A Pretentious Faith


Wednesday 09/08/21 

Series: Thru the Bible

Message – A Pretentious Faith

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A Pretentious Faith

Jer. 7:1-34, 

“(1) The LORD said to Jeremiah:  

(2)  “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s temple and proclaim this message: ‘Listen to the LORD’s message, all you people of Judah who have passed through these gates to worship the LORD.  (3)  The LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel says: 

Change the way you have been living and do what is right. If you do, I will allow you to continue to live in this land.  

(4)  Stop putting your confidence in the false belief that says, 

“We are safe! The temple of the LORD is here! The temple of the LORD is here! The temple of the LORD is here!”  

(5)  You must change the way you have been living and do what is right

You must… 

  • treat one another fairly.  
  • (6)  Stop oppressing resident foreigners who live in your land, 
  • children who have lost their fathers, and 
  • women who have lost their husbands. 
  • Stop killing innocent people in this land. 
  • Stop paying allegiance to other gods. 

That will only bring about your ruin.  (7)  If you stop doing these things, I will allow you to continue to live in this land which I gave to your ancestors as a lasting possession.  

(8)  “‘But just look at you! You are putting your confidence in a false belief that will not deliver you.  

  • (9)  You steal. 
  • You murder. 
  • You commit adultery. 
  • You lie when you swear on oath. 
  • You sacrifice to the god Baal. 
  • You pay allegiance to other gods whom you have not previously known.  

(10)  Then you come and stand in My presence in this temple I have claimed as My Own and say, “We are safe!” 

You think you are so safe that you go on doing all those hateful sins!  

(11)  Do you think this temple I have claimed as My Own is to be a hideout for robbers? You had better take note! I have seen for Myself what you have done! says the LORD.”  

Some translations have den of thieves in place of ‘hideout for robbers’ which immediately brings to mind Jesus’ righteous anger at those who turned the temple into a ‘den of thieves’. ~ Matt. 21:12; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46.

“(12)  So, go to the place in Shiloh where I allowed Myself to be worshiped in the early days. See what I did to it because of the wicked things My people Israel did.”  

Two things here… 

First, we should remember this incident at Shiloh since we spent a fair amount of time talking about it at the time in 1 Sam. 4, when Israel was treating God like a “trophy god” who took the ark of the covenant into battle assuming that because they did, God would defeat their enemies. They knew that historically whenever Israel brought the Ark of God’s presence into battle, their enemies would be defeated, but what they failed to remember was that this only worked when God had told them to go to battle and when God had Israel’s heart.

They were working a “formula”, not worshipping and trusting a God they knew and served with sincerity. To which God says, “I will not be mocked. Whatever a man sows, that he will reap. If he continually sows to his flesh he will from the flesh reap corruption, if he continually sows to the spirit, he will from the spirit reap life everlasting.” ~ Gal. 6:7,8.

God is looking for hearts which are completely His. Remember 2Chron. 16:9 tells us that  “the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.”  

In fact this reference is a great comparison between what is happening here in Jeremiah and what we as New Covenant Christians need to learn from it. The passage I just read about God looking to show Himself strong is often quoted by Christians who are doing the exact same thing as Israel was doing here in Jeremiah, what they were doing during the days of Samuel with the ark and the Philistines and what king Asa was doing when God spoke these words to him.

If you remember, Asa, King of Judah was a godly king for the most part. However, in the 35th year of his reign Baasha, King of Israel, made a covenant with Ben-hadad king of Syria and made war with King Asa, and built up Ramah which blocked all traffic heading to Judah. 

Instead of calling upon the Lord as to how to address this threat, Asa decided to call upon Ben-hadad king of Syria himself and offer him a bribe to break his agreement with Baasha King of Israel. Without Syria’s support, Israel would not continue to fight against Asa. So he took all of the silver and gold that remained in the Lord’s treasury and from his own coffers and sent them to Ben-hadad. When he did this the prophet Hanani came and told him that he had done foolishly by trusting in god and in man rather than the Lord. He told him that God continually searches the earth for those whose hearts are loyal to Him so that He can show Himself strong on their behalf, but because he had misplaced his trust (just like Israel with the Ark with the Philistines and just like Israel with the temple in this scenario we are reading in Jeremiah) God told Asa that from that day forward he would know war.

