Last week, I spoke of several distinctives of Valley Covenant Church:  personal holiness, unity, understanding our identity as commissioned ministers, and active faith.  But I left off another distinctive that I fear has not been emphasized enough in the recent history of our church:  

The commitment to reminding ourselves and each other that we are deeply loved by the living God and by each other.  The church service—and the exhortation in particular—are times when we can and should feel exhorted to resolve ourselves to live in a more Christ-like manner.  But that can lead to the temptation of whipping ourselves to despondency, exhaustion, or (perhaps the worst) living in a settled state of a deep and abiding sense of inadequacy.

If we are to pursue righteousness in our own lives and encourage it in the lives of our brothers and sisters, then we must not neglect to pursue the sort of peace and assurance that we see in the life of Jesus.  You, my brother or sister, are deeply loved by our living God and, to the extent I imitate Him, by me.  You do not need to earn anything.  You are wonderfully and uniquely made, called out by Him to everlasting fellowship.You do not need to be busy or exhausted to enjoy God’s love.  You do not need to have a clean history—either in what you have done or what has been done to you—to enjoy God’s love.  You need only fall upon Him, be broken before Him, be lifted up by Him, and abide in His embrace.