By Skip Heitzig
Church can become a place where participation is minimal, where perceptions are unreasonable, and where worship is invisible. I think this might be because we were never in tune with the purpose of the church in the first place.
What is God's vision for the church? In John 17, Jesus prayed for and anticipated four characteristics that would mark His followers—four things the church should do.
1. The church should radiate the glory of God. Eight times in John 17, Jesus used some variation of the word glorify (see vv. 1, 4, 5, 10, 22, 24). To glorify means to make famous or to have a good opinion of. Our goal as the church should be to put God on center stage. We do that by declaration (see v. 6)—verbally making God's name great through worship—and demonstration (see v. 4)—finishing the work He made us to do, whatever it is.
2. The church should reveal the truth of God (see vv. 6-8). Jesus received words of truth from His Father and passed them on to His followers, who received them, wrote them down, and passed them on to us. The church must be a place where the Word of God is spoken and preached, not the opinions of men. That's because the Word is the source of all truth (see v. 17)—the source of everything we do—and it produces joy (see v. 13) and holiness (see vv. 17-19).
3. The church should rescue the enemies of God—those who are against Him (see Matthew 12:30). Just as God sent Jesus on a mission to redeem the world, Jesus said, "I also have sent [My followers] into the world" (John 17:18). We must keep an eye on what's going on around us, always extending the message of life found in the gospel. Salt is no good in the salt shaker (see Matthew 5:13); you have to spill out into the world and bring people in by your words and actions.
4. The church should rally over the love of God. In John 17, Jesus prayed for believers to have unity based on truth and love (see vv. 11, 20-23). How can we preach the gospel of God's love to the world if we don't display that love among ourselves? Christian unity doesn't mean we think alike on every single issue, but we are to be unified on the essentials of the faith. Why? "That the world may believe that You sent Me" (v. 21). When we love each other sincerely, we make the invisible God visible (see 1 John 4:12).
I pray that these things would mark us as God continues to work in and through His church, where His principles are conveyed, His purpose is revealed for our lives, and His presence is in a very unique way.
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