The Lesson the Church Must Re-Learn, to Survive
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)
22 I gave them the same glory you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one: 23 I in them and you in me, so that they may be completely one, in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me.
John 17:22-23 (TEV)
74 We all have to be ipse Christus—Christ himself. This is what Saint Paul commands in the name of God: Induimini Dominum Iesum Christum—put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Each one of us—you!—has to see how he puts on that clothing of which the Apostle speaks. Each one personally, has to sustain an uninterrupted dialogue with the Lord. (1)
It seems like every expert has a reason for the church dwindling in the last 50 years. Some blame the declining birthrate among Caucasians. Others say it is the necessary cost for remaining faithful to God, another group says it is because only new church plants grow, and that we invest too much in places where God put his name already. ( I have to wonder, do they really believe God gave up on churches older than a generation? )
I am no expert, I have never spent money studying the issues, I haven’t left the parish to become a consultant, or a church bureaucrat. I am not a mega church pastor, or a blogger with 10,000 subscribers. I shepherd people, broken as I am, into the presence of Christ, and am in awe when He fulfills his promise, the promises I share in sermons, in classes, over a beer. So take my words for what they are.
I think the issue is simple,
We’ve forgotten to share with people that not only are they saved, but that they become the children of God, the co-heirs of Christ Jesus, To use fancy theological terms, which while God hasn’t infused righteousness (He counts us righteous ) He has infused us with holiness.
We’ve been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, to dwell within us, to teach us, to transform us into the image of Jesus. Not that we become superheroes, but servants, slaves, those who humbly walk with God. (see Phil. 2:1-10)
What is missing in the church, whether liberal or conservative, confessional or missional, no matter what the label we place on ourselves or others is this.
We’ve forgotten the concept of Christlikeness.
Or, rather than considering it the promise of the Covenant, the blessing of the Gospel, we turn it into some kind of foreign works righteousness, and dismiss it as the Law we cannot hope to fulfill.
It is the promise, the gospel, this blessing and privilege of repentance, (see Acts 11) that is granted to all who believe: Hear Paul’s words,
29 No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
Romans 2:29 (NLT)
It is the change of heart, produced by God, a change Ezekiel 36 attached to God’s sprinkling of water, that Titus 3 confirms happening as the Father pours our His Spirit on us.
Finally, it is the blessing of the prayer mentioned in John 17 above, as Christ gives us all that the Father gave Him, the unity, the glory, the ability to love. The ability to serve, even to die for those who are in need. Even our enemies. Even those we would have looked down on. To wash their feet, to let those betraying us close enough to embrace us, to work with whoever is considered unclean, that they would know the love of God.
This is our life; it is why we aren’t whisked into the throne room immediate after our baptism. This is being the church of Christ the family of God.
It is time to heed the gospel found in Hebrews 12,
1 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3 Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (TEV)
1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 484-487). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Posted on April 21, 2016, in Devotions, The Forge, Theology in Practice and tagged Abiding in Christ, Christlikeness, Confessional, Holy Spirit, hope for the church, Missional, servant leadership, servanthood. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.