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Help Me Keep My Membership Vows

August 30, 2011

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” should be one of the most joyful commands we are given as Christians. This should have been a delight to Adam and Eve as they were able to enjoy one another, living in perfect communion with God in Genesis 1-2. Their mission was simple. Look outside yourselves at what the Lord has made…delight in it, glorify the Lord through it, and make more of it.

Than, something horrible happened. Beginning in Genesis 3, men and women everywhere, throughout history stopped obeying the outward-focused command. Instead, they became inward-focused. Genesis 3:6 records the selfish desires of the first couple noting that, “…when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…” Purely selfish, inward-focused desire in a world wired to be outward-focused became the theme of Genesis, the Bible, and our lives today. As Cornelius Plantinga would later say, this is certainly “NOT the way it’s supposed to be.”

The theme is repeated in Genesis 6:2. There, the sons of God, “saw that the daughters of man were attractive (good). And they took as their wives any they chose.” Does this look familiar? It should. Genesis 3:6 contains the same “saw…good…took” theme as 6:2. God saw this inward-focused theme as wickedness. This wickedness seems to continue today in the modern church. Instead of giving, blessing, and filling we are taking, cursing, and stealing.

The good news for us is that this inward-focused sin of self-fulfillment has been dealt with on the cross through the work of Christ. Just as we don’t have to be controlled by the shackles of noticeable sin such as murder, jealousy, adultery, or lust; we also don’t have to be controlled by the culturally acceptable sin of inward-focused self-fulfillment.

I was reminded of this Biblical theme this weekend as I stood and took my membership vows at Trinity. I vowed to be committed to the “worship and work” and to the “peace and purity” of the church. In essence, I vowed (to steal from JFK) to ask “not what the church can do for me, but what I can do for the church.” The Lord Jesus already died for his bride, the church. Now it is my job to love his bride so much that I seek the purity of her. Seeking the purity of something will involve me not looking inwardly to what would satisfy me the most, but to follow the Biblical pattern of looking outwardly to what would preserve peace in the bride of Christ so that the Lord would be most glorified. Inward-focused self-fulfillment is an ugly thing. An outward-focused mentality that says, “How can I support the worship, work, purity, and peace of Trinity?” is a wonderful gift.

This is hard for us, though. So much of life involves a buy-sell relationship. Sarah and I need groceries every week so we go to Wal-Mart and buy what they are selling. If we don’t like what they are selling, we will complain to the management or go to Publix.

Too often, we treat church like a buy-sell relationship. If I like the programs and sermon…I’m buying. If I don’t like the programs and sermon…I’m complaining or going elsewhere. The church, however, is perhaps the only institution in the universe where the buy-sell relationship does not hold up. Why? Because it is not a business, non-profit, industry, restaurant, or grocery store. It is the bride of Christ and we are called to commit ourselves to its “worship, work, peace, and purity.”

So, I ask you as the members and attenders at Trinity. Keep me accountable in these areas. Help me to not be inward-focused and self-fulfilling, but to be outward-focused, seeking the welfare of our community. Pray that I deal gently with people and give liberally of my time, energy, money, and talent. Most of all, pray that through seeking the welfare of the “worship, work, peace, and purity” of the church that I have a deeper understanding of the Lord and a heart that is filled with joy.

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