Ephesians 4:15-16 “But speaking the truth in love [we] may grow up, in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body…causes the growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
Just finished Elyse Fitzpatrick’s, “Because He Loves Me” and in the last chapter was impressed by how necessary a real connection to other believers in the church is to our growing to be more like Christ. Not just nice, but necessary. It seems that if you insist on isolating yourself, physically or emotionally, you’ll end up stunted. To demonstrate this, Elyse takes us to Ephesians 4:15-16 where Paul makes it clear that it is the whole body that causes the growth of the body in Christ, as in Christ we speak the truth of Christ to each other in love. Elyse comments,
God uses means to inform and transform us and the primary means he uses to do this are relationships in the local church…*
She points out,
….God has placed us in a family because we don’t grow very well on our own…We need the encouragement, correction and loving involvement of others who are willing to risk everything for the sake of the beauty of his bride.
That means relationship! Uh oh! Isn’t that just what seems to be missing from many churches? And isn’t it something we often sinfully seek to avoid? Elyse dares to say,
…the idolatry of privacy and individualism is one of the greatest detriments to sanctification in the church today…
Ouch! Elyse goes on to say something provocative:
Maturity in Christ does not occur because we attend Bible studies. Maturity in Christ occurs when, by the Spirit and in God’s grace, our brothers and sisters take biblical truth and apply it lovingly, patiently, boldly to our hearts.
Though at first it sounds shocking to someone like me, she’s not saying that preaching of the Word or private Bible study is powerless. God forbid! Presumably, the biblical truth our brothers and sisters apply to our hearts has been first understood and rejoiced in as they heard faithful preaching, or as they read the scriptures on their own. And of course God regularly uses the preaching of the Gospel to pierce our hearts where we sit in our pews and bring to light our sin. But, in spite of this, Elyse is pointing out we don’t grow very well on our own because we tend to be blind to long-tolerated areas of sin and idolatry. Yes, we hear glorious preaching every week. But we fail to apply it because we just don’t see the specific places it connects with our lives. Right? And failing to apply the truth, we become stuck and stunted, a distorted version of what Christ died to make us. That’s why God has designed that we be helped by brothers and sisters who unlike us, can see our idolatry and knowing how destructive it is are willing to gently speak the word that can free us.
But how does this work in practice? What does this look like? How can churches nurture these kind of relationships? How can I nurture them? What are the pitfalls? These are things I’ll be thinking about in the coming weeks.