As I said, many Christians quote this verse in prayer to God without knowing the context and while being themselves guilty of the very same sins of placing their actual trust in things other than God. Sometimes those “things” are misquoted verses. They “assume” that because they have quoted the right verse, God will be obligated to help them. However, God is not obligated to anyone ever, but He IS looking for loyal and dedicated hearts – NOT for those working a religious formula!

All of these are examples of  presumptions upon God’s power by taking an object known to have brought victory in times past into battle  – without first evoking or calling upon the favor and direction of God to do it. All was external and presumptive action – NONE of it was true heart worship. They were working a formula, not living a covenant relationship.

This is the same thing we discovered of ourselves back when we were in the WoF movement.   Many of the things that we learned regarding seeking God and believing by faith were rooted in genuine scriptural truths, just like this verse in 2Chron. 16:9,  but were either taken out of context or had become formulas and mechanical devices devoid of heart. 

We used them to obtain certain ends rather than those same actions springing up naturally out of a living relationship of knowing and trusting God. 

So the comparison here is that by doing all the “right things”, we can many time be guilty of bringing “our Ark” into “our battles” but fail to connect with our God or even consult Him. As such we will experience defeat in much the same way as these Israelites did here in 1Samuel, 2Chron. and Jeremiah.

You might say, “but I really have believed…I really didn’t doubt at all…why didn’t it work?”

This is a perfect example of mechanical faith. The Israelites were mentally convinced that by working their magic formula of bringing the Ark of the Covenant with them it would ensure their victory over the Philistines. 

Their confidence was so profound that upon seeing the ark before going into battle they shouted with such exuberance that the ground literally Shook and scared their enemies. You know things like this happen in worship services all over the world, and people assume that they have connected with God and He is very pleased with them, but it is just as likely that they only stirred emotions and further alienated themselves from the intimacy with and help from God.

Remember the church of Sardis which Jesus addressed in Revelation 3:1. He said, 

“I know your deeds, that you have a reputation that you are alive, but in reality you are dead.  (2)  Wake up then, and strengthen what remains that was about to die, because I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God.  (3)  Therefore, remember what you received and heard, and obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come against you.”

There are times when our mental confidence in  Bible truths is so concrete that we mistake it for genuine faith…but faith is relational. Faith is IN a person, not a fact. The kind of faith the scriptures talk about is birthed out of relationship not mental ascent or assumption. Those displays of pseudo faith can fool those around us but it does not fool God.  

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me that they don’t believe God will always heal people because they knew so and so who had strong faith in God and they died anyway. Truth is, in some of those cases I was intimately involved and I knew for a fact these people were not believing in God, but we’re living in assumption, if even that. Oh, their outward conversation communicated an active Faith and confidence, but it had no reality in their hearts. 

In the end, there is no substitution for genuine faith and no substitution for a living, vital relationship with God – formulas and religious externals are completely meaningless without heart involvement. 

Now the second thing I wanted to point out about these verses which are somewhat connected is they type of heart these people had and how closely it corresponds to heart issues James addressed to the Jewish Christians of his day.

It is very likely that James borrowed from this list in his letter when he said,

James 4:1-10, “(1) Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you?  (2)  You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask;  (3)  you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.  (4)  Adulterers, do you not know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever decides to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy.  (5)  Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning”?  (6)  But He gives greater grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.”  (7)  So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you.  (8)  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded.  (9)  Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair.  (10)  Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you.”

Let’s pick back up in Jeremiah 7:13

“(13)  You also have done all these things, says the LORD, and I have spoken to you over and over again. But you have not listened! 

