Of the many things we take for granted in the Christian life, worship is certainly one of the greatest, which is quite curious given the privilege we have been given. In his song of deliverance, David describes the Lord as “worthy to be praised” (2 Sam. 22:4), further confirmed by John’s revelation of the throne room of heaven, where those who cast their crowns before the Lord cry out, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God” (Rev. 4:11). If God is worthy of earthly and heavenly, universal and eternal, praise then worship is not only a necessity for all of creation but is a privilege of the people of God.
In love, let us learn to respect the convictions of one another. Some are ready to enjoy all the liberty the gospel gives. Some are not, and “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. This calls for sanctified patience with one another. As one commentator puts it, “For a Christian not a single decision and action can be good which he does not think he can justify on the ground of his Christian conviction and his liberty before God in Christ.” Or to put it simply, “If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong” (Rom. 14:23, MSG).
But it is not in our sinful state that God is pleased but in the sinless sacrifice of his Son, whom he has given as the greatest gift of all. As John wrote to the church, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). In Christ, our peace offering, we have been given the gift of peace with God forever. There is no greater Christmas gift than that.
Sometimes life can feel unbearable. Whether it be the anxiety of a situation, conflict with people, or restless worry over tomorrow, we can easily grow frustrated even cynical, wondering where has the joy of living gone? We have all likely felt this way before, perhaps even today. But sometimes it can be difficult to express what we are feeling, to others, to ourselves, and even to God. But God has neither created nor redeemed us to wallow in the weight of our worries but desires that we cry out to him, giving us not only the privilege but the poetry too.
Consider the relevance of this: We are called to live holy lives, not to merit God’s favor but to be like him, to grow in godliness, to mature in Christlikeness. As such, to live our lives in holiness is not a burden of conformity but a family trait to be embraced and enjoyed. What is even more extraordinary about this is that our holy God calls us saints, even now, even as we wrestle with our sinful flesh, even as we are on this side of eternal life. We are saints of God, because of God’s grace alone through faith in Christ to the glory of God alone.
Therefore, Christ has not commissioned us to do something we should not or that we cannot do. Rather, he has given us both the authority, through his Word, and the power, through his Spirit, to take the gospel to our neighbor and the nations, confidently pronouncing the forgiveness of sin that is found in Christ alone. And this is not a commission for some but for all of us, according to our gifting and calling. Some are called to go to other countries to different people with different languages. Some are called to serve here, continuing to make and mature disciples, administer the sacraments, and preach the Word. But all of us are called to pray for and support the ministry of the church, in her going, sending, and equipping, which we do in the authority and power of Christ Jesus our Lord, who is with us always, to the end of the age.
As God promised, so he provided, giving “His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NASB). In Christ, he has given us his abiding peace through the provision of his Spirit. In Christ, he has given us his means of grace abiding in his peace. In Christ, he has prepared his kingdom that we may know eternal peace.
The result is “the bond of peace” or “the bond which consists of peace,” (O’Brien, 280), meaning unity in the body is evidenced in peace. Such peace is telling of the peace that every Christian enjoys with God the Father through God the Son by God the Holy Spirit. Just as there is unity in God, so there should be unity in his body, as it is manifested in the local church.
Are we really supposed to pray about everything? Don’t divorce this word from the context. Contextually, “everything” means: If it is a matter that tempts you to worry, that makes you anxious, then it must be a matter of prayer. Pray about these things.
In other words, maintaining peace in the local church is not a cause to fight for but an act of worshipful service to our Triune God. As we live out our faith in Christ in the local church “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” is revealed.