Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why Do We Meet?

            Recently, I was attending a gathering of the Yuma Emmaus Community and the grouping question for the evening was “Why do we meet; or what do you get out of grouping?” Before I offer an answer to the question, I will attempt a brief description of the Walk to Emmaus.

            From the Biblical account, after Christ's resurrection He met his disciples as they walked along the road to Emmaus. The disciples were unaware of the identity of the stranger traveling with them until the breaking of bread as they stopped for the evening.

Luke 24:12 – 36 “Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass. And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” (KJV)

            The modern day application of this scripture is experienced in varying denominations and known by several different names, but each takes the form of a spiritual renewal weekend retreat. The participants on this weekend journey into spiritual renewal, encounter the unfolding of God's grace and the life changing power of His word in unique and inexplicable ways. At the end of the weekend, participants are encouraged to join accountability groups to continue the work of grace and maintain a strong Christian witness as they return to the day-to-day demands of life.

1 Peter 2:1-10 “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (KJV)

            The desired outcome in all of this is not the replacement of the church, but rather the strengthening and encouragement of believers. Beyond weekly grouping to build up and encourage one another, the community as a whole gathers on a regular basis for the purpose of fellowship, worship, accountability and a devotional meditation. Christians of every denominational stripe and theological flavor are joining together in a celebration of the grace of God and challenging each other to recognize His grace at work throughout individual acts of discipleship. The emphasis is directed at becoming an active part of the “Body of Christ”.

Colossians 3:15-17 “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (KJV)

            There is a vastly deeper dimension to the Christian life than rote church attendance. It must become a daily walk in the steps of Christ. Certainly sermons and Bible studies are an important part of that life, as are prayer and fellowship; we grow spiritually through each of these activities and we cannot make the journey alone.

Hebrews 10:24-30 “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not 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. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.” (KJV)

            So, the answer to the question: Why do we meet? For me it is simple. I need to be provoked toward love and good deeds. I need to be challenged to both recognize and answer calls to discipleship. I need the fellowship of like-minded believers to encourage me along the journey. In short, I need you my brothers and sisters in Christ.

            This is a personal thank you to those who in the past two weeks have spoken the word of God into my life, and encouraged me with their heartfelt emotions. Even I get discouraged and need to be helped up from time to time. So thanks for your obedience to the prompting of the Spirit of God. Thank you for helping me up.

Psalm 133:1-3 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” (KJV)

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” (KJV)

             To those who missed the gathering, know that you were missed and the joy of the fellowship would have been greater with you in attendance, but you are now and always in our prayers.

            To those who for personal reasons have discontinued church attendance; isn’t it time to come home?

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