When you become a member of the church, you make vows to God and to other believers. Though many today are afraid to make such a commitment, it has immeasurable blessings from God and lays a stable foundation for our growth as Christians. If it is God's will, then it is the best thing for you and your family.
"First, that believers, all and every one, as members of Christ have part in Him and in all His treasures and gifts; secondly, that each one must feel himself bound to use his gifts, readily and cheerfully, for the advantage and welfare of other members." (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 55)
Central to the privileges of membership in Christ's Church is satisfaction in pleasing the Lord by uniting publicly with the visible church and in giving expression to your faith. It is the sense that you are a vital part of this church in the fullest possible sense. As such, you'll be standing alongside all the other members of our church and actively working as part of the fellowship of God's people.
"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves" (Hebrews 13:17)
God has given us His inscripturated word, unchanging, written in the Bible; He commissions the preacher to expound and apply that word to the situation facing us, driving it home in our lives as the carpenter drives the nail. The preacher speaks for God, because God has spoken in the Bible; His voice resounds with the familiar "Thus saith the Lord." The church has the responsibility to listen, and to evaluate everything heard in light of God's revealed truth.
We will consider the curious modern phenomenon of the unattached believer. This none-too-rare species fancies himself somehow to be a member of the universal church, but not of the local church. Like Joseph of Arimathea, he is "a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews" (John 19:38).
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Apostle exhorts his readers, recent converts from Judaism, not to turn back from Christianity, their new-found faith, to the old, comfortable ways of their apostate religion. For these brave souls, embracing Christianity had involved great sacrifice and pain, being cast out by family, friend and community, cast out of the temple and synagogue, cast out by a religion that by this time, through its accommodation and compromise, had become officially recognized by the Roman Empire, and driven to a fugitive band of unproven men and women who possessed no real estate and clung only to the promises of God. Over and over in the book of Hebrews we find strong warnings to these recent converts not to turn back, not to forsake the truth of Christianity at any cost. In our text the Apostle orders these new Christians, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves." It is to these two commands of Scripture "obey and submit" that we will direct our attention. What do they mean, and how can we obey?
The prerequisite for fellowship with Christians is being in fellowship with God through Christ. The following article addresses this important question.
What does the Bible say about being "born again?" The Bible is absolutely clear in its declaration that the "new birth" is not a mere outward altering of life. It is not a human accomplishment. Jesus says that to be a part of God's kingdom, we must be born "of the Spirit" (John 3:5). The new birth is a "renewing which comes by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). The new birth is a tremendous spiritual change wrought in the human heart by the Holy Spirit. It cannot be observed with the human eye. We can only see its results.
The new birth is a mystery no one can clearly explain; at the same time it is a reality that no one can explain away! The new birth is something that no one can hide, however. Evidences of the inner change will be seen in many ways. But there are many who desire to understand the marks by which a person may know whether he is born again, whether his heart has been changed by the Holy Spirit.
Now these marks are laid down plainly for us in Scripture. God has not left us in ignorance of this point. He foresaw how some would torture themselves with doubts and questions, and would never believe it was well with their souls. He foresaw how others would take it for granted they were regenerate. He has therefore mercifully provided us with a test and gauge of our spiritual condition in the first Epistle of John. There He has explained what the regenerate man is, and what the regenerate man does, his ways, his habits, his manner of life, his faith, his experience.