January 02, 2024

Growing in Love for the Church

Sinclair Ferguson
Growing in Love for the Church

When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we’re not only bound together with Him, but we’re also bound to His people. Today, Sinclair Ferguson presents the new year as an opportunity to grow in love for the church, the family of God.


Yesterday in the first of these podcasts for this new year, I mentioned the indelible impression that was made on me by a New Year service at which I preached when I was a student. And I mentioned how moved I was by the way after the sermon the whole congregation joined together in the words of a personal covenant. The service was in a Methodist church and we sang from the Methodist hymnbook. I had never used it before, but I was so struck by the words that we were singing that sometime later I bought a copy and found a bonus that has lasted all through my life. The Methodist hymnbook not only had the first line of a hymn, it had the first line of every verse of a hymn, which meant when I could remember how the third verse began but couldn’t remember what hymn it came from, I went straight for the Methodist hymnbook to help me.

But the really important thing was the hymn that we were singing. It was written by Charles Wesley. His brother used it as the opening item of praise at the annual meeting of the Methodist Societies to help them to praise God for the blessings of the previous year. And its first lines express that: “And are we yet alive, and see each other’s face? Glory and praise to Jesus give for His redeeming grace.”

I wonder if you’ll feel that way at the first church service that you go to this year. Even better, shouldn’t we really feel that every week when our church family meets together? We tend to live very much outside each other, don’t we? And you remember how Paul says in First Corinthians chapter two that no one knows a person’s real thoughts except the person himself. We’re very much individuals. And yet the wonderful thing that happens to us when we come to faith in Jesus Christ is that we’re not only bound together in Him, but because of that we are bound to one another. As the Shepherd calls His sheep to come to Him, they come nearer to each other. They’re bound together in love, bound together in grace. It’s true, isn’t it, that you feel nearer to fellow believers who may be a thousand miles away from you than you often do to the people who are standing next to you. And that’s because we belong to a family, a family that one of my colleagues used to describe as the worldwide, eternity-long family of God.

I hope therefore that this new year will be one in which you and I will grow in love for the church, that we will express the kind of admiration of God’s goodness to us that’s found in this hymn of Wesley’s. And as we grow in love, we’ll be able to sing with him and with one another:

And are we yet alive, and see each other’s face? Glory and praise to Jesus give for His redeeming grace. What troubles have we seen, what conflicts have we passed, fightings without, and fears within, since we assembled last? But out of all the Lord hath brought us by His love; and still He doth His help afford, and hides our life above. Then let us make our boast of His redeeming power, which saves us to the uttermost, till we can sin no more. Let’s take up the cross till we the crown obtain; and gladly reckon all things loss, so we may Jesus gain.