Irresistible Invitation: Responding to the Extravagant Heart of God
Day 32: The People of God
Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.
1 Pet. 2:10
We have just considered the “body of Christ” as a New Testament image for the church. “The people of God is also one of the prominent images in Scripture. Listen to the words found in 1 Peter 2:9-10
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God, once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
We, the church are the people of God called especially to fulfill God’s purposes. Peter applies all of the Old Testament images of the people of God to the New Testament church; “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” These images ground the church in the history of Israel. Having heard the promises of God and knowing full well both the discipline of God and the great mercy of God, the people of God knew that that they had received a distinct calling. This calling, which we hear just as clearly today in the church, is to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
According to Dunnam, “when this image is alive in our congregations, we know we are a part of God’s history. When we are firmly grounded in that knowledge, our evangelism, mission, and worship become part of God’s working out his purpose in history.” Then, we the local church become a kingdom community!
There are many important characteristics of “the people of God,” but the most important image is fellowship: “we belong.” We belong to Christ and we belong to each other. We are part of a kingdom people with roots that stretch back to creation and whose ancestors include Abraham and Sara, and our hope lens forward to a time when all of God’s people will be gathered in the kingdom for a heavenly banquet. When this image comes alive in our congregations then we begin to look more like “the church.” It takes more than hearing the Word and participating in the sacraments for Christians to grow. A deep fellowship for mutual encouragement, examination, accountability and service is essential.
Effective evangelism happens when the congregation becomes a living witness, when we are moving from seeing evangelism as a special program, inspired preaching or individual Christian testimony to the church and its fellowship being evangelism. When the fellowship of the church comes alive by the presence of the Holy Spirit, inspiring and empowering people to care for one another, the fellowship is redemptive within itself, and it draws people in.
Our witness is in word and deed, in our speaking and in our actins. Our witness is also the quality of our fellowship. The quality of our fellowship in the Christian community is a profound ingredient in proclaiming the wonderful deeds of the one who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. There must be a quality about our life together that will reach out and invite –
The Heart of the Matter
--What has God taught you through the fellowship of other Christians?
--Why might congregational evangelism – the idea of the church itself being the witness – be as important as individual evangelism?
-- What does it mean to you to love your neighbor as yourself?