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The privileges of belonging

January 2016 | by Martin Wells

When a forgiven sinner enters God’s house, he is welcomed through the front door — and he doesn’t stay at the entrance! He’s invited inside to enjoy all the privileges of family membership.

Here are a few of the great things in store for a believer. His life in the world from now on is sharedwith God: God is with him. He is allowed to speak to God in prayer and hear God speaking to him through his Word, the Bible.

Fellowship

The Bible calls this ‘fellowship’; ‘truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ’ (1 John 1:3). All our joys and sorrows can be shared with ‘Immanuel’, the one who is God with us.

In every pang that rends the heart,

The Man of Sorrows had a part;

He sympathises with our grief,

And to the sufferer sends relief.

Michael Bruce (1746–1767)

Jesus our Immanuel was raised from the dead and is now at his Father’s right hand in heaven. Before he left this earth, he promised to give believers the Holy Spirit to indwell them and help them to grow in the Christian life.

He told his disciples, ‘I will pray the Father and he will give you another helper, that he may abide with you for ever — the Spirit of truth’ (John 14:16-17). Christ’s continuing presence with us by his Spirit is a wonderful comfort and strength to a Christian.

Do any of Immanuel’s family members miss out on this shared life? Not one! Just before Jesus’ ascension back to glory, he had one last interview with his beloved disciples. He assured them, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20). This promise extends not just to the disciples, but to every one down to the end of time who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace

But are there any who are so bad that they are excluded from Immanuel’s promise to be withthem? Not one! There was a thief on a cross next to Jesus on the day when he suffered at Calvary.

For hours he had heaped abuse on Jesus, but then an amazing change occurred. He recognised that Jesus was utterly sinless and that he, the thief, was a vile sinner worthy of God’s condemnation as well as man’s. In repentance and faith he asked Jesus a very simple request: ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23:42).

Listen to Christ’s gracious response: ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43). The whole purpose of Immanuel’s coming was that he might have precious souls with him in heaven. He prayed for this very thing the evening before he died: ‘Father, I desire that they also whom you gave me may be with me where I am’ (John 17:24).

Even bringing believers to heaven is not Immanuel’s final act. He is waiting for the last sinner to be added to the number of those for whom he died. He is the heavenly Bridegroom waiting for the day when he will be married to his bride — the total number of all his believing people — his church.

On that great day there will be a marvellous wedding feast, and both parties will be joined to part no more, enjoying sweet unbroken love and union to eternal days.

Protector

e you still in rebellion against God? Sadly, many are unwilling to lay down their arms. A young pastor called Joseph Herrick once described his experience of this in a little book, Immanuel (Chelmsford, 1819). He came to Colchester in December 1813 and preached his first sermon on Christmas Day at the age of only 19.

Hundreds flocked to hear him over the next few months as he spoke of ‘Immanuel’, the Saviour of sinners. He became pastor of the Congregational church in Helens Lane soon afterwards, and for a year peace and harmony reigned. But the trustees of the church hated the gospel, and refused to believe either in the deity of Christ or Christ’s atoning death for sinners.

Finding no way to stop young Herrick, they took drastic measures. They ‘beat the whole of the roof and ceiling of the meeting house into the pews’. But God was with his true believing people and a new church building was constructed within five months, 50 yards down the other side of the road.

Herrick remained as the minister of this people for more than 50 years. Those who opposed the truth of Immanuel eventually reopened the original chapel, but only a handful of people came and the building was soon closed and eventually demolished.

Truly Immanuel is with his people! Rebelling against him is dangerous and futile. Where do you stand?

Martin Wells served as an elder at Welcome Hall Evangelical Church, Bromsgrove

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Evangelistic