Relationships: Bedrock Discipleship

Introduction
On Palm Sunday, we remember the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem shortly before He was betrayed, condemned, and executed. As we reflect on this moment in His mission, we should take care to remember what that mission was. His mission was not just to save people, it was also to save a people.

The Text:

“And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matt. 21:9).

Summary of the Text:

There are many things that can be drawn out of this story, but this morning, we are just going to focus on one of them. When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem—where He was to be lifted up and draw all men to Himself—He was greeted by multitudes. Contrary to the popular assumption that the Triumphal Entry crowd and the “crucify Him” crowd were the same people, we have no reason for identifying them. These people who greeted Him were doing so sincerely. Jesus was approaching Jerusalem in order to save multitudes, and He was greeted there by multitudes. Their central cry was Hosanna, which means “Save, we pray.” In other words, we are praying that You would save us. “Yes,” He answered.

Two Questions:

Back in the seventies, the great question was what is truth? Today the pressing question is where is community? Some might make this kind of observation in order to set the questions against one another, but rightly understood they are complementary questions. Truth is foundational to any true community, and community is the only appropriate response to the truth. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). Fellowship exults in the truth, and truth generates fellowship.

Koinonia:

The biblical word for fellowship is koinonia, and  here is how the idea connects to our text. To welcome Christ into Jerusalem you have to go down to the street He is on. When you do so, you are not just praising Him as He travels by. You also have a necessary relationship to those people on your right and left who are also praising Him. Christ was welcomed to the week of His passion by a crowd, and not by the last true believer. Save us, they cried, and that is what He did.

But the crowd had to come to Christ. They could not have gone two blocks over, turned and faced each other, and establish a little koinonia by themselves. It never works.

In modern church parlance, fellowship means coffee and donuts. But in the biblical world, fellowship meant mutual partaking and indwelling. Fellowship is what we have in the body together, as we are being knit together in love.

One Another:

A body is what we are. We do not act in a particular way in order to become a body, we are to act that way because we are a body and desire to be a well-functioning one. “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Rom. 12:5).

Receive:

When it comes to life in the body, there are all kinds of offenses. There are business offenses. There are family offenses. There is petty rudeness in the parking lot, and there is glaring sin within a marriage. What in the world are we to do with other people? “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7).

It glorified God when Christ received us, and it glorifies Him when we receive one another. When we receive a brother or sister, we are not promising to “look the other way.” That is not biblical receiving. We are promising to let love cover it, when that is appropriate, and to confront it, when that is appropriate. We are promising to not complain about it to others. We either cover it or confront it, and this principled communion is why it is possible to excommunicate in love.

Love:

Of course the center of this is love. When we look at the “one anothers” of Scripture, this has a central place. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). “These things I command you, that ye love one another” (John 15:17). “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8).

We can only love because we have been loved. And we can only know that we have been loved if we grasp—through a living faith—the glories of the gospel. Christ died and was buried, Christ was buried and rose, and He did it so that you might be put right with God. You are ushered into the fellowship of love that He offers, and this is what makes it possible for you to love your neighbor.

Strive:

But it is very tempting for us to conceive of love as a generic disposition to “be nice.” But love rolls up its sleeves, and gets into the dirty work. If all we had to do was sit around and radiate love rays at one another, I am sure we would all be up to the task. But what about all those provocations that come from . . . you know, other people?

We begin by making sure that we do not rise to the provocations. We need to have peace with one another. One of the characteristics of the band that traveled with Jesus is that He had to caution them to preserve the peace with each other. “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another” (Mark 9:50).

We should labor to think alike. We noted earlier that truth is the foundation of community, and the more we share in the truth, and walk in it, the greater will be our unity. “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus” (Rom. 15:5). Our modern temptation is that of simply “agreeing to disagree,” which is fine as a temporary measure—but it is not the ultimate goal that Scripture sets out for us.

But the “one anothers” we pursue should not be limited to staying out of fights. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Rom. 12:10). Scripture tells us to point the honor away from ourselves, and toward the other.

Conclusion:

As the people of God, we are being gathered. But we cannot be gathered without being gathered together. And once we are gathered together, we face the glorious calling of life together. But in order to maintain this, we have to keep emphasizing the basics—gospel, love, forgiveness, truth.

