Why You Need The Church After This is All Over
Why You Need The Church After This is All Over

Joe Basso • April 20, 2020

Over the weeks since we have been separated from one another I have thought a great deal about the value of Christian community. Verses that were once read mindlessly pop off the page with new life and relevance.

...as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? (1 Thessalonians 3.10)

“For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1.8)

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you - that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1.9-12)

“As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy” - (2 Timothy 1.4).

I can feel Paul’s longing with a fresh perspective. His heart beats for Christ and his Church. This was not just some formality in a letter it was the heart of a man who knew the gift of Christian community. He who once ripped that community apart, now longed deeply for their fellowship and worked tirelessly for its growth!

Why? Because he had not just come to Christ, but to “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Hebrews 12.23). Paul knew that Jesus had not only saved him, but had called him to unity with a saved people. This is why John writes of love for one another as a key trait of the life of Christ in us (1 John 3.10). And this is why Paul urged Philemon to receive Onesimus as a brother and no longer as a slave. The Gospel creates and shapes Christian community uniting us together as the very household of God.

What is a kingdom without a people? Of what value is the promise of a heavenly city without its citizens? God has not called us merely to himself, he has called us through Christ to one another: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may now that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17.22-23).

The fellowship we enjoy as Christians is not a mere side-effect of a common faith. It is at the heart of God’s salvation plan. Paul explained this in Ephesians where he wrote: “But now in Christ you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ… For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2.13, 18-20).

Paul is telling us that the church is not an afterthought or a side-effect. Instead it is a major part of God's plan through the work of Jesus. What a gift! What a blessing to be together as God’s household. Whatever the effects of this pandemic, I do hope that this season of separation will forever breakdown the idea that we can go it alone or do without the actual fellowship of God’s people. I hope it awakens the church to the value of life together.

It is so easy to forget and dismiss this truth. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who deeply longed for such fellowship while imprisoned by the Nazi government, wrote of our tendency to forget the value of the church. In his book Life Together he wrote:

“It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”

As I write this I am reminded of the Ephesian elders weeping at the shore of Miletus as Paul was departing for Jerusalem, never to see them again. I can feel the sand on my knees as they prayed together for the last time, some steeling a glance at Paul, remembering the nights and days spent under his careful teaching. The text reads “there was much weeping on the part of all” because they would not see him again (Acts 20.37). The heat of their tears is almost palpable.

Unlike Paul and the Ephesian church we will see one another again and our fellowship will be a welcome change to phone-calls, live-streaming, and video-conferences. Yet let’s not lose the truth behind their tears and embraces: Christian fellowship is a gift of God and is not a guarantee while we are on this earth. This pandemic will lift and our restrictions with it, so as we gather let’s value the time we are given with our church family and work hard to preserve our unity and fellowship.


Photo - Felicia Buitenwerf

Scripture References:

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016)

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together, SCM Press Limited, 2010.

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Unbound in the Pandemic
Unbound in the Pandemic

Joe Basso • March 27, 2020

2 Timothy 2.8-10

Someone asked me the other day if my productivity during this pandemic was greater or less. I immediately responded that it was greater thinking of the hours spent attempting to record, edit, and publish sermons online. However, if I am being honest I am antsy and tired of interacting with my phone and tv. The video production is fun but I am eager to get back to the normal rhythms of life 3 weeks ago. I want to coach soccer, meet with my Community Group, and worship together with my church family. Everything is disrupted and it is easy to feel bound.

As I pondered these things I though of the Apostle Paul. He was bound repeatedly during his ministry. Our current bondage is nothing compared to that of the Apostle Paul, but I felt there was something we could learn from him at this time. If Timothy, who was not bound, needed to hear Paul's confidence and hope, I am certain we do as well.

In 2 Timothy we read that Paul is in chains, perhaps under house arrest or imprisoned in some jail-cell (2 Timothy 1.16, 2.9). Despite his imprisonment he is not discouraged but remains hard at work as a minister of the Gospel. Paul’s confidence in 2 Timothy is echoed in Philippians 1.12-13 where he reminds the Philippian church that his imprisonment has resulted in the advance of the Gospel! The whole letter is a reminder to the Philippian church that no matter the circumstances God remains hard at work growing his kingdom, and that is a cause of rejoicing.

Thinking about this over the past couple of days I returned to 2 Timothy 2.8-10 seeking to understand Paul’s mindset and hoping to glean a bit of it for myself. I know that we are not imprisoned or facing the type of threats that Paul was facing. Still, I think Paul’s hopefulness and optimism is needed in any difficult situation. Timothy certainly needed to hear such trust and hope and he wasn’t imprisoned.

The first thing I noted is the instruction to remember Jesus Christ. Paul didn’t lead with his chains but with his savior. He didn’t fill his letter with complaints about the prison food, the terrible conditions of the cell, or how he might have been treated by the jailer. Instead he put his focus upon Jesus. Timothy needed this reminder and so do we.

What do we remember about Jesus?

HE IS RISEN: Jesus has risen from the dead delivering all who believe in him from sin’s power and penalty. The wrath of God is satisfied and Jesus is our only advocate before the Father. Through him sinners may boldly approach God’s throne and find help in time of need. The empty tomb (which we celebrate in a few weeks) boldly proclaims forgiveness, new life, and God’s triumphant victory secured in his Son. No matter what befalls us in this world it is temporary. Christ and the promise of his resurrection lift our nearsighted gaze beyond this momentary light affliction (2 Corinthians 4.16-18).

JESUS IS THE OFFSPRING OF DAVID: This phrase is packed full of Old Testament promises given to David and expanded in the prophets. God promised David that his throne would endure forever (2 Samuel 7.12-15). This primarily refers to Solomon, but as is common with prophecy Solomon foreshadows the greater fulfillment in the messiah (Christ). By stating that Jesus is the offspring of David Paul is urging Timothy to remember that God’s redemptive plan promised in ages past is being fulfilled today through the proclamation of Jesus Christ. God is still powerfully at work even though Paul is in chains.

JESUS IS AT THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL: The final phrase of verse 8 points us to Gospel preaching. Paul has not stopped proclaiming Christ though he is bound in chains. He continues to proclaim Christ to every guard and every visitor. Although we are not bound in chains, or restricted because of Christ, we have a platform to proclaim our hope in Jesus the risen King. It could be a phone call to a friend, a post on social media, a letter to a loved-one, or a conversation with family. Whatever avenue God gives you it is a chance to proclaim Christ. Even if you are talking with another Christian you can follow the example of Paul with Timothy and encourage them by remembering Jesus together!

We remember Christ, Paul declares, because “the word of God is not bound!” Nothing can stop God’s work in the world, not a fearful Christian, or a quarantined church! The word continues to spread and take ground against the kingdom of Darkness in this world. Because this is true we can “endure everything” for the sake of God’s people. We can endure a bit of isolation. We can endure some of the difficulties that will come as a result of our response measures.

Think of what Paul endured (2 Corinthians 11.16-33). Shipwrecks, imprisonments, beatings with whips and rods, and stoning. He faced dangers from rivers and robbers. Dangers in the wilderness, city, and at sea. He endured sleepless nights, hunger and thirst and cold and exposure all for the sake of Jesus. We can endure a warm house, Netflix, and scrolling social media. We can endure a bit of economic difficulty, being ready to represent Christ with our words and our acts of compassion to those deeply effected by this pandemic.

Paul’s words are a needed reminder to me that I can trust the goodness of God in the troubles of this world and stay busy remembering Jesus and the promise of his resurrection. You can too. 😄

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