I have been reflecting on the wonderful conference that our local church hosted a couple of weeks back, on the theme of "The Balanced Christian Life." One thing that struck me at the conference, and has continued to convict me, is when Brother Zac Poonen stated, "Holiness without fellowship is a deception."
We focus in our church quite a lot upon being freed from our slavery to sin and overcoming temptation -- and rightly so, as sin is what separates us from God. It's like taking cancer seriously, and that's good. But because of that focus, and the important emphasis we place upon purity in our individual Christian lives, we can start to believe that being sinless in our private lives is all that matters in the pursuit of holiness. And that's the deception: to think that individual sinlessness is sufficient to achieving God's standard of holiness. And what we learned this last weekend at the conference is that is NOT the balanced Christian life. Individual sinlessness -- what we often call "Holiness" -- without fellowship with others, isn't true holiness at all! It's a deception!
Another way to say it is "Fellowship is an indispensable part of true holiness. If I don't have true fellowship with others, then I have not obtained the standard of holiness that God is seeking. As much victory as I might have obtained in my private life, whatever I lack in the fellowship department, I am lacking in the holiness department."
Brother Zac went on to say, "I cannot reflect Christ by myself no matter how spiritual I am. I have to be very conceited to think I can reflect Him adequately without fellowship."
Just like a diamond that has many facets, or surfaces which each reflect light, the glory of Jesus Christ is multi-faceted beyond imagination, and each of us, however pure we may be in our own private lives, are really only stewards of a single dimension among countless facets of His glory. And so every individual will necessarily fall short of FULLY reflecting the glory of God as Jesus did.
In thinking of this I have been reminded of the phrase, "it is not good for man to be alone," from Genesis 2:18, and have realized that this truth applies not only to marriage, but also to the church. We will all gladly acknowledge this truth at our weddings ceremonies; do we also see how it pertains to the church? Just like it was not good for Adam to be alone -- even before sin entered the picture -- the same is true for us: even seeking for perfect sinlessness in our own private lives is not the ultimate goal.
Because Jesus Christ wants a BRIDE, and just like none of us can reflect Him alone, none of us are worthy of Him alone. None of us can manifest enough of His grace worthily. We are all of us "stewards of His manifold grace," (1 Peter 4:10) and it is only as the church that we are built up in a bride worthy of our manifold Lord.
Just like we fully believe "it is not good for man to be alone," when we endorse a marriage, will we also say "it is not good ENOUGH for man to be holy, alone" when we talk about the church? Will we see the church as that obviously important to each of us individually? None of us can do without this fellowship.
So hearing that "holiness without fellowship is a deception" at the conference renewed my desire to make sure that I'm keeping the right "mountain top" in view, and renewed my desire to be UNITED in true fellowship with the members of my local church body, who are also seeking after holiness and to be pleasing to God. I want to always remember that growing in fellowship is a critical part of growing in holiness.
I want to treasure the church, knowing that as much as God wants me to "purify myself as He is pure," it is also His will and design that it is only as one of many members of His Body that I can be (part of) the suitable bride of Jesus.
God ultimately desires a bride for His precious Son, not just individual holy people! We see this very clearly in the book of Hebrews:
“And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that
apart from us they would not be made perfect.”
Hebrews 11:39-40 NASB
Having just detailed the amazing examples of the justifying faith of Old Testament saints like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, the author of Hebrews yet still concludes that despite "having gained approval through their faith," yet "apart from us they (had not been) made perfect."
None of us, however great our faith, are individually worthy to be the bride of Christ ourselves. There are so many more facets of His glory than any one person can reflect, and so it takes a great multitude of individual stewards of His manifold grace to be built into a suitable bride for Christ.
May we seek to be united in fellowship with others longing to please God so that we can attain to the true standard of holiness -- a pure, spotless bride -- that God has set for His church.