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Eric StampherRFBArwenBValerie (Kyriosity)Douglas Wilson Recent comment authors

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Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

If liturgy at Christ Church is like an x-ray, showing the bones of how you receive one another,  how about receiving your frequent attenders into your governance?  You pat them on the heads as honorary members (much like you used to pat the kiddos at Supper without feeding them), but from the edifying worshipful work of governance you exclude and not receive these community members.   Where’s your community there?

K. Swanson
Guest
K. Swanson

Dear Mr. Wilson,
This was a timely post for me.  I am amazed at how God’s Providence works.  I really needed to be reminded of these truths today.  Thank you for your faithfulness and for being the means of some correction in me from the hand of the Lord.  

Jon Swerens
Member

Eric: For those unfamiliar with the terms of the offense you hope to place at Wilson’s feet, please elaborate. Who is the church keeping from membership?

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Hi Jon!  Your phrase “keeping from membership” implies you acknowledge some good folk attending there aren’t members.  There’s the rub.  Our good pastor (a great gift from God, truly) is stuck within a system not yet evolved to acknowledging the membership of long time faithfull attendees.  Example, those folks are excluded from governance participation reserved for “members” (definition theirs, not God’s).  If pastor Doug acknowledges them to be members in Christ under his shepherding, he ought to urge them to participate in all the activities sheep should be doing there.  Like the kiddos at communioni.  Otherwise they are NOT full participants… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Hi Pastor — I’m borrowing the term from you from previous conversations.  That phrase might apply to folks who’ve got their roots growing there.  They’re invested.  And your elders know them, as much as they know the card carrying members.  So “long time” = long enough for them to know (or should know) who their family members are, including their fathers there.   And long enough for you to know (or should know) of their faith.  [Being an epicscopal / Moses-model fan, I’m big the participation-in-governance thing by us reglar sheep, to begin with.  But you had mentioned it as… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

sorry — meant: I’m NOT big on sheep governance

ArwenB
Guest
ArwenB

Eric: It sounds like you are attempting to argue that people who have attended a given church without requesting formal membership should be accorded the privileges (whatever those might be) of formal membership, despite their lack of desire to have those privileges (as evinced by their failure to request formal membership).

Is that an accurate summation of your question?

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Hi Arwen!  (BTW how do you get that paragraph space break in your post?!)  I don’t feel yours is an accurate summation — but I commend you for asking that kind question!  While I’m not unaware of there being such a thing as a privilege relating to membership, let me take a guess, in the form of a question to you:  Is a Christian attender (you and Doug might identify as nonmember, while I recoil from such affrontery) bound to obey the godly admonitions of the pastor?  Or is that a privilege reserved for those who have requested admission into… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Sorry again — I meant I am unaware (or, not aware) of privileges vis-a-vis membership

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Arwen — Doug’s post is about fellowship.  Can you name one point of fellowship you would withhold from non”member” brothers or sisters attending the same gathering?  Doug can — he’d bar them from what he calls “governance”.  So the question is:  Is governance participation part of fellowship?

valerieab
Member

Eric, are you suggesting that people who refuse to submit to the governance of the church should be invited to exercise it?
 
(And you get a space between paragraphs by hitting enter an extra time.)

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Hi Valerie!
 
I suggest folks who refuse to submit be excommunicated.  Don’t you?

valerieab
Member

Yes, which is why many churches will not commune those who have no church membership — because they have refused to submit themselves to governance. Those in authority may not discipline people who aren’t under their authority. You don’t spank the neighbor’s kids.

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Well said.  Do you spank God’s kids if He has made you their pastor?  Those pastors who don’t discipline are not acknowledging the sheep in their care.  “Feed your sheep, you say, Lord?  Well hold on a bit.  Which ones?”  In other words, pastor Doug recognizes himself as the pastor to these folks.  They worship there.  They’ve obeyed all he has asked.  He even calls them honorary members.  Should he ask them to participate in governance?

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

If pastor Doug requests the good folk roll backwards down the aisle in their jammies, must they, before he affords them the privilege of his shepherding?