You have refused to respond when I called you to repent!  (14)  So I will destroy this temple which I have claimed as My Own, this temple that you are trusting to protect you. 

I will destroy this place that I gave to you and your ancestors, just like I destroyed Shiloh.  (15)  And I will drive you out of My sight just like I drove out your relatives, the people of Israel.’”  

(16)  “But as for you, Jeremiah, do not pray for these people! Do not raise a cry of prayer for them! Do not plead with Me to save them, because I will not listen to you.”

That is an answer to the question – Does God listen to every prayer. You know, I have had people ask me about a similar verse in 1 Jn. 5:16. It says,

“(16)  If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death, he should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death. There is a sin resulting in death. I do not say that he should ask about that.”

Now, again context is our friend, so let’s back up in 1 Jn. 5 and read this statement in context.

1Jn 5:1-21,  “(1) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been fathered by God, and everyone who loves the father loves the child fathered by him.  (2)  By this we know that we love the children of God: whenever we love God and obey His commandments.  

(3)  For this is the love of God: that we keep His commandments. And His commandments do not weigh us down,  (4)  because everyone who has been fathered by God conquers the world. 

This is the conquering power that has conquered the world: our faith.  

(5)  Now who is the person who has conquered the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  (6)  Jesus Christ is the One Who came by water and blood – not by the water only, but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the One Who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.  

(7)  For there are three that testify,  (8)  the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are in agreement.  (9)  If we accept the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, because this is the testimony of God that He has testified concerning His Son.  

(10)  (The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has testified concerning his Son.)  

(11)  And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  

(12)  The one who has the Son has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life.  

(13)  I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.  (14)  And this is the confidence that we have before Him: that whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  (15)  And if we know that He hears us in regard to whatever we ask, then we know that we have the requests that we have asked from Him.  

(16)  If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death, he should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death. 

There is a sin resulting in death. I do not say that he should ask about that.”  

First of all, notice that the belief is ongoing as I have many times stressed in here.

I like what Guzik says,

“Since believing on Him is the key to being born of God (1Jn_5:1), the key to victory is faith. Not only an initial, “come-to-the-altar-and-get-saved” faith, but a consistently abiding faith, an ongoing reliance and trust upon Jesus Christ.”

So this is a “not mocking God” faith. It isn’t a faith based solely upon something we read. It isn’t a faith based solely upon a past victory so we assume we will experience victory today BECAUSE we experienced victory yesterday. This is a belief that is ongoing and is based upon knowing Him through an ongoing devotional connection with Him. It is real RELATIONSHIP. So already we see an antithetic comparison between this group of people and the one God is talking to Jeremiah about. 

Now this verse in question about NOT praying for someone, appears curious to the uninformed, but in the light of the all the New Testament says regarding the believer and sin, one would expect such a verse to be written in this epistle for it has been said in so many words before by Paul.

There are TWO possible interpretations of this, only one is specifically what John was meaning, though both are true.

This “could” mean the sin of apostasy. Many in the body of Christ do not believe this is possible for the believer and they quote passages like verse 18 below to justify their stance. However, even if this passage is just talking about a continued and unbroken pattern of habitual sin, verse 18 does not save them either since we have examples of verified Christians continuing in sin in this manner in the letters to the Corinthians.

I do not believe however, that this is talking specifically about apostasy. I agree with Guzik’s notion that if such was meant, knowing how John, the writer of this letter speaks of “brothers” – it seems unlikely in the extreme that he would have called such a person “brother” since they would no longer be so.

This is most likely just another reference to Christians who continue in sin, though it may be a sequence of sin broken from time to time by repentance, only to be continued again. 

Paul addressed this in his letter to the Corinthians regarding the man who was living in known sexual sin with his mother-in-law. IF he had continued in that sin unrepentantly, then he would likely have died and Paul had already turned him over to satan for the destruction of the flesh. 

The word destruction is ólethros and it is used for Divine punishment. The fundamental thought is not annihilation of the flesh by any means, but rather its unavoidable distress and torment. 

