In the 19th century, preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon "captured the admiration all true believers should have for the church in his depiction of her as "the dearest place on earth." Chosen by God the Father, purchased by Christ the Son, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the church should be cherished and recognized as "dear" by all who call her home."
Can we say this is true for us today?
Reluctance to attend worship, reluctance to serve, reluctance to trust people, the value we place on this gathering of the saints deteriorates in our muddled thinking about politics, pandemics and preferences. These struggles have always been there, but the rise of division and cancel culture increasingly lead us away from the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17.
"The church is beautiful because the lens through which Christ regards her is his cross...His cross makes her beautiful. His perfection makes her beautiful. It is his sacrificial, substitutionary, sinless blood that washes her garments as white as snow."
This is the goal of The Loveliest Place: The Beauty and Glory of the Church by Dustin Benge, to awaken our affections for who the church is and why she exists, to reignite our admiration for who God
In the first 5 chapters, he shows us the significance of the church being God's home, and how the Father, the Son and the Spirit each participate in beautifying her. The next chapters teach on the source of her truth, how she worships, how she's led, and the very good news she carries. The last chapters talk about how she remembers, how she continues to be made lovely through living worthy lives and enduring through suffering.
He concludes by looking at Ephesians 4 and the divine oneness of the church: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father-this is where her unity is found!
"The church's growing oneness is what defines the church as having an otherness."
The bride of Christ is set apart from the world. In order to fulfill her mission, we must walk in the unity to which we were called. If we're honest, it's gonna be hard. But as we read and pray for the Lord to soften our hearts, to see the church with his eyes and the purpose he has created her for, we will see more of her beauty and glory.
I can't remember the last time a book brought me to tears, but this one did. Tears of grief over the divisive nature inside the church now, her deteriorating witness, tears of conviction for my own apathy toward her that bubbles up at times, and tears of wonder at all God has done for her, and continues to do in her, to make her beautiful.
May the Lord graciously give us renewed hope for the church as we ponder her beauty and glory.
This book is for you if you've felt discouraged with church, or if you want to more deeply consider her beauty. I highly recommend it!
# of pages: 176
Level of difficulty: Easy-Moderate
My Rating: 5 stars
*A big thanks to Netgalley and Crossway for the complimentary copy of this book and the opportunity to post an honest review!