If we are to run with patience the race that is set before us, we must always keep looking unto Jesus [Heb. 12:1-3]. One of the simplest and yet one of the mightiest secrets of abiding joy and victory is to never lose sight of Jesus.
1. First of all we must keep looking at Jesus as the ground of our acceptance before God. Over and over again Satan will make an attempt to discourage us by bringing up our sins and failures and thus try to convince us that we are not children of God, or not saved. If he succeeds in getting us to keep looking at and brooding over our sins, he will soon get us discouraged, and discouragement means failure. But if we will keep looking at what God looks at, the death of Jesus Christ in our place that completely atones for every sin that we ever committed, we will never be discouraged because of the greatness of our sins. We shall see that while our sins are great, very great, that they have all been atoned for. Every time Satan brings up one of our sins, we shall see the Jesus Christ has redeemed us from its curse by being made a curse in our place [Gal. 3:13]. We shall see that while in ourselves we are full of unrighteousness, nevertheless in Christ we are made the righteousness of God, because Christ was made to be sin in our place [2 Cor. 5:21]. We will see that every sin that Satan taunts us about has been borne and settled forever [1 Pet. 2:24; Is. 53:6]. We shall always be able to sing"
"Jesus paid my debt,
All the debt I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow."
The true church consists of all true believers, all who are united to Jesus Christ by a living faith in Himself. In its outward organization at the present time, it is divided into numberless sects and local congregations, but in spite of these divisions the true church is one. It has one Lord, Jesus Christ. It has one faith, faith in Him as Saviour, Divine Lord and only King; one baptism, the baptism in the one Spirit into the one body [Eph. 4:4, 5:1; 1 Cor. 12:13]. But each individual Christian needs the fellowship on individual fellow believers. The outward expression of this fellowship is in membership in some organized body of believers. If we hold aloof from all organized churches, hoping thus to have broader fellowship with all believers belonging to all churches, we deceived ourselves. We will miss the helpfulness that comes from intimate union with some local congregation. I have known many well-meaning persons who have held aloof from membership in any specific organization, and I have never known a person who has done this, whose own spiritual life has not suffered by it.
On the day of Pentecost the three thousand who were converted were at once baptized and were added to the church [Acts 2:41, 47], and "They continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers." Their example is the one to follow. If you have really received Jesus Christ, hunt up as soon as possible some company of others who have received Jesus Christ and unite yourself with them.
In many communities there may be no choice of churches, for there is only one. In other communities one will be face with the question, "With hat body of believers shall I unite?" Do not waste your time looking for a perfect church. There is no perfect church. If you wait until you find a perfect church before you unite with any, you will unite with none, thus you will belong to a church in which you are the only member and that is the most imperfect church of all. I would rather belong to the most imperfect Christian church I ever knew than not to belong to any church at all.
The local churches in Paul's days were very imperfect institutions. Let one read the epistles to the Corinthians and see how imperfect was the church in Corinth, see how much there was that was evil in it, and yet Paul never thought of advising any believer in Corinth to get out of this imperfect church. He did tell them to come of of heathenism, to come out of fellowship with infidels [1 Cor. 6:14-18], but not a word on coming out of he imperfect church in Corinth. He did tell the church in Corinth to separate from their membership certain persons whose lives were wrong [1 Cor. 5:11-12], but he did not tell the individual members of the church in Corinth to get out of the church because these persons had not yet been separated from their fellowship.
As you cannot find a perfect church, find the best church you can. Unite with a church where believe in the Bible and where they preach the Bible. Avoid churches where words are spoken open or veiled that have a tendency to undermine your faith in the BIble as a reliable revelation from God Himself, the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice. Unite with a church where there is a spirit of prayer, where the prayer meetings are well kept up. Unite with a church that has a real active interest in the salvation of the lost, where young Christians are looked after and helped, where minister and people have a love for the poor and outcast, a church that regards its mission in this world to be the same as the mission of Christ "to seek and to save the lost."
As to denominations differences, other things being equal, unite with that denomination whose ideas of doctrine and of government and of the ordinances are most closely akin to your own. But it is better to unite with a live church of some other denomination than to unite with a dead church of your own. We live in a day when denominational differences are becoming ever less and less, and oftentimes they are of not practical consequences whatever; and one will often feel more at home in a church of some other denomination that in any accesssible church of his own denomination. The things which divide the denominations are insignificant compared with the great fundamental truths and purposes and faith that unite them.
If you cannot find a church that agrees with the pattern set forth above, find the church that comes nearest to it. Go into that church and by prayer and by work try to bring that church as nearly as you can to the pattern of what you think a church of Christ aught to be. Do not waste your strength in criticism against either church or minister. Seek for what is good in the church and in the minister and do your best to strengthen it. Hold aloof firmly, though unobtrusively, from what is wrong and seek to correct it. Do not be discouraged if you cannot correct it in a day or a week or a month or a year. Patient love and prayer and effort will tell in time. Drawing off by yourself and snarling and grumbling will do no good. They will simply make you and the truths for which you stand repulsive.
Feed Yourself Assignments
These assignments assume the student has completed the Feed Yourself course.
1. Memorize Matt. 16:18.
2. Look up in your Bible each Scripture reference mentioned in this lesson - even the ones that are quoted.
3. Read through 1 & 2 Cor. and note all the problems and solutions Paul points out.