People see things differently. I have always found it interesting that the same set of facts can be seen in entirely different ways. A man who had been without water for days would see a muddy puddle quite differently than one who had just finished a large glass of iced tea. His perspective would be greatly influenced by his need! A simple soda cracker would seem to be a feast to someone who had been days without any food at all!
When the body of believers assembles as a local church, there are lots of ways to see things. According to one’s needs or that to which one was accustomed, the way the people see the same facts is affected. When a visitor comes to Providence from a congregation in a small town, they often see a church family larger than their entire community. But if they come to visit after attending a mega-church, they might be inclined to wonder why we are so much smaller than their previous church! Therefore, when we look at the church, we must see it through eyes that are not so much conditioned by our previous experiences but by standards that are unchangeable. Therefore, we must get our perspective from the same source – through the lens of the Head of the body, Jesus Christ! He alone must set our gaze and focus our vision on what matters to Him.
If a church has not seen the glorious possibilities presented by God’s Word, it will be satisfied with far less than it should. A great example of this is seen in the book of Ezra. As the Israelites returned to Jerusalem from exile, the temple was rebuilt. “But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy”” (Ezra 3:12). The glories of the temple under construction were no match to one God’s people had once known. Those who remembered the former beauty and grandeur of the old temple wept as they grieved the diminished glory. Yet, the same circumstance was a matter of great joy for those who had never seen another temple. This temple was to them one of magnificence because they had never seen anything better, nor did they have great expectations beyond what they saw.
The same can be true in the church today if we do not increase our expectations for what the body of Christ is supposed to be. Every member should look to Christ and His Word to see the picture of the bride of Christ unveiled in all her redeemed, purified glory! The standard He sets should always excite us as we look to become what Christ desires us to be as we live in the power of His Holy Spirit.
Some will see a little glimpse of that glory and shout for joy at what has been achieved. They are like those who had never seen the former temple. We must be careful not to become satisfied with approximations of God’s best. Complacency sets in too easily when we think we have “arrived” as the church we are supposed to be. Longing for what we have never seen requires eyes of faith, but that is how we are supposed to envision the days ahead for the church until Jesus comes again!
The body of Christ must respond by pressing on to reach the biblical, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled goal set before us. As the scriptures speak to issues about the church, we must hear, obey and pursue the portrait they paint so that our perspective is not conditioned by our most recent experience, but by what God’s Word says. Our vision must be determined not by the present progress, not by the foundation being laid, not even by the former temple, glorious as it was. Our vision, our goal, our consuming zeal must be to grow up and mature as the church Christ has desired us to be in the way He has prescribed in His Word.
How do you see the church? Let’s see it with one heart, one mind and one spirit as “a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27). Then, together with Christ we will shout for joy as He accomplishes His purposes in us!