RFB
Guest
RFB

Eric,   I am not a member of Christ Church (although I was, and left solely for logistical reasons.)  In reading your posts regarding this issue, I am unclear regarding what you are asking. Can you use the big fat crayons for me?   It seems to me that you are saying that those who have not declared official allegiance and have been “sworn in” should still be extended some type of quasi-official status. If that is what you are asking (big if, since I am unsure of your meaning), would the question be better posed to those who refuse… Read more »

ArwenB
Guest
ArwenB

Eric –    Perhaps it would help clarify things to distinguish between members of the Church and members of a congregation? Members of the Church are all those who confess Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God as their Lord and Savior (with all that implies and requires of the confessor).   Members of a congregation (as far as I understand it) are those who have made a formal commitment to submit to the leadership and discipline of the elders of a particular group of Members of the Church… meaning that they can be formally excommunicated from that congregation if they… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

RFB,
 
I mean: Sheriff Doug should ride high in the saddle down Moscow streets, telling folks what he expects them to do, right quick.

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Arwen, I think Doug would agree that God’s pastors need not wait for permission to excommunicate.

ArwenB
Guest
ArwenB

Permission to excommunicate… you mean proper Biblical procedures for disciplining the offender…?

ArwenB
Guest
ArwenB

Forgive me if I’m misapprehending something here, but I do not understand your insistence on this topic.

Are you genuinely trying to refine your understanding or the understandings of those who read the comments?
 
Or are you looking for a stick with which to beat whatevertarget comes near, and trying to bait commenters into providing you with one?

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Arwen, I’ve not found that passage where permission was first required for excommunication to be properly executed.

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Arwen, I hope I’m not being nasty insisting we be nicer to those we’ve been excluding. 

RFB
Guest
RFB

Eric,
 
Has Christ Church excluded them, or have they not joined?
 
 
Being excluded versus declining membership is a difference with a distinction.

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

RFB,   Because the elders haven’t acknowledged them as joined, they have been barred from participation in this governance thing.   If I told my daughter:  “New rule:  I’ll consider you a member of this family once you’ve said the pledge of allegiance in Latin!  Until then, you don’t get to vote your opinions on what’s for dinner. ”  Until she performs, have I excluded her, or has she not joined, declining membership?   Being excluded for a non biblical reason versus declining “membership” (small m = unbiblical definition) for biblical reason is also a difference with a distinction.  … Read more »

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

… Members in Christ who attend there ought to be encouraged to fellowship in all Biblical manner.  Is the Meal an act of worship & fellowship?  Yes —  that’s why Doug encourages the least to the greatest to come & eat.  Is family voting an act of worship & fellowship?

RFb
Guest
RFb

Eric,   A more accurate analogy, (based upon how I understand your concerns) does not include your daughter. These are friends that you have welcomed to join you for dinner, that (you say) should now be allowed to direct how to remodel your house. Being invited as a guest, even as a regular guest, say a close friend or a neighbor, is different than a family member. And even among familial relationships, brothers and sisters have greater liberties (in a specific houshold) than cousins visiting.   Are you conflating those who are members of the Church at large (the Body… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

RFB,   Yes, indeed.  Family members have full participation, while the visitors are not treated as family.     Does Scripture, and historic (especially Reformed) faith does indeed forbid a local congregation from defining who is family.  The definitions have already been set by the Father of the family.  Our mandate is to acknowledge and invite into full fellowship.  “Come and eat” Doug exhorts and commands every Sunday.   Now while I don’t hold to the need for this voting governance necessity thing for us regular family members,  Doug is.  So I’m saying he should say to the families:  “Come… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

Eric,
 
We will have to agree to disagree. I think that there is more formality to the structure of the Church, and to a local congregation than simply a laissez faire arrangement. I think that structure and discipline, and doing things appropriately and in proper order (without being a martinet) honors God and is also a mark of maturity.
 
I am not suggesting anything negative about you personally, I just disagree.

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

RFB — bless you!
 
I’m all for tight reins and intricate structure.  Would the Roman church be laissez fair affair?
 
Bless you double.

RFB
Guest
RFB

Eric,   Last post on this thread, and thank you kindly for your good will.   “Would the Roman church be laissez fair affair?”   Well, speaking as a former RC, a dedicated altar boy who was talked out of going into seminary after 8th grade by a wise RC priest, I would say that yes, it is. There is a superficial veneer of rigor, but once you get under that (or behind the wizards curtain so to speak) and see how it really flows, well its quite illuminating. Altar boys are actually invisible; they become a ubiquitous presence sort… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Interesting, RFB!  But I think that veneer holds a lot of appeal, and maybe is a holdover of better things that were.