There is no substitute for the church

You may have wondered why fire trucks are red. Here’s the answer: Fire trucks are red because they have four wheels, and eight people ride on a fire truck; everybody knows that four plus eight is 12. There are 12 inches on a ruler. Queen Elizabeth was a ruler. They also named a ship after her, and that ship sailed the seas. Seas have fish and fish have fins. People from Finland are called Finns, and the Finns fought the Russians. The Russians used to be called “Reds.” Fire trucks are always rushin’ around. So, that is why fire trucks are red.
    Listen, if you think that is bizarre and convoluted, you ought to hear some people try to explain why they don’t faithfully attend and love the church.
    Paul’s reason for writing 1 Timothy was “that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” The pillar and ground of the truth! We cannot overestimate the importance of the church unless we elevate it above Christ. But we can certainly underestimate the importance of the church, and many do. Those who say they love Jesus but cannot stand the church are like the man who says to his wife, “Honey, I just love your head, but I cannot stand your body.” What would that man say after he woke up?
    Or think of it another way, as Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck do in their book, “Why I Love the Church.” Imagine every time a certain friend comes over to your house, he takes potshots at your wife. He makes fun of her, puts her down, and asks why in the world you would ever want to be with her. Would you want to hang out with a “friend” like that? No. But, apparently, some people imagine Jesus wants friends like that. Friends who “roll their eyes and sigh over the church.” The church is the body of Christ and his future bride. Flawed and blemished now, yes. But he is washing her with the water of his Word, getting her ready for the marriage supper of the Lamb. Until that time, the church plays a vital role in God’s kingdom, as it is God’s only plan for taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. He has entrusted that task to the local church in every place.
    The question we must ask is this: Why are there more people today on the earth than there have ever been who say, “Yes, I am born again and believe in Jesus, and no, I do not go to church, nor do I have any plans to?” John Stott wrote, “I trust that none of my readers is that grotesque anomaly, an unchurched Christian. The New Testament knows nothing of such a person. For the church lies at the very centre of the eternal purpose of God.”
    The problem in our culture today is that the church is no longer the place we run to in order to be saved, but, we are told, church is the place we must run from if we are to truly find God. Nothing could be further from the truth.
    The local expression of the body of Christ is not an optional extra for those who want to know Him. It is the pillar and the ground of the truth. Find one that believes and lives that out every week, and get planted and rooted there. There is no substitute for the church.

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