Do you fear that you will lose your faith? Do you struggle against a besetting sin? Are you uncertain that you can persevere through the suffering or temptation you are facing? Do you fear that our church, URC, won’t make it through the current crises? Or that the worldwide church is growing weaker, less faithful, and less effective?
The Apostle Paul feared for the church: “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). The New Testament church faced many challenges, not unlike us. Yet Paul did not lose heart. How? Paul was confident that Christ keeps the church. As he wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:14, “He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” Paul was confident that the Corinthians would persevere in their faith until they died and were brought into God’s presence. Christ will keep us through this life and bring us safely home. How could he do otherwise?
We, the church, those who trust in Christ, are his beloved bride: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25). Christ is more committed to our holiness, unity, and perseverance than we are. He is confident that he will have a spotless bride to marry at the “marriage supper of the lamb” (Rev. 19:9). Jesus Christ “is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24). And Jesus is not uncertain about whether we are going to make it: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
How will this happen? How will Christ keep the church safe and bring us home in the end? By the ordinary means of grace.
As we read in Ephesians, he washes us with the water of the word. We read the word, both individually and with our family. We listen to the word preached. It strengthens our faith and keeps us clinging to Jesus. The Spirit also helps us: “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Baptism and the Lord’s supper not only remind us of the Gospel, but in them we experience the goodness of God with our senses. Our brothers and sisters encourage us, so we gather with them: “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). We pray as we are able, not always as we ought to. And we confess our sins, to the Lord and to others. (1 John 1:9)
Though the world, our flesh (our sinful desires), and the devil are against us and threaten to overwhelm us, we need not lose heart. Christ keeps the church. Though our sin or suffering threaten to undo us, our Lord is faithful and strong and will keep us through the ordinary means of grace and bring us home to be with Him forever. Christ Keeps the Church
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.