WHY? Well, as always, God’s decisions and judgments over His Own are redemptive in purpose – though it doesn’t always work. This judgment was to allow the child of God to reap in some small, but poignant way, the harvest of their sin so that they might see with their own eyes the destruction and death it yields. 

This child of God, has bought the lie, James warned us not to believe. James said, “Don’t be deceived my beloved brethren. EVERY good gift and EVERY perfect gift comes from above.” 

When we sin, we do so because we believe the lie that something other than union with God and conformity to His will can yield fulfillment and satisfaction, when in reality they are nothing more than empty wells. 

God ALWAYS did this with Israel – it seems to be His “go to” punishment for His children – to let them have what they want and then see the foolishness of their desires by experiencing them. 

This, MOST OFTEN, results in a change of heart – which it did in the man Paul and the Corinthian church turned over to satan. He did in fact repent and was readmitted into the true koinonia of the church and of God Himself as is seen in his next letter in 2Cor. 2:4-8.

People have mistakenly believed that 1Cor. 11:29-34 where one can partake of communion in an unworthy manner and be judged as if it were an act isolated and unique to taking communion alone. In truth, its application is much broader. Communion is simply ONE expression of koinonia with God. 

For any believer to continue in sin while “claiming” koinonia with God – they are lying against the truth and against the Spirit’s inner testimony in their own hearts. Like Ananias and Sapphira, such will eventuate in some form of destruction – physical sickness being the example set forth in these verses – though it may be possible that this will take other forms. If continued in, without repentance – it will result in premature death so that that believer will not go so far in their sin as to be condemned with the world. 

“(29) For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself.  (30)  That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead.  (31)  But if we examined ourselves, we would not be judged.  (32)  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned with the world.  (33)  So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.  (34)  If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that when you assemble it does not lead to judgment. I will give directions about other matters when I come.” ~ 1Cor. 11:29-34

Surely with all of this it will become clear to you that one cannot pronounce such judgments on a brother and pray for them at the same time. That is inconsistent. 

What was God calling upon His prophet Jeremiah to do, but pronounce judgment for claiming “fellowship” with God while living worldly lifestyes? Would it not be inconsistent for Jeremiah to turn and pray that such pronouncements not happen?

This is something which has happened here in our church once, when we had to deal with a brother who was living in known sexual sin, unrepentantly while still worshipping among us. 

I went to him, then myself and another went and finally it was brought before the whole church and he was removed from the church until he repented. 

However, some in our church decided to fellowship with him outside of the church, which effectively rendered void the judgment of this church which was in accordance and obedience to scripture. 

Because of their continued fellowship with him, he felt free to continue in sin because he was able to enjoy his sin and fellowship with his siblings in Christ all at the same time. 

Once we were able to gain the obedience of these few and they broke off fellowship, he returned within a month or so. His isolation allowed him to experience the full weight of his decision and he learned to hate it – repent and return, and we all rejoiced to receive him physically back, though he had never left our hearts. 

You cannot turn someone over to the enemy and still have God answer prayers for intimacy with Him all at the same time. You can ask life for brothers who are floundering in sin and wanting freedom, but not for those who have made a head strong decision to fellowship with darkness.

1Jn. 5 goes on to say in verses 17-18 and then 19-21

“(17)  All unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin not resulting in death.  

(18)  We know that everyone fathered by God does not sin, but God protects the one He has fathered, and the evil one cannot touch him.”  

Guzik says, 

“ John is repeating his idea from 1Jn. 3:6 : Whoever abides in Him does not sin. The grammar in the original language makes it plain John is speaking of a settled, continued lifestyle of sin. John is not teaching here the possibility of sinless perfection.”

As Stott says, “The present tense in the Greek verb implies habit, continuity, unbroken sequence.”

