I Belong

Words of Grace  

 

A few years ago the “model” for churches was based on the television show, “Cheers,” where you could come in, sit down, and everyone would know your name.  Church leaders were supposed to try to build a community that allowed people to feel at home, comfortable, like they belonged.  I often wondered how that was possible in churches that preached legalism.  (No, wait, they couldn’t use the model of a bar.  Could they?)

Many people feel like they don’t belong when they are at church.  It isn’t only that the people aren’t friendly.  Sometimes they are friendly, but the feeling of being a hypocrite or an outsider still lingers.  In fact, it’s harder when they are friendly.

Think about what the church is supposed to be.  It is supposed to be the local and present representation of the body of Christ, right?  The gathering of those who have been washed, forgiven, accepted, and filled.  Those who belong to Jesus.  But, when the preacher focuses on the sins of the Christians in the assembly, he causes them to question whether they have truly been forgiven and included.  Some look around at all the rest of the people, pretending to ignore the condemnation, and they feel that they are the only ones who shouldn’t be there.  The preacher just said they are hypocrites, that they have displeased God, and that their salvation hangs by a thread.  He just told them they don’t measure up to the standard.

So they go to church but never really believe they belong.  They miss the joy of the gospel, the acceptance of the Lord, because of the message of condemnation.

Listen: If you have come to Jesus for the washing away of your sins and have trusted in Him alone for salvation, you belong to Him.  Heaven is yours.  The church is yours.  All the promises and hopes are yours.  You are accepted in Him and because of Him.  You belong.

You are not of this world.  You are in Christ.  You are washed and accepted.  You are in the Kingdom of God.  You are in His family.  You are a citizen of Heaven.  Nothing can change that and there is nothing more for you to do.  You belong.

 

I belong.

Jesus has accepted me.

No one can take that away from me.

I am His forever.

I belong.

14 Comments

Filed under Church, Relationship

14 responses to “I Belong

  1. Kathy

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  2. Frances

    I am so glad I wasnt called to be a Pastor. It must be incredibly hard.

    The Bible says to Greet one another with a kiss , it also tells us to embrace one another. It also tells us to love our neighbor as ourself.

    Bitt then the Pastor has the tesponsibilry to feed his flock. As well as nring them to Christ.
    There are baptisms that follow after one becomes saved.

    All of the Pastors are required to teach Gods Word, and God Word will convict our hearts – the Word says that Scriprure is useful for correction.

    How does one read the scriptures and expect no one to feel as though they are being condemned.

    There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, meaning our sins are washed clean. But baby Chrustians are still going to go out and live like the world.

    They have to be taught from Scripture what is acceptable to God – not for salvation but to not fall out if His Will.

    Because the enemy is thete to devour us, and it is when we sin we put a hole in our hedge and that allows The eneny to in our life.

    I see way too many Christians tjat do not look or act any different from the world. Their minds are not transformed or renewed by the Word. They are still a ting worldly – bad language, watching innappeiate movies, greedy, lustful, sexually immoral, given to drunkness and prideful.
    That is not helping the cause of our saviors Kingdom.

    We must raise up our baby Christians in the church, and just the same as to raise a child, they must be taught right and wrong.

    Jesus will not condemn us for our sins when we stand before the throne if we ate His.
    But I believe we are not Jesus, only God has a right to judge us of our salvation.
    But we the Brothers ans Sisters of Cheist are to rebuke our Brother in love according to the scriptures.

    If a Pastor only teaches on the feel good passages of the Bible he/she are not doing their flock any favors.
    God expects us to grow in wisdom.

    Accepting Christ is just the beginning of our walk.
    🙂

    • Frances, thanks so much for your comment. What you wrote is very similar to what I have heard throughout my ministry. I see three problems with these ideas, though.

      First, you ask, “How does one read the scriptures and expect no one to feel as though they are being condemned.” I don’t expect all people who read the Scriptures to feel free and forgiven in Christ. I do expect Christians to feel that way. Why? Because that’s what He says and that’s the truth. We have been washed. Our sins are forgiven. We are accepted. There is, as you point out, no condemnation. None. Not just a little in a Christian context. None! We should read the whole Scripture, even the part that tells us what Jesus really did for us. How He took all our sins to the cross and how He set us free from the law and from the consequences of sin. The Scripture is very clear that Christ is our life and hope and that we live now in His righteousness.

