1) The Principle of Conformity.
There never was a day when the church of Jesus Christ was pure. From the Day of Pentecost there were some who believed truly, wholeheartedly, and obediently. And there were some who seemed to have believed, but it proved to be for their own personal power or gain. Even among the apostolic twelve there was a “son of perdition.”
Yet the call of Jesus was not to the halfhearted or lukewarm, but to those who would follow where he leaded. This was understood by all the “devoted ones” on the day of Pentecost and after. Those who were following Jesus ahead of them, were their mentors and guides. They were discipling the newest believers, and showing them the nature of a life given up completely to God. The Apostle would later write; “Imitate me as I imitate Christ,” but this was not an apostolic pattern, it was a Christian pattern.
To be willing to die for Christ, as Peter thought he was, would come slowly to all the first followers, but it would come. For some it would be literally. In the fullness of time the community of faith would recognize this as the pattern of being conformed to Christ Jesus, who modeled wanting only the “Father’s will” as his daily bread and as his incarnate life’s work. “To live is Christ and to die is gain” cried one of the great Apostles who followed him.
No one who has ever begun the journey of “following Jesus,” and who continued until the day of their new birth, has failed to be shown – in time – that they must truly die to be raised with Christ. These words come to express reality for them, not just a baptismal action or form of words. In times of persecution and martyrdom, these things are seen clearly even by new believers, but in periods of long doctrinal decline and moral decay the church fills with those who do not understand these things.
What then are the boundaries that make a church of sinners a church that the Lord Jesus Christ is building? Are there any?
It must be argued, as vigorously as possible, that a church without boundaries of right belief and morality is not such a church. The church that Jesus builds is a church that produces saints. Men and women come to be conformed to Christ with such consistency, that the standard of faith described in the New Testament is overwhelmingly normal. In such a church the standards of belonging and believing are high. There is no way station on the way to heaven. There is only a journey in this life to being more and more conformed to Christ. But it is a narrow way. And hard.
A believer learns about this from the beginning. A believer desires this to the end.
Used with permission, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/
Next Week: The Principal of Work