“(19)  We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.  (20)  And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us insight to know Him Who is true, and we are in Him Who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This one is the true God and eternal life.  (21)  Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”

So, let’s go back and read those words again in Jeremiah 7:13-16,  and I think you will have a greater context for understanding it’s words…

“(13)  You also have done all these things, says the LORD, and I have spoken to you over and over again. But you have not listened! 

You have refused to respond when I called you to repent!  (14)  So I will destroy this temple which I have claimed as My Own, this temple that you are trusting to protect you. 

I will destroy this place that I gave to you and your ancestors, just like I destroyed Shiloh.  (15)  And I will drive you out of My sight just like I drove out your relatives, the people of Israel.’”  

(16)  “But as for you, Jeremiah, do not pray for these people! Do not raise a cry of prayer for them! Do not plead with Me to save them, because I will not listen to you.”

(17)  Do you see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?  (18)  Children are gathering firewood, fathers are building fires with it, and women are mixing dough to bake cakes to offer to the goddess they call the Queen of Heaven. 

They are also pouring out drink offerings to other gods. 

They seem to do all this just to trouble Me.  (19)  But I am not really the one being troubled!” says the LORD. 

“Rather they are bringing trouble on themselves to their own shame!  (20)  So,” the Sovereign LORD says, “My raging fury will be poured out on this land. It will be poured out on human beings and animals, on trees and crops. And it will burn like a fire which cannot be extinguished.”  

(21)  “The LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel says to the people of Judah: ‘You might as well go ahead and add the meat of your burnt offerings to that of the other sacrifices and eat it, too!  

(22)  Consider this: When I spoke to your ancestors after I brought them out of Egypt, I did not merely give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices.  (23)  I also explicitly commanded them

“Obey me. If you do, I will be your God and you will be my people. Live exactly the way I tell you and things will go well with you.”  

(24)  But they did not listen to Me or pay any attention to Me. They followed the stubborn inclinations of their own wicked hearts. They acted worse and worse instead of better.  

(25)  From the time your ancestors departed the land of Egypt until now, I sent my servants the prophets to you again and again, day after day.  (26)  But your ancestors did not listen to Me nor pay attention to Me. They became obstinate and were more wicked than even their own forefathers.’”

This was echoed in the words of Stephen just before he was stoned to death. It is recorded in Acts 7:51-53.  

“You stubborn people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, like your ancestors did!  (52)  Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold long ago the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become!  (53)  You received the law by decrees given by angels, but you did not obey it.”

Jeremiah 7:27-34,

“(27)  Then the LORD said to me, “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you. When you call out to them, they will not respond to you.  

God knows us and knows the future – He has absolute knowledge of our responses to His warnings – nevertheless, in His faithfulness He still gives them. He does not act on what He KNOWS we will do – without allowing us to first do it. He is just, and He is faithful!

“(28)  So tell them: ‘This is a nation that has not obeyed the LORD their God and has not accepted correction. Faithfulness is nowhere to be found in it. These people do not even profess it anymore.  

(29)  So, mourn, you people of this nation. Cut off your hair and throw it away. Sing a song of mourning on the hilltops. For the LORD has decided to reject and forsake this generation that has provoked His wrath!’”  

(30)  The LORD says, “I have rejected them because the people of Judah have done what I consider evil. They have set up their disgusting idols in the temple which I have claimed for My Own and have defiled it.  

(31)  They have also built places of worship in a place called Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom so that they can sacrifice their sons and daughters by fire. That is something I never commanded them to do! Indeed, it never even entered my mind to command such a thing!  (32)  So, watch out!” says the LORD. 

“The time will soon come when people will no longer call those places Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom. But they will call that valley the Valley of Slaughter and they will bury so many people in Topheth they will run out of room.  (33)  Then the dead bodies of these people will be left on the ground for the birds and wild animals to eat. There will not be any survivors to scare them away.  (34)  I will put an end to the sounds of joy and gladness, or the glad celebration of brides and grooms throughout the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. For the whole land will become a desolate wasteland.”


I hope this teaching will challenge you and encourage you to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

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Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!