      Second, while right behavior is taught in the Scripture for Christians, that is no longer behavior under the law. Now it is behavior under grace. Our behavior comes out of our relationship with Christ. So the most important thing for a pastor to teach is not behavior, but Christ and who we are in Him. When the preacher speaks on behavior, the people feel condemnation that isn’t theirs and are pushed to do work that isn’t theirs. I am convinced that Christians have no more ability to change themselves than non-Christians. Our goal is to walk with the Lord and allow Him to guide us into truth. That’s how our behavior is changed.

      Finally, I don’t agree with your last statement: “Accepting Christ is just the beginning of our walk.” I actually doubt that you believe that. Accepting Christ is the whole thing. The thief on the cross had no opportunity to walk after his conversion, but he was promised Heaven just as we are. No good works are necessary in order for us to be accepted by God, either before or after our salvation. Yes, most of us will grow in knowledge and in victory and our daily lives will conform more and more to who we are in Him, but nothing more is necessary for our salvation.

      I hope you can read some of my posts on sin and why God hates sin. I have written a great deal on the state of the believer and what is ours and what is expected of us now. Let me know if you need some suggestions on posts to read. Otherwise, just use the search feature on the blog.

      One more thing concerns me about your comment. You seem to assume that older Christians have something to offer new believers. It has been my experience that certain sins are considered unacceptable in churches, while others are acceptable or tolerated. New believers don’t learn how to live apart from sin. They learn that certain things are wrong and how to cover up the fact that they do those things. Mature Christians, in my experience, have watched the latest “inappropriate movies” and are often greedy, lustful and prideful. Add to that: judgmental and gossiping and unkind. When the church focuses on behavior, we usually are taught a system of behavior that will keep us from being judged negatively. Sadly, that system allows all kinds of sin to slip through, just as it did in the days of the Pharisees.

      So that’s why our focus should not be on sin, but on Christ. We walk with Him as we walk with a person we love. He speaks to us and comforts us and accepts us as His friends. And, because He is good, our behavior begins to conform to His and we begin to think like He does. But it’s not about behavior. It’s about Him.

      • Frances

        I agree totally, with all you say.

        But again, how do teach scripture without sounding judgmental?

        At my church teenagers ate wearing shoet shorts with cheeks showing.
        Shouldnt appropriate attire be addressed in the church?

        Thats one example.

      • Frances

        Please excuse typos I am om my phone.
        🙂

  3. Eva Ennis

    so i understand that i belong in any church that preaches Christ. the difficulty i have found is that that church may not be of the opinion that i belong there. this opinion is communicated, maybe overtly, maybe not so overtly, but i receive the message that i am not part of who they are. so i don’t go back. there are many congregations from whom i would benefit and receive joy by participating in worship with them, but i cannot because i feel unwelcome. as of now, i am left with worshiping with the local Catholic church congregation as i was born Catholic and all Catholics believe i am part of the family. i love the Catholic church, but my experience in Christ is so much broader than just my Catholic experiences, and i wish i could hang out with some of the other Christians.
    i know God will bring me into the full experience of His love no matter what my circumstances, so maybe i’m not missing out on anything by only attending Catholic services. but maybe i am???

    • Hi Eva!

      You know, when I wrote the post I was thinking about the kingdom, the Church with the capital, the body—not so much the local church. That might tell a lot about where my heart and head are these days. I can think of lots of churches where I would no longer belong. Some of them wouldn’t have me and some of them I wouldn’t enter. When I think about being accepted by church members and belonging to a local clique, bad things come to my mind. 😉

      But I was thinking about how the legalist preacher can make a person feel unacceptable to God. I know people who have left the church because they thought God rejected them . . . and they thought that because of what they heard from the pulpit. We belong because Jesus says we belong and no one on earth has the right to tell us differently. I am increasingly convinced that there will be many who are not like me in Heaven. That’s a good thing.

      I have had times when I felt rejected by and separate from other Christians, but I have never felt rejected or separate from Christ.

  4. Carol

    I totally agree the legalism is a problem, also mixing legalism with grace. But the problem goes deeper than that. It is the whole structure and functioning of the “church,” which has basically become a corporation type business that sells religion. They can’t get rid of legalism because of the concept of tithing —- where would the money come from! People come to get entertained more than anything, they want comfortable seats, good music, good child programs, some socializing, a good sermon, a large building and congregation. Its all about getting/keeping them the seats in exchange for the guilt money. Both sides are guilty because they both now have the illusion that they did their religious duty. The level of in depth teaching from the pulpit NEVER happens because the excuse is that there is always new christians in the audience. It’s like being taught 2+2 every week for years on end! How many times do I need to say the sinners prayer before it works and how are they going to grow in Christ being fed milk, as Paul said. I think many find church boring so they don’t even bother to come. Also, unless its a small congregation, its no more unfriendly than walking into a movie theatre. (Maybe many are just projecting their insecurities) Most people don’t know each other! The small groups are somewhat better, but the content of bible study is usually restricted to a authorized teacher, limited time, and not many questions. We shouldn’t wonder why our culture is the way it is. The church was never meant to be a professional religious corporate structure and quasi-governmental welfare system, the catholics did it and now most of the protestant denominations. It was meant for believers to come together to learn, teach, support, and encourage, and love each other to be able to go out and make more believers with the good news of Christ. I think others Christians are feeling very similar feelings. Pastor Francis Chan left his big church in Simi Valley with similar complaints. Also see you tube The Fuel Project, The Restless Church series.They have other series that are good too, except their one on Revelation, they are very wrong in thinking Christians have to go through most or all of the 7 year tribulation.

