Today we’re sharing an excerpt from Whitney Capps’s new study We Over Me. Order your copy or see a free sample today at LifeWay.com/WeOverMe. We’ve also included some fun, free downloads at the end of this post to celebrate this new study!
God’s goal is that we would grow in Christlikeness—so that each day we look a little more like Jesus and a little less like ourselves. This process is called sanctification.
Sanctification addresses the internal quality of our spiritual maturity. It is evidenced in external actions. God is working to grow us up so that we can be witnesses to all He has done and will do. This growth happens best in the context of congregational life. We’re not meant to be a Lone Ranger Christian.
Let’s take a moment to read Colossians 3:12-17:
Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
You may have noticed some of the pursuits, attitudes, and actions of a growing, maturing believer included in this Bible passage. Are these happening in isolation or community?
Paul was calling the church to grow spiritually together. Now, understand this doesn’t rule out the work of sanctification that takes place in our personal walks with Christ. Through our personal prayer and Bible study, the Spirit works in us, molding us into the image of Christ. But those truths we are learning are tested and put into practice in the community of the church. Plus, we are held accountable to those truths through our local body of believers.
Conviction, repentance of sin, and the accountability to change accordingly come with sanctification. The kind of transparency that leads to transformation doesn’t usually happen in a casual, drop-in/drop-out kind of community.
In fact, in the Old Testament, many of the Levitical laws have to do with the congregation’s
collective responsibility to stay morally and physically pure and holy. (See Lev. 4.) To put it in modern language, they were all up in each other’s business. God expected the Israelites to hold one another accountable to personal holiness for the sake of the nation’s holiness.
But that was Old Testament, sacrificial system kind of stuff, right? That was before all our sins had been paid for by Jesus. So do we still need to worry about our sin and its impact on the congregation of God’s people? Well, yes.
Let’s read Matthew 18:15-20.
“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he doesn’t pay attention to them, tell the church. If he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.”
It’s a passage we quote often about our worship experience, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them” (Matt. 18:20). We love to think about the Lord’s presence being with us in worship, right? But look at the context of what’s happening in this passage of Scripture.
Jesus is teaching us that the church is made up of people who hold our hands and hold us accountable. We don’t usually deal with sin on our own, do we? The changes in my life that have taken root and actually borne fruit were brought into the light of community and held firm by accountability. I need my church family to help me be better than I could ever be on my own.
Here’s where it gets really sticky. We aren’t just to invite this kind of accountability for ourselves; we are commanded to help others walk in it as well. Paul says it’s our duty to uphold the holiness of the church corporately and individually.
Learning that God wants to use my local church to sanctify me is not a new idea, but I always thought that sanctification happened through a sermon or heartfelt worship. God uses intimate fellowship with a group of people whose only real similarity is our sin nature. We are selfish and broken, desperate and needy. Yet God is using iron to sharpen iron (Prov. 27:17), through the power of the Spirit, as we grow together in Christ.
Want to learn more about this new study? Watch the short video below or view a free sample and teaching video clips at LifeWay.com/WeOverMe.
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