My heart is heavy of late.
Jesus’ bride, the Church, has done so poorly at the primary job He gave her:
As you go about your world, teach people about the real nature of God, helping them to be imitators of Christ; loving, doing good, and being holy.
There are some 7 billion souls on this earth. About 330 million in my country. Maybe 4 million in my state. Roughly 100 thousand in my county. 5 thousand in my town. 500 Facebook friends. A few dozen in my sphere of influence. And only a couple hands worth in my inner circle.
And so few, at least in my culture, are living as an all in, fully committed, no holds barred, disciple (follower) of Jesus.
Research tells us that for those who claim the name of Christian (in the U.S