Our book discussion continues with a look at Chapter 9: Chapters 8, 9, and 10 undermine our presupposition that if we get the community right, it will produce disciples. That’s the hope that underscored all my pastoral work. If we can just get the right program in place and people follow it we will experience the life of the church. But we can’t. The life of the church doesn’t rise from a different structure or program, but from a different kind of believer, one that is growing in their trust of the Father’s affection and thus can live differently and love differently in the world.
The reason this gives us a better shot at relationships is because we aren’t so “needy” in attaching ourselves to others as a lifeline to survive our lives. By securing that line in Father-Son-Spirit, we find true freedom and are thus free to celebrate that life with others. That’s what makes up the community.
That’s not to say Christians shouldn’t get together until they are won into his love, but that the focus of our gatherings early on might be on how we recognize and embrace Father’s affection. The seedbed of the church is an effective discipleship that helps engage people with him. The church is not individualistic at all, but it begins in the heart of an individual that wants to connect in a real way with God. This chapter describes the fruit of that engagement.
It may be what John referred to when he said, “We know and rely on the love God has for us.” (I John 4:16) Some translations draw out a deeper meaning: “We have come to know . . . ,” indicating a process. So often our confidence in his love is thwarted by our fears and doubts and circumstances we don’t understand. I love the picture of an older John rejoicing that at last he had “come to know” and “come to rely” on the love God had for him.
I am continually amazed at the places my growing confidence in Father’s love leads me. How great can it grow? I don’t know, but I look forward to each day to discover what new freedom overtakes me and how that leads to treating others differently. Three words help me recognize God’s gravity that replaces the pressures of the world: compassion, trust, and rest. As these emerge from our growing relationship with God, we’ll find it easier to cooperate with God’s working. They are the headwaters that allow us to join the flow of his church.
You can find the discussion board here and see the list of topics we’ve covered. You can start at Chapter 1 and work your way through, or just join us in Chapter 9.