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Membership Covenant

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This morning we are going to complete our membership series by talking about what membership at One Hope Fellowship will look like. I say will look like because today we are instituting membership for the first time. At the end of the service those who meet the requirements of the covenant and desire to be a formal part of One Hope Fellowship may sign this covenant of membership.
There are four main headings to the membership covenant.
The One Hope Fellowship Membership Covenant

“As a born-again follower of Jesus Christ I make this covenant commitment to One Hope Fellowship:”

August 27, 2017
As a born-again follower of Jesus Christ
I make this covenant commitment to One Hope Fellowship:
Only those who are born again in Jesus Christ are part of His eternal, invisible church. And, only those who have been born again in Christ can be a part of the earthly, visible church. It is the practice of some churches and denominations to confer membership on the basis of completing a class or some other qualification.

To receive and advance the teaching of the Word of God,

There are two elements to this covenant promise.

holding to the statement of faith and pulpit teaching so long as Scripture is not contradicted;

It is the express will of God that Christians grow into the fullness of the truth revealed by the apostles and prophets, what calls “the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” The unique role of pastor-teachers is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (), not as the source of truth, but teaching the truth of the whole Scripture, so that each member, by “speaking the truth in love,” may “grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.” ().
It is also the express will of God that Christians submit to the pastors and elders God places in their lives, as stated in , “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as though who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” As long as pastors and elders are proclaiming the truth of Scripture, and meet the qualifications of their office, the members of their churches are to willingly submit to their leadership.
It is equally true that teachers of the Word are under a stricter judgment (), and no pastor, elder, or teacher who contradicts the Scriptures, teaches false doctrine or a false Gospel, proclaims false prophecy, or in any way twists the Scripture, should be recognized or given a platform, but rather should be rejected (, , , , ).
The second element to this covenant promise is,

rejecting any teaching that contradicts Scripture;

Paul warned the Corinthians about “false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ,” who, like Satan himself, “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” (). He likewise warned the Galatians about those who preach a false Gospel (), who “make much” of the Galatians, “but for no good purpose,” who “want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.” (). He warned the Ephesians of the dangers of being “children” who are “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by” the “craftiness” of those with “deceitful schemes.” ().
These warnings go on an on in the New Testament, because even in the apostolic age, liars and pretenders invaded the church. Jude writes to every Christian, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (). While the elders are tasked with ensuring doctrinal purity, that responsibility also falls on every believer.
The second main heading is

To serve the Lord through One Hope Fellowship: 

This has three elements to it.

serving the saints at One Hope Fellowship according to the combined resources granted to me by the Lord, including time, energy, finances, and prayer;

The Bible says that the Triune God works in and through His children to empower them for the acts of service that He wills for them to carry out: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” ().
There are as many recipients of those gifts, services, and activities as there are Christians, but there is only one purpose for them being given: the common good. All spiritual gifts are, by definition, miraculous manifestations, but miraculous sign gifts (such as tongues/interpretation, healing, and miracles), given to confirm the message preached by Jesus and His apostles to unbelievers, and revelatory gifts (such as prophecy, and miraculous knowledge and wisdom), through which God communicated new truths to His people, ceased with the apostolic age and the completion of the canon of Scripture.
Satan is a clever deceiver, and so any claim that a sign gift is being exercised should be test strictly by the Scriptures, which is the only God-breathed revelation we possess, to see whether the manifestation meets the biblical criteria for that gift.
Beyond spiritual gifts, every Christian is granted time, energy, prayer, and finances by the Lord, and is called to use those resources for His kingdom. Paul expresses deep gratitude and joy at the financial gift sent to him by the Philippian church (). Likewise, he praises “Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the Gospel,” and Epaphroditus “my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier,” who “nearly died for the work of Christ.” (, , ).
The second element is,

understanding that, aside from the clear teaching of Scripture, and my own conscience before the Lord, there are no additional rules or conditions regarding this service;

Just as financial giving is to be done willingly, freely, and cheerfully (), all our service in the church, however we serve, ought to be equally willing, come from one’s own desire to serve, and be offered to the Lord as a joyful offering. Commitments should be honored, and we must realize that faithfulness often means continuing to serve during difficult times. There are qualifications and boundaries for the service of pastors and elders, and the Scripture also expects that all those who serve will have the spiritual maturity and competence to do so.
The third element is,

also understanding that what I sow, that I shall also reap;

The principle which governs giving, that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (), applies to other areas of service as well. We would be wise to remember that “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (). Strictly speaking, no one is required as a point of law to serve in any way, but the person who does not serve cannot expect much blessing in return.
The third main heading is,

To commit myself to my own growth as well as that of others in Christ:

There are five elements to this portion.
The first is,

understanding that spiritual growth is a life-long process; 

Our own perfection in Christ is a matter of ongoing sanctification, brought about by the Spirit of God, in which we are personally transformed over time. Christians are commanded to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will (desire) and to work (accomplish) for His good pleasure.” ().
Each Christian has the same promise that “He who began a good work in you will bring it completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (). Christians are compared to soldiers, athletes, and farmers. “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” ().
The second element is,

viewing my own need for growth with honesty and humility; 

