There is a myriad of opinions among Christians as to what it means to be the church and what it should look like for a believer to live in the world today. For some, the church is a social gathering and an opportunity to find meaningful connections with others. For too many, it is nothing more than a rally to find empowerment to live a happy, successful life. At times the church is seen as a duty and an obligation that one must attend to in order to “qualify” as a good person, yet in no way channels into that person’s life any quality that makes of his or her life anything significant for eternity. For some, church is only a tradition or is viewed as a way to perpetuate a culture in which we have become comfortable.
God’s Word, however, presents the church otherwise. For instance, it is the bride of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:32, Revelation 21:9) as well as a divine response to the forces of evil (Matthew 16:18). One particularly powerful purpose for the church, however, is found in Ephesians 3:21 in which the church is declared to be the means for the awesome glory of God Himself to be revealed to our lost and dying world. The revealing of God’s glory happens when the church functions as it should. And it functions as it should when it is in all practical ways the body of Christ at work in the world today (Colossians 1:24, Ephesians 3:6, Romans 12:4, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
Don’t be duped into thinking that the church is a building. A building is only a meeting place. The church itself is where the presence of God is made real in the lives of individual Christians knit together into one body, serving Him in a way that is so different from the way the world operates that only God could have done it.
The evidence or proof of His presence is found when godly qualities come to the surface of people’s lives. It appears when it changes them and moves them to interface with others the way that Jesus did during the years of His earthly ministry. Those qualities are poignantly portrayed in Galatians 5:22-23 and are referred to as the “fruit of the Spirit” and can only truly be present when God Himself is present.
The presence of God in the people of God brings to the world the love of God in practical ways. The hands of God are never idle (see John 5:17). His hands are always clearing, tilling, sowing, weeding, watering, nourishing, and pruning His handiwork in order that there will be a harvest of His glory… real life experiences of God in the lives of “regular people” like you and me. Where He is, fruit will grow. If He is alive within you, then there will be the fruit of His presence.
The Bible tells us what those fruits are. If He is living in us, we will bring love, feel joy, practice peace, choose patience, treat with kindness, pursue goodness, value faithfulness, handle with gentleness, and find strength for self-control.
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, the fact of His resurrection from the dead and the power of His Spirit alive within us, He has made it possible for His divine power and presence to be actualized in you and me.
Let us therefore listen and obey the Scriptures that teach us to “walk in His Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25), for when we do, the fruits will come and lives are changed and God is glorified.
“… Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh…. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:16, 22-25 ESV).
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 22 ½ years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.