"And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Colossians 1: 18)
I am convinced that many believers in the Body of Christ are not happy in their church communities. They go to church week after week, but they do not change one bit. They still struggle in this life. They find themselves overwhelmed with their circumstances and themselves.
I was not happy with the back-biting, the rivalries, the pettiness that I saw in many churches. Even worse, many churches did not esteem Christ and Him Crucified.
Friends would tell me that no church is perfect, and that no one is perfect. In other words: "Suck it up!" Yet that seemed more like a cop-out to me. I still found that my peace was disrupted more often than not in churches.
For a long time, I decided not to go to church at all. Why go to church every Sunday to be frustrated and upset?
I praise God for the new revelation which I have received about Christ's love. For me, as for many, we go to church trying to get something for ourselves. Paul's first prayer to the Ephesians was for them to know Him more:
"17That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints" (Ephesians 1: 17-18)
Church is about knowing Christ -- that was Peter's prayer to his reader: "Grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord" (2 Peter 3: 18)
When we know Him, we find ourselves. Paul outlines in the second chapter of Ephesians everything that He has done for us because of the death and resurrection of His Son. We are no longer dead in our trespasses, we are seated in heaven places. We have received the adoption of children, and He has prepared the works which He wants us to beforehand to do.
In the third chapter, Paul expounds on an even more important revelation:
"16That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." (Ephesians 3: 16-19)
He wanted every believer to receive by faith that Christ Jesus lives in us. He is our new life. Paul wanted every believer to be established in His love, no matter what was happening, for better or for worse.
Then I realized my "mistake" -- I was looking for unconditional love and acceptance from people in church, when that kind of love can only come from God.
This love is more than some sentiment, either:
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4: 10)
Jesus did not just die for our sins -- but His death completely removed all our sins once and for all and forever. Many people do not have this revelation. I was one of them.
The perfection that I was looking for in people really reflected the perfection that I was trying to accomplish in me. Jesus completed a perfect work:
"For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Hebrews 10: 14)
We are perfected in our conscience, in that no longer should we have a sense of sin about us, and therefore we have no reason to judge others. When we focus on how imperfect we are, we badger everyone else for not measuring up (to this perversion Jesus spoke when he preached: "Judge not, lest ye be judged" (Matthew 7: 1)) When we rest in our righteousness in Christ, then we in turn are transformed from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3: 18) and we then receive the grace to love other people (1 John 4: 19)
We do not go to church to get closer to God, because Christ lives in every believer by the power of the Holy Spirit (Colossians 1: 27). We do not come to church in order to be righteous, for that was accomplished once and for all through the Cross (2 Corinthians 5: 17, 21). We go to church to know Him more and to receive more of His love.
We thus go to church in order to receive exhortation to continue in the good works which He has placed within us to do:
"24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10: 24-25)
The preceding verses in the same chapter establish the basis for the rest:
19Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21And having an high priest over the house of God; 22Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
Grow in grace and knowledge of God's complete work in your life, rest in the truth that everything is covered for you. You can then approach Him with full assurance of faith, and then you come to church to celebrate and get excited about doing great things for Him.
The problem for me, among many people in the Body of Christ, is that we are looking for love from people -- only the Love of God can satisfy us, and this love is forever demonstrated to us by the blood of Jesus, which speaks better things than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12: 24