When we think about a big city—like Birmingham, for instance—we would say there are many different churches in Birmingham. But I don’t think that is how God sees it. I believe God sees only one church. After all, the book of Revelation tells us Jesus is going to marry the Church—His Bride—and I do not believe Jesus is a bigamist. He’s only going to marry one church. So we can think about many different churches, but God sees only one church.
When Paul wrote his epistles, he didn’t write to the Baptist church in Corinth, or to the Church of the Open Bible in Rome, or to the Evangelical Church in Ephesus. He always wrote to the Church in the city. We are a long way from that today, but I don’t believe God has ever changed His mind.
I believe it is important that the leaders of congregations within a city or region know how to relate to one another. It’s very easy to become self-centred—to think about “my church” and to focus on that alone. But that is not a scriptural attitude. I believe we should see one another as co-elders in the same church.
One of the most important elements of Christian character is revealed through asking ourselves what place the cross plays in each of our lives. In Galatians 2:20 Paul establishes the standard.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me...
I ask myself if that is true in my life. Because that’s the only protection. In Galatians 5:24 Paul goes on:
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
There’s the description of those who truly belong to Christ. It doesn’t say they belong to the Open Bible Church or are Baptists or Presbyterians or Catholics. The only mark of those who truly belong to Christ is that they have crucified their flesh.
Now in Romans 6:6, Paul says “our old man was crucified.” That was something God did. But in Galatians 5:24, he says it’s something you have to do. You have to put the nails into your own fleshly nature. And crucifixion is always painful.
There is no painless crucifixion.
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