares that those whom God rejects from heavenly life will not be enrolled among God’s people [Ezekiel 13:9]. On the other hand, those who turn to the cultivation of true godliness are said to inscribe their names among the citizens of Jerusalem
[cf. Isaiah 56:5; Psalm 87:6]. For this reason, it is said in another alm: “Remember me, O Jehovah, with favor toward thy people; visit me with salvation: that I may see the well-doing of thy chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the joy of thy nation, that I may be glad with thine inheritance” [Psalm 106:4-5 p.; cf. Psalm 105:4, Vg., etc.]. By these words God’s fatherly favor and the especial witness of spiritual life are limited to his flock, so that it is always disastrous to leave the church.(IV.1.4)

For most in our secular society, the church is icing on the cake but not the cake itself. The church is something that may help us by inspiring us, encouraging us in faith, or strengthening us. When we feel like we don’t need the help, we don’t come or take part. We despise the motivation of coming to church because we feel we “ought” to come. We are natural rebels against this feeling of “ought” or “have to.” We do not want to make church lord over our own choices. In effect, we want God to be God when we want Him to be. We want to choose the church when it is convenient for us to do so. In effect, this puts us in the place of God. It is not that God decides for us, we decide. Yet, when our hearts are right with God, we want to come to church and it is not such a task- even when the church is corrupt.
Calvin lived in a day in which the church was very corrupt. He could have easily given up on the church, but instead he sought to transform and reform it. It is the same today. People give up on the church as irrelevant (in part because we have made it irrelevant). But we are designed to be with others. We are designed to love. Love is not something that can be artificially duplicated by cyber church. It is hard to have communion over the internet or on the lake fishing (baptism maybe but not the Lord’s Supper : ). Just as we can play football by ourselves, we can be Christian by ourselves. But football was designed to be a team sport, and Christianity was designed for at the least two or three together.
Some despise the organization or institution of the church. Certainly the organization of the church needs to be "reformed and ever reforming." Bureaucracies need to ve renewed and not bastioned. Yet some despise organization at all. But when two or three are gathered together and they like it, they immediately start to organize. When shall we meet again? Where shall we meet? Who will lead us? Such are the questions of organization. Jesus himself helped organize the church. He chose twelve. He trained them- teaching them to care for the sick, the hurting, the hungry. They in turn organized, eventually choosing deacons to help the widows and poor. Organization should help things run more efficiently so we can worship and not worry about secondary things. But organization itself can never insure or replace the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the One who transforms the church- and He does. He also transforms and changes us as we gather with the two or three in His name.

Prayer: We pray for your church Lord. Strengthen it, as it is a gathering of your people. Strengthen our love for it today. Amen.

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