The Beautiful Bride
The marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. —Revelation 19:7
I have officiated at a lot of weddings. Often planned according to the dreams of the bride, each of the weddings has been unique. But one thing is the same: adorned in their wedding dresses with hair beautifully done and faces aglow, brides steal the show.
I find it intriguing that God describes us as His bride. Speaking of the church, He says, “The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7 esv).
This is a great thought for those of us who have become discouraged about the condition of the church. I grew up as a pastor’s kid, pastored three churches, and have preached in churches all over the world. I’ve counseled both pastors and parishioners about deep and troubling problems in the church. And though the church often seems unlovable, my love for the church has not changed.
But my reason for loving the church has changed. I now love it most of all for whose it is. The church belongs to Christ; it is the bride of Christ. Since the church is precious to Him, it is precious to me as well. His love for His bride, as flawed as we may be, is nothing less than extraordinary!
Lord, we look forward to the day when we will be
robed in the fine linens of purity and join You at the
marriage supper of the Lamb. Until then, remind us
to love Your bride and to live beautifully for You.
Since Christ loves His bride, the church, so should we.
The imagery of the church as the “bride of Christ” is found repeatedly in the New Testament. While seen several times in the book of Revelation (including today’s reading), this word-picture also appears in John’s gospel. In John 3:29, John the Baptist describes Christ as the bridegroom, then identifies himself as the “friend of the bridegroom”—a role that in ancient times paralleled the role of the “best man” in modern wedding ceremonies.
Bible in a Year:
Genesis 10-12; Matthew 4
Today I am reading day 61 of Rick Warren’s Daily Devotional:
Church Family: Lab for Love
1 Corinthians 12:26-27 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
A church family moves you out of self-centered isolation. The local church is the classroom for learning how to get along in God’s family. It is a lab for practicing unselfish love.
As a participating member you learn to care about others and share the experiences of others: “If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it. Or if one part of our body is honored, all the other parts share its honor.” (1 Corinthians 12:26 NCV)
Only in regular contact with ordinary, imperfect believers can we learn real fellowship and experience the New Testament truth of being connected and dependent on each other.
Biblical fellowship is being as committed to each other as we are to Jesus Christ. God expects us to give our lives for each other. Many Christians who know John 3:16 are unaware of 1 John 3:16: “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (NIV)
This is the kind of sacrificial love God expects you to show other believers – a willingness to love them in the way Jesus loves you.
Today I am reading day 60 of Rick Warren’s Daily Devotional:
Show You Believe by Belonging
John 13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Ephesians 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The Bible says a Christian without a church home is like an organ without a body, a sheep without a flock, or a child without a family. It is an unnatural state. The Bible says, “You belong in God’s household with every other Christian.” (Ephesians 2:19b LB)
Today’s culture of independent individualism has created many spiritual orphans – “bunny believers” who hop around from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment. Many believe it is possible to be a “good Christian” without joining (or even attending) a local church, but God would strongly disagree.
The church is so significant that Jesus died on the cross for it. “Christ loved the church and gave his life for it.” (Ephesians 5:25 GW)
Except for a few important exceptions referring to all believers throughout history, almost every time the word church is used in the Bible it refers to a local, visible congregation. The New Testament assumes membership in a local congregation.
A church family identifies you as a genuine believer. I can’t claim to be following Christ if I’m not committed to any specific group of disciples. Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35 NLT)
When we come together in love as a church family from different backgrounds, race, and social status, it is also a witness to the world. (Galatians 3:28)
Today I am reading day 59 of Rick Warren’s Daily Devotional:
The Church — God’s Agenda for the World
1 Peter 2:17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
Romans 12:4-5 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Ephesians 4:16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
The church is a body, not a building; an organism, not an organization.
For the organs of your body to fulfill their purpose, they must be connected to your body. The same is true for you as a part of Christ’s Body. You were created for a specific role, but you will miss out on this if you’re not attached to a living, local church. You discover your role in life through your relationships with others.
The Bible tells us, “Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we?” (Romans 12:4-5 MSG)
If an organ is somehow severed from its body, it will shrivel and die. It cannot exist on its own, and neither can you. Disconnected and cut off from the lifeblood of a local body, your spiritual life will wither and eventually cease to exist. (Ephesians 4:16)
This is why the first symptom of spiritual decline is usually inconsistent attendance at worship services and other gatherings of believers. Whenever we become careless about fellowship, everything else begins to slide, too.
Membership in the family of God is neither inconsequential nor something to be casually ignored. The church is God’s agenda for the world. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matthew 16:18 NLT)
Today I am reading day 58 of Rick Warren’s Daily Devotional:
Don’t Just Believe. Belong!
1 Timothy 3:15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
Genesis 2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Romans 12:5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
You are called to belong, not just believe.
Even in the perfect, sinless environment of Eden, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18 NIV)
We are created for community, fashioned for fellowship, and formed for a family, and none of us can fulfill God’s purposes by ourselves. The Bible knows nothing of solitary saints or spiritual hermits.
While your relationship to Christ is personal, God never intends it to be private. In God’s family you are connected to every other believer. The Bible says, “In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:5 NIV)
Following Christ includes belonging, not just believing. C. S. Lewis noted that the word “membership’ is of Christian origin, but the world has emptied it of its original meaning. Stores offer discounts to “members,’ and advertisers use “member names’ to create mailing lists. In churches, membership is often reduced to simply adding your name to a roll, with no requirements or expectations.
To Paul, being a “member’ of the church meant being a vital organ of a living body, an indispensable, interconnected part of the Body of Christ. We need to recover and practice the biblical meaning of membership. The church is a body, not a building; an organism, not an organization. (Romans 12:4-5)
There is nothing else on earth like the church!