How would you define hope? In what way would your definition apply to a local church? What if hope were missing from a congregation? Would anybody notice? We’ll think about these and other things as we allow Peter’s words to guide us into the truth about hope. These passages of Scripture suggest several ingredients that must be present if hope is to remain a vital part of a church’s life.
In Israel's northern city of Caesarea Philippi, among the ruins of a worship centre dedicated to the Greek god Pan, a cave exists that was long believed by those who worshipped there to be the doorway into the netherworld. It was in the vicinity of this grotto, the alleged gateway to hell, that Jesus promised: "Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it" (Matthew 16:18).
From Pentecost in the first century to the present day, Satan has attempted to destroy Christ's Church—yet it endures. From a small group of Jewish outsiders in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, Christ built His Church to reach even the remotest parts of the world. Despite controversies, wars, and denominational splits, the Church continues to be the means through which God announces to a dark and dying world that light and life have come in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
For these reasons, and many more, we learn about and appreciate the body of Christ, the Church.
Christians are unwise when they remain out of touch and live in secrecy. Being responsible includes being accountable, not just to God but also to one another. If carried out in the power and under the control of the Holy Spirit, accountability can be one of the most secure and reassuring facets of our Christian experience.
Joshua's final speech can be summarized in three words: “choose for yourselves” (Joshua 24:15). These three words apply so perfectly to us today as we consider how to build congregational relationships. In the final analysis, we either will or will not pull together, grow deeper, and become a caring body of believers. It’s really up to each of us to choose whether or not to bond with other believers.
Centuries ago, as God led the ancient Hebrews into the Promised Land, He specifically instructed them to clear the territory of the foreign tribes and to rid themselves of the influence of Canaanite civilization. From this example, we can draw an analogy for today. If we truly desire to grow deeper, pull together, and go further than skin-deep superficiality in our relationships, we must remove those things that hinder true community.
Where can Christians turn when we’ve been pushed around, misunderstood, and bruised with adversity? The answer for us today is not unlike the answer for the ancient Hebrews. Following God’s Law, they set up “cities of refuge”—pockets of security and protection, where healing could happen. Places of spiritual refuge are just as needed today.
The highest form of love is charity—the type of devotion that seeks the highest good of another. This love serves unconditionally, regardless the cost. The Bible talks about this kind of sacrificial love in 1 Corinthians 13. This is the kind of love that we need most of all, and it finds its fullest expression in God’s relationship to us.
In God’s family, whenever there is a breakdown in the fellowship, regardless of the reason, it impacts others. We see this vividly portrayed in Joshua 7, one of the least victorious chapters in the book. Even though these times were painful for the Hebrews, they are useful to Christians today. They teach us that we must not be idealistic in the matter of growing closer together.
Being together in unity is indeed good, “like precious oil,” as David put it in his psalm. Not just being together, but being together in unity. As we shall learn from the ancient account in Joshua, when God is in the midst of His unified people, they are invincible.