  5. Friends,
    Would you pray once for my old church, the one I had to leave because it would not or could not deal well with my own situation of narcissistic spousal abuse, and raising daughters in an environment in which there was no grace for women?
    It is a church that slid slowly, over about a decade and a half, into legalism, misogyny, a view that elevates male headship as domination and tyranny, and otherwise hatred for the outside world (which would be anyone, even other believing congregations, that did not agree exactly with this one). I just heard from a friend that a new book study for the women and girls began last night. Apparently the leadership did approve for the group to study a book about the dignity and instrumentality of women in God’s plan for the world, and according to my friend, several of the women participating were shocked to be told that God designed women to be partakers of the dominion mandate–that they were not just resources and receptacles for their men, but partners with authority of their own. HelpMATES rather than HelpMEETS. One of the women involved was also one of the most hurtful ones to me, and she has daughters too. Of the daughters, one seems to be on a good track, but she is older and has been outside the home more. The other really seems to believe that she exists solely to receive a man sexually, and she is acting that out in obvious ways (and has been, since she was pre-pubescent). Abuse is not out of the question in this family. It is likely.

    I am at once both thrilled that these women might begin to question what they’ve been told and that they might have their eyes opened to the dignity and glory they have because they are heirs according to the promise themselves. But I am also a bit anxious. At least one elder is very likely to come down hard in condemnation about anything that would have the women questioning the way their husbands “do” headship. He doesn’t believe women can discern truth, and even though the book is written by a man (a known leader in our denomination), he will likely condemn it as feminist propaganda. The husbands too, so steeped in their right to build their own little kingdom domains, may not respond well to wives and daughters coming home thinking with more wisdom and confidence and dignity than they have given them so far, even if they do still get the dinner on the table on time.

    I am estranged from some of these people because the hurts were too deep and their condemnation of me too great when it became known that I was abused. I was condemned before that too for being too friendly and active outside my own family. A woman is to dote on her husband and serve him first and foremost, and then her children. But if she has friends outside her family whom she really knows, supports, seeks support from, interacts with, then she is assumed to be in sin. To need or want interaction with anyone at all beyond her own husband is outright disrespect to him because it means she doesn’t think he is sufficient for her. Their minds were so darkened, and I was so damaged, I had to get away. But I still care for them–especially the teen girls. I am praying for the Light to shine into the darkness and for the bonds again to be broken so they can be free to be loved as they were meant to be!

    • Frances

      I know how the church REFUSES to acknowledge Narcissistic spousal abuse. Narcisssists are running rampat in the church! And getting away with it. They are deomons in desquise of humans. They need to be removed from the earth permaently! Send them all to the moon!
      I will pray for you!!!! Just KNOW this, you didn’t deserve the treatment you got! I know first hand. I am fore4ver changed because of it.
      😦 Blessings to you

    • I will certainly be praying. Sounds like the church might be going through some positive changes.

    • HDG

      Repol: Have you read the book: “Christian Men Who Hate Women” ? Really a “good read” whether you agree or not it gives “food for thought.” Mr. Narcissist ‘educated’ me on the roles God directs for women always using the teachings he’d learned in his denomination -which he claimed to be the ONLY ones supported in Scripture. I never got to meet with his pastor(I tried)to confirm what they truly believe or if this is just another case of the N putting his own ‘spin’ on things. The book gave me some helpful insight- might be helpful for you too.

    • UnForsaken

      Repol, I undertand your heart here. Even before leaving my former church, I knew they didn’t care about me…but I still care about them. God does the most amazing things in peoples lives, even when it looks darkest. Praying for them with you!!!

  6. iamwaiting

    you can tell someone they belong to a group; but unless their heart understands it. It will fall on deaf ears that doesn’t know it is free and loved by God. He must work in their heart to free them.

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