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  • Writer's pictureRich Zeiger

Believing, Belonging, Becoming

April often brings to mind thoughts of springtime, vibrant blossoms, and new life. What better time to consider the new life offered in Christ? Not only does our risen and returning Lord offer us new life through His death and resurrection, He offers us a forever family and the glorious future of being made all that God has created us to be.

This month we will spend our Sunday mornings together walking through what being a Christian is all about…believing, belonging, and becoming.

Too often we allow our thinking to be distorted by extremes, like the swing of a pendulum. It is easy to fall into the trap of legalism, as if the Christian life were based on our effort. We are not saved by our righteous works, nor do our works or efforts preserve us in the faith. Yet the opposite swing of the pendulum is equally false; it is often called “easy believism”, liberalism (not to be confused with political liberalism), or antinomianism (“against law”, in the sense of “no rules”). This sort of error suggests that once a sinner “accepts Christ” or “asks Jesus into one's heart” the Lord has no expectations of His children. Neither of these extremes reflects the teaching of God’s Word; rather, living as a follower of Christ is a matter of believing what God has said, belonging to a forever family, and becoming all God created us to be. These aspects happen in that order, and they all work in concert to make fully formed disciples of Christ.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-18, ESV)

Because of sin, all people are separated from God and subject to eternal condemnation (Romans 3:32,6:23), but God, in His loving grace, offers life through His Son. Jesus Christ came to save us by taking all our sin on Himself and dying in our place as a sacrifice of atonement (Ro.3:25, 2 Corinthians 5:21). His resurrection not only affirmed His identity as the Messiah of God, but it also affirmed God’s acceptance of the sacrifice as sufficient. We take hold of this amazing gift of God’s grace by believing that Jesus is who He claimed to be and embracing God’s offer of life in His name. We add nothing to His saving work; we simply believe in Him and embrace the work He has already done in our place.

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. (Ro. 12:4-5, NIV)

God gives those who believe in the saving work of Jesus Christ on our behalf the right to become children of God (Jn. 1:12). That means we not only gain eternal life, but we also gain a forever family. God has chosen those who receive Christ to be adopted into His family (Ephesians 1:5, Galatians 4:5). We are united to Christ by faith, and we are united to one another in Him. The Christian life is not merely one of believing, but one of belonging. This is why committed, invested membership in a local church is crucial to living the life of a follower of Christ.

We are not meant to remain as children at the mercy of every chance wind of teaching and the jockeying of men who are expert in the craft presentation of lies. But we are meant to hold firmly to the truth in love, and to grow up in every way into Christ, the head. For it is from the head that the whole body, as a harmonious structure knit together by the joints with which it is provided, grows by the proper functioning of individual parts to its full maturity in love. (Eph. 4:14-16, J. B. Phillips paraphrase)

Believing the truth of the Gospel is the entry point of belonging to the family of God, but those who are born again into this life of grace are only beginning their magnificent journey. God has a glorious future in store for His children, but this glorious future involves the work of growing in spiritual maturity. Belonging to Christ and to one another in the Church is God’s spiritual development plan for His children. Becoming fully formed disciples of Christ is the call of every believer, and it requires the same sort of diligence and discipline as any other kind of healthy growth. Growing spiritually requires the life of Christ in us, the nutrition of a steady diet of God’s Word, and the exercise of obeying that Word.

All three elements are inherent to the Christian life. We receive salvation by believing the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Being now in Christ, we belong to His Body, the Church. Once we have been reborn by faith in Christ, we learn and grow, ultimately becoming in Him everything God created us to be. To neglect any of these elements is at best harmful to our walk with Christ, and at worst an indicator that we have no real relationship with Him.

I pray that this journey together will help all of us to better understand how essential believing, belonging, and becoming are to the Christian life. May the Lord use it to help us better reflect the reality of Christ through the relationships He gives us.

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