Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Church: A Fellowship of Recovering Sinners

Church isn't a place for the perfect, but a fellowship for recovering sinners.

After I posted that on Facebook earlier today, a high school classmate wrote to ask, "Mark do we ever really 'recover' from sinfulness?"

If by "recover," it was meant to "get over," the answer is no. Just as with any addiction, we never fully get over the common human condition of sin this side of the grave. We depend on God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us resist temptation and to enable us do better when we "fall off the... wagon" and any sin, from taking God's Name in vain to engaging in sexual intimacy outside of marriage, from gossip to thievery. 

Just as an alcoholic who has given up drink is still only a recovering alcoholic no matter how many years it's been since their last drink, Christians are nothing more than recovering sinners. 

But, thank God for the process of recovery--what the Biblical theology calls "sanctification"--that happens for all who repent and believe in Jesus Christ.

That's why Christians, mindful that we are sinners saved only by the grace of God given through Jesus Christ, should never look down their noses on unrepentant sinners. Instead, we should befriend them, tell them God's truth in love, pray for them, and ask them, one sinner to another, to "come and see" what it's like to be set free from sin's power, to live today as recovering sinners, and to look to an eternal future when we will live the sinless lives for which God first made us. 

The Church exists as the fellowship within which we hear God's Word and receive the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, confess our sins, receive forgiveness through Christ, and learn together to follow Jesus in our everyday lives. While Christians boldly confess, as Jesus Himself has taught, that Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God, arrogance is inconsistent with being a Christian. As Paul puts it in the New Testament: "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness...", that is, my complete dependence on Jesus Christ.

So, if you're looking for a church home, find one where neither pastor nor people think they're "all that," but who freely acknowledge their imperfections. It's in the fellowship of other "recovering sinners" that you can really experience what it is to be set free from the power of sin.

Church isn't a place for the perfect, but a fellowship for recovering sinners. Want to be a part of that?

[If you live in or near Logan or Hocking County, Ohio, you're invited to "come and see" how Jesus is living in our congregation, Saint Matthew Lutheran Church. Sunday School for all ages--and we have a great adult Sunday School class--meets at 9:15AM each Sunday. Worship happens at 10:15AM. If you currently have no church home, we would love to welcome you!]

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