It’s easy to get our answers from experience?  For many it’s a service where you sing, pray, sit & listen, take a bit of bread & wine… and, if you’re lucky, get a biscuit with your cup of tea afterwards!  Then Sunday lunch pulls you home.

But if we get answers from the Bible it’s different.  Christians love.

We love God.  We love neighbour.

The word ‘love’ describes something inside us.  It’s more about desire, than duty.

It takes you into the world of relationships, not religion.

Loving God must mean loving what he says.  He’s given us the Bible as his way of speaking to everyone, so we know what he’s like in black & white in our own language.   The Bible’s like a text someone who we love sends to our mobile phone.

We pour over the phone not because we love the phone, but we want to read what’s been written about the writer’s love for us.

And usually when we get a text we reply it.  Prayer is our speaking response to the God who speaks first.

So belonging to a church would mean spending some time each day reading the Bible, and then talking to God in response to his love.

Take a short passage (perhaps starting with a Gospel – e.g. Mark).  And on a notepad jot down one-sentence answers to these 2 questions;

  • What does this passage tell me about God?
  • What effect should this have on me?

Before belonging to a church, it is worth making sure it is the TOP priority of that church to teach the Bible – because you’ll love God more  the more you love what he says.  The big test is to ask if Bible teaching is clearly the most important activity when this church meets?

Loving neighbour takes us to others; both inside & outside the church.

Of course we love our Christian neighbour.  Jesus said the only way we know anyone has any love for him is that they have love for his disciples…

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John Ch 13, verses 34-35)

Now let’s state the obvious…

  1. That means we meet together.  It’s hard to say we love someone we don’t want to be with.  In our church we have 2 chances to do that – on Sundays and Tuesdays.  It’s a relational commitment.  We eat together when we meet.  And we tell someone when we can’t be there because we take the meeting seriously, and explain why we’ll not be there if we can’t make it.
  2. It means we serve each other.  Before Jesus said this, he’d just washed his disciples feet – a slave’s job!  It was the night before he died.  He was acting out how he’d make his clean by securing God’s forgiveness when he died on the cross as their substitute.   Now he says ‘love one another as I have loved you.’  So we come through the door to serve.  In our church we can make meals, set out chairs (& put them away), finding out how people are feeling and meeting any needs we can… we give our money to serve others and add to their joy.
  3. It means we want to help people become Christians.  Jesus made and loves everyone.  He gives people everyone and everything they have.  How crazy to treat him as unimportant!  It is wilful and foolish to deny our Creator, when we were made to love and live for him.  It is asking for hell to be our home.  It doesn’t have to be.  Jesus died so anyone can head for heaven.  And Christians would want nothing less for their neighbours.  So our church visits people on our estate every week to make friends.  And, whilst being sensitive to their wishes, we’d want them to make friends with Jesus.

Sounds like a novel way to ‘do church’? Not quite.  Here’s the earliest description of what the early church did together….

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people.

And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

(Acts Ch 2, verses 42-47).

Or, to put it another way, they loved Jesus – ‘devoted’ to finding out about him through the words of the apostles (now written for us in the Bible)… and they loved their neighbours.