We must be humble about our own spiritual state. Those who claim to have fellowship with God in the light, and yet continue to exist and live in the darkness, denying their sin and their sinful acts, are self-deceived liars who do not practice the truth, because the truth is not in them, and ultimately accuse God lying (, , ).
Those who actually live in the light of God’s Word and nature, humbly confessing their sins, are joined the Father and Son and the church in fellowship, and are not only forgiven for their ongoing sins, but cleansed of the unrighteousness will leads to sin (, ). Rather than being like the proud Pharisee who boasted in his own righteousness (), we ought to follow the pattern of the apostle Paul, who toward the end of his life continued to confess, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am – not was the foremost.” ()
The third element is,

viewing others’ need for growth with grace, patience, and kindness;

One of the most common exhortations in the New Testament epistles regards our treatment of other believers. We are to “put away falsehood” and instead “speak the truth” with one another, acknowledging our anger without letting it become sinful, giving to one another instead of stealing from one another, speaking words that build up rather than tear down, putting away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice, being kind and tender-hearted toward one another, happily forgiving others ().
In the letter to the Colossians we read that we are to be compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, bearing with one another, forgiving one another, and make love our first priority, being ruled by the peace of Christ, filled with the Word of God, so that we may teach and exhort one another with the Word in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. ().
Most of these exhortations assume that we will regularly encounter the sin and frailty of others, and tells us to respond to them as the Lord Jesus has received us.
The fourth element is,

enthusiastically urging others to spiritual growth, faithfulness, and service to the Lord;

The writer of Hebrews recognized the need for every Christian to build up and encourage others: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” ().
A few chapters earlier the writer explains why this exhortation is so necessary: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (). We are to encourage and strengthen one another in the reality of the return of Christ (), and to do this consistently (, ).
The world will not encourage us; it will do exactly the opposite. Our own sinful flesh will not encourage us; it will continue the same path of self-destruction that it always takes. The Lord encourages us and strengthens us, doesn’t He? Yes, He does, but primarily through the words and actions of others.
And the fifth element it,

pursuing peace with all, and addressing conflict biblically and gently;

We have no power to unify the church, or to create unity where there is none. Instead, we are called to live “with humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (). The unity of the church is the unity of each Christian being inseparably joined to Jesus Christ, and therefore to another in Him. That unity is so important that Paul exhorts us to forgive and accept the wrong of others rather than dividing over personal hurts: “Why not suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” ().
Because of the nature of sin, conflict is often hard to resolve without help (). In addition, the burden is not on the wrongdoer to repent and make it right, but on the injured party to forgive (, , , , ). Human reconciliation always requires some form of payment for wrongs done; the Bible calls us to forgive even when the other is unrepentant and unwilling to reconcile, leaving that person in God’s hands to deal with ().
The aim of conflict resolution in the church must be restoration and recovery of peace, not victory.
The fourth main heading of the covenant is,

To make One Hope Fellowship my spiritual home: 

There are two elements to this portion.

being faithful to gather and participate with the believers on Sunday mornings as possible; 

We are not to neglect the gathering of the saints, as even some in the apostolic age were doing, but to remain consistent and faithful to the congregation (). We recognize that the early church met more frequently, but also on Sundays, the Lord’s day, the day upon which Jesus rose from the dead (, ).
There is only one regular time that One Hope Fellowship as a congregation meets, and that is on Sunday morning. Everybody gets sick from time to time; everyone takes vacations; sometimes work interferes; sometimes issues arise that prevent us from joining in the gathering of saints. But apart from those occasional times, each one’s practice should be to gather faithfully for the entire time of prayer, song, instruction from the Word, and fellowship. We have a brief time each week to be together, around 90 minutes all told. It’s important that we be present for all of this.
This exhortation includes Christ’s command to be baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (), and participating in the Lord’s table with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Baptism is not performed on infants, but according to the biblical pattern, only those who have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ are to be baptized. The Lord’s table, which is a picture of our personal unity with Jesus Christ through faith in His Word, and our unity with one another in Him, is likewise limited to those who have been born again in Christ. (First Corinthians 10:16-17).
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. ()
being uniquely and solely committed to One Hope Fellowship as my church home.
The second element is,

being uniquely and solely committed to One Hope Fellowship as my church home.

Every Christian is part of the invisible Church, the Body of Christ which was birthed on the day of Pentecost as recorded in . Every Christian needs to be part of a local gathering of saints, as well. Spiritual weakness and spiritual independence go hand in hand. says, “Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home.” That’s an excellent description of the disconnected saint.
The church is not a scattering of wandering sheep, but a flock ().
The church is not a heap of scattered stones, but living stones being built up as a spiritual house (), a “holy temple” in which each part is “joined together” by the Spirit of God ().
The church is not a gruesome scene of severed body parts, but a single body “joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped” ().
Many Christians refuse to join to a gathering of saints, and both they and the congregation suffer as a result. All of us need all of us.
And from a practical consideration, it is neither right nor fair that those who refuse to make a commitment should be in a position of service, leadership, or decision-making about the various concerns that face the church family.
This, then, is our covenant of membership.
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