Church Covenant, Section Thirteen (Newsletter 04.25.18)

Dear Church Family,

The thirteenth and final section of our newly adopted church covenant reads: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.”

As we’ve worked our way through the previous twelve sections of our church covenant over the past months, maybe some of us have been discouraged or felt crushed under the wait of these commitments. Maybe you’ve thought to yourself, “No one can do all these things.” Well, if that’s you, then may the Lord use this quotation of 2 Corinthians 13:14 to encourage you.

The purpose of our church covenant is not to add burdens to hinder us in our pursuit of Jesus. In fact, the whole point of our church covenant is to summarize and consolidate what the Bible requires of every Christian. In other words, even though many of us may never have thought much about our church covenant, and now that we have we feel overwhelmed, the solution isn’t to get rid of the church covenant. Doing away with this document wouldn’t change the Document from which it is derived.

No friends, God has given His people these instructions not to enslave us, but to set us free. He requires us to live out His Word in the context of a local church not because He hates us, but because He loves us. So then, how is it possible for us to find the joy, love, and freedom God has for us in such rigorous commands as spelled out in our church covenant? Let’s turn to the three parts of this last section.

1) The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ

In order to keep from wandering off into despair or heresy, we must remember that our obedience of faith is the product of our salvation and not its cause. We aren’t striving to do all these things to earn our salvation or even to pay God back for our salvation. We long to do what God commands because He has shown us infinite, eternal grace in Jesus Christ. These commitments are made in joy with gratitude for the gift of salvation we’ve been given which we could never repay. The grace that saved us is the same grace that is saving us as it is worked out in our lives, one day and one step at a time.

2) The Love of God

Jesus told His disciples in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” But remember, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). The way we know God’s love is through the death of His Own Son (1 John 4:9). God sent Him to die for the Church—not because we kept His commands, not because we loved Him, but exactly the opposite. God sent Jesus to die because we hadn’t kept His commandments and we didn’t love Him (1 John 4:10). It’s that love that has now been poured into our hearts which flows out of us as we love one another (1 John 4:11-12). Our love for God must and will practically show itself in our lives as we tangibly love one another as outlined in our church covenant (1 John 3:18; 4:20-21).

3) The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit

We are one in Christ Jesus. We are filled with the same Spirit. We aren’t doing and we can’t do these commands by ourselves. We need one another and beyond that we need the Holy Spirit. If we try to fulfill this covenant without trusting in the Holy Spirit’s working and enabling in our lives, we will fail. Without Him we can do nothing. He is our Helper. That means if we find ourselves discouraged when we think of all that’s required of us as Christians and faithful church members, we have forgotten who is within us. With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.

Brothers and sisters, the Triune God who spoke the world into existence and breathed life into us at the moment of our conversion continues to remain with us. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are with us and they are for us, for the sake of God’s glory being manifested in and through us. How incredible is it to read the commands of Scripture and know that the God who makes these demands is the same God who will bring them to completion in our lives? May we love Him by loving one another in the way we seek to keep these commitments by His grace, love, and fellowship with us all. Amen.

Gentry