First Things First: Connect!

Due to amazing advances in technology, we live in a very connected world. We are probably more connected than anyone could ever have imagined as recent as 25 years ago. We have smart phones, computers, laptops, tablets. We have email, text, IM, video calling, etc. Wow!

Question: We have so many ways to communicate, but is there more communication happening? We have a multitude of ways to stay in touch, but is there more connection? (eg, You might have 1000 digital friends on Facebook but only 12 "acquaintances" in real life!)

Speaking of a lack of connection, more and more Christians are saying they love Jesus but don't feel the need to be part of His church, in relationship with other brothers and sisters in the Lord. Sadly, they have adopted the philosophy, "It's just Jesus and me!"

Alton Garrison (author of the book "The Spirit-Empowered Church") commenting on the statement, "I’m a Christian but I don’t need the church," writes, "That’s like saying you want to play football in the NFL but don’t want to be part of a team, or you want to be a soldier but not be in an army, or you want to play a tuba but not be in an orchestra. A Christian without a church family is an orphan."

The "Just Jesus and me" philosophy is not only illogical, it is also unhealthy. We were never created to be alone. We were created to be in relationship with others.

Think of the first 2 chapters in Genesis. God created the heavens and the earth. He looked at all He had created - the universe, sun, moon, earth, oceans, plant and animal life - and said, "It is good."

But there was one thing that was not good. In Genesis 2:18 God declared, "It is not good for the man to be alone."

Can you picture the scene? Adam is enjoying the rivers and waterfalls, enjoying the presence of the Lord while singing, "It's just God and me!"

But God says, "It is not good!" It wasn't enough for Adam to be alone, even with his daily communion with the Father. He not only needed a relationship with God, he needed a human one too.

Remember this: Satan divides but Jesus reconciles and restores. Sin separates but Jesus brings us into unity and relationship. If you ever feel the urging to "go it alone" in the Christian life, you are hearing the whispers of the enemy. You won't find that command in the Bible.

On the contrary, do a study on the "one another" instructions in Scripture. For example, the church is a place where believers are to love one another (1 John 4:12), encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13), spur one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), honor one another (Romans 12:10), and be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32).

Max Lucado ("In the Grip of Grace") asks the question, "How will the world believe that Jesus was sent by God? Not if we agree with each other. Not if we solve every controversy. Not if we are unanimous on each vote. Not if we never make a doctrinal error. But if we love one another."

Lucado goes on to write, "Unity creates belief. Disunity fosters disbelief. Who wants to board a ship of bickering sailors? Paul Billheimer may very well be right when he says, 'The continuous and widespread fragmentation of the Church has been the scandal of the ages. It has been Satan’s master strategy. The sin of disunity probably has caused more souls to be lost than all other sins combined' ("Love Covers")."

It's not just about Jesus and me. If you love Jesus, love His bride too. He loves her with a love that is beyond comprehension. Paul teaches us in Ephesians 5:25-27, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."

Is the church perfect? No! I have been hurt on several occasions by the church. Maybe you have also. Is it disappointing that fallible people make mistakes, even big ones? Yes! But the miracle is that Christ continues to use His church in spite of all our failures and imperfections. There are so many reasons for Jesus to abandon His church, but He continues to love His bride and He declares, "I will build My church!"

The church is a remarkable picture of grace in a world that is being ruined by violence and division and is falling apart due to apathy and indifference. How is it possible for us as the body of God’s people to live with hope in a dark world with so much going wrong around us? It is because of what Jesus has done and is doing in and through us.

Let's be the answer to Jesus' prayer in John 17:20-23, "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

Sounds awesome. Let's help make it happen!