What do a stone, a random body part, and a lone sheep all have in common? (Disclaimer: this is not a joke with a punch line). Answer – they were never meant to be alone.
- 1 Peter 2:5 – “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
- 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 – “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”
- John 10:11 – “I [Jesus] am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Stones are useful when cemented together with others stones to build a house. Body parts are useful when they work in harmony with other parts as they receive instruction through the nervous system and from the brain. A sheep is shepherded as a part of the larger flock. Yet, in our individualistic society, many view their relationship with God through this lonely lens. The result is a powerless picture that is antithetical to New Testament teaching. We see Jesus holding a stone with a perplexed look on his face. We see Jesus as the Head being carried by a hand. We see Jesus the gentle Shepherd holding onto His little lamb. This is the “Me and Jesus” mentality, and it is a lop-sided picture, to say the least.
Do we have a personal relationship with Jesus? Absolutely! Is it an individual, private matter (ie. Is it “just me and Jesus”)? Absolutely Not! There is only one Person whom we can say was born to solely bring glory to God, and that Person is Jesus (John 17:1-5). Yet, even the way Jesus brought glory to the Father was by purchasing a people, His Church, for the Father (John 17:6-11). And those who have been purchased by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28b) have been called to live for God’s glory TOGETHER. Is it just you and Jesus? No. It’s Jesus and His Church (of which you are a part by virtue of your baptism and identification with Him and His people).
New Testament Christianity does not exist apart from the local church. The church is the context for the individual believer’s growth in faith and God’s plan to display His glory in this world (Eph. 3:10-12). God’s is not satisfied to confine the display of His glory to individual believers, like a Shepherd meticulously caring for one little sheep. But He intends to display His character through a Spirit-filled, loving community of believers, each of whom He sought after when they went astray and brought them back to His Flock (Luke 15:3-6). This is the local church. If you are a Christian, it’s where you belong for your joy and the glory of God.