How do we experience the presence of Christ in the gathering of the Church? Prayer? Music?
How about Church discipline?
“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20). We often quote this verse, usually out of its context. Church discipline. Read Matthew 18:15-20. This promise is attached to the revelation of “stumbling blocks” in the congregation. We have no right to attach it to something more to our liking.
Read 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Corinthians 2:1-11. In these passages on Church discipline, there is a similar implication that Christ is present in this action: “In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus...but one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ” (1 Corinthians 5:4; 2 Corinthians 2:10).
Finally: “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-16).
Three times the New Testament tells us that Christ the Lord is present when His people take a stand for His holiness and disassociate from unrepentant sinners. His holiness is the boundary line for true, biblical, peaceful fellowship. “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). In our desire for peace in the congregation, we are not to sacrifice the process of being made holy (“the sanctification”). If we do, we are promised that we will not see the Lord. He will not be present in our gatherings, no matter how good the music is or how sincere the prayers are. We do not dictate the terms of the presence of the King.
The unrepentant sinner has no place in the gathering of the people of the King of kings. We do not fool Him by modifying, watering down, or simply ignoring His commandments. They are the conduit of His love (John 14:15,21,23,24; 15:10). They are the purpose of our mission (Matthew 28:20). Further, obedience is the mark of the true people of God (Acts 6:7; Romans 1:5; 6:16,17; 10:16; 15:18; 16;26; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 5:8-10; 11:8; 1 Peter 1:2,14,22).
Do we desire the presence of Christ in His Church? Then we must humbly, repentantly desire His holiness. Together.