Where do we go next in our teaching series? As I begin preparing this week, I am still wondering how to transition to the “Inward” portion of this series. Or should we take one more week to address “Upward” concerns? I did not give adequate treatment to the topic of the Lord’s Day so I will return to it during the first half of our teaching time this week. I commend to you the following article about the Lord’s Day:
For the second half of the teaching time this week, we will move toward the “Inward” portion of the series. I hope to show how the upward activity of the Church defines, directs, and orients our inward activity. By this time, I hope you have recategorized corporate worship as an upward activity with inward benefits (i.e., mutual edification, encouragement, etc. by worshiping together) and some outward benefits (worship overflowing into Christian living and evangelism!). This upward focus with inward and outward benefits is absolutely crucial in understanding all aspects of the Church so continue to apply it to everything we do at CPC!
Other than worship, when thinking about the inward activity of the church – the relational dynamics, activities, programs, etc. among members of a particular congregation – what comes to your mind? My own tendency is to jump to what we do together. Action and accomplishment, activity and achievement, age and stage, meeting each other’s needs and carrying one other’s burdens – at least that is where my mind tends to go. “Now that I understand the ‘upward’ part of the Church, what do I do next?” Even as I type those words, I cannot help but think of a common error in evangelicalism today: “God saves us, then we get to work.” Though there is a small element of truth in that statement, the mentality betrays a works-based sanctification. Just as we cannot save ourselves from sin, neither can we make ourselves holy in thought, word, and deed. Nor can we make our church “better” through activity alone.
Activity is indeed necessary, but faith and obedience are foundational. The same principles that apply to individual sanctification likewise apply to congregational sanctification: (1) faith in God’s promises and (2) obedience to God’s word.
I urge you to read one or two NT epistles this week and look at the pattern. (If you have a study Bible, just look at the outlines in the introduction to each book.) Most of the letters, especially Paul’s, begin with an upward focus before moving to inward encouragement, exhortation, admonition, rebuke, and practical instruction. (There are, of course, exceptions!) This is because the inward actions, activities, goals, and programs of any church must never be divorced from the upward focus.
If corporate worship and the Lord’s Day are “Church 101” for the “Upward” portion of the series, the ordinary means of grace are “Church 101” for the “Inward” portion. The ordinary means of grace bridge the gap between upward and inward, showing that the two are not separated from each other but that they are, in fact, organically related, a “both-and” of upward and inward. The ordinary means of grace (should) shape all the Church’s inward activity because they bridge the gap between upward and inward – neither detracting and distracting from corporate worship, nor rounding out and expanding corporate worship; but feeding into, preparing for, and teaching how to love and value corporate worship (and the Lord’s Day as a whole!). For this Sunday, please read the following article, which was written by Dr. Ryan McGraw, my Ecclesiology & Polity professor and the man who instilled in me a deep, biblically grounded love for our Lord’s Church.
I look forward to fellowship, learning together, and discussing the Church when we meet again this coming Lord’s Day! May God bless, keep, prosper, and preserve you this week as you glorify and enjoy him!