Friends, we are in our second to last week in the Because He Loves Me Book Study! I'm grateful that you've joined me here the last 11 weeks! I planned this study so that it would finish up right before Number 6's arrival...I'm cutting it close with the last chapter landing next Wednesday, two days before the due date! :)
I'm excited to share that we will be finishing up the study with a bang, as Crossway books has extended an amazing giveaway of Elyse Fitzpatrick books and a beautiful ESV Bible! So please, invite friends and spread the word on the giveaway next week, as these will be wonderful resources for young and mature believers alike.
This week's chapter, "Gospel-centered Relationships" hits a tender spot in my life-- a place of great affection, conviction, and sensitivity. Why? Because, as you know, our family was involved in church planting for many years, and have always had a strong connection to ministering and loving others through deep relationships formed within the family that is the Church, and within the walls of our home. I have tasted, first hand, the amazing fruits of such relationships, and why God would choose to use gospel-centered relationships as a primary context for our sanctification. Relationships require sacrifice, deliberate choices in priorities, and trust in the new identity God's given us.
"The New Testament church...the relationships they had with their Christian brothers and sisters were frequently more meaningful and binding than the ones they had with their biological families. They had a new identity, and identity defined by a common adoption.
...Congregational church life is not just "services and classes." It is not less than that, but it is vastly more...The primary relationship every Christian has is with our Father and with his Son. Every other relationship is simply a reflection of this one great love...The only way we are enabled to love is because we've been loved." (p. 175)
Is this how you view church and community in Christ? It's not always been my experience or my conviction. But, as we've walked through these last 10 chapters, is it any wonder that we must be transformed to rightly love one another with the love of Christ? Is it any wonder that we must be supported and encouraged within the body of Christ in order to grow in our true identity?
"The idolatry of privacy and individualism is one of the greatest detriments to sanctification in the church today. God has placed us in a family because we don't grow very well on our own...We need the encouragement, correction, and loving involvement of others who are willing to risk everything for the sake of the beauty of his bride." (p. 178)
If you read the chapter, you may have felt conviction over the different reasons and excuses Elyse gives for people hesitating to be in one another's lives. Perhaps this one is the most convicting, however:
"Of course, the primary reason we're lethargic about deep biblical fellowship is that we don't love our Savior or our neighbor as we should...When our hearts appear cold and all our motives are self-protective and self-centered, when we're apathetic, we can apprehend by faith what he has said about us...This love is ours and we can begin to pursue one another in faith believing that he will always supply the grace we need." (p. 185)
So, as we look to the end of our study, we find ourselves called to not simply grow within the safety of our own walls and private lives, but to live transformed lives with others who are called to the same change in identity. We weren't meant to do it alone. We weren't meant to keep it to ourselves.
Now let's talk about it...
1) As described by Elyse in this chapter, would you consider yourself more of a tourist, a student, or a member of a family when it comes to relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ?
2) How have you viewed community and church fellowship? Do you think of it as a place or a program? Or do you consider it a living body of relationships?
3) Do you have gospel-centered relationships in your life? If not, how can you be more intentional about pursuing those relationships?
I'd love to hear your thoughts! You can do so in two ways...
*Leave a comment below, and feel free to discuss with others there!
*Write a blog post either answering these questions or with your own reactions to the chapter, and link up your blog post below! (Remember to add the title and url for the specific post and not your blog url and name. Thanks!)
And please grab this button if you are joining us so that others can find us here!
(It's not too late to read along. If you haven't purchased a copy of the book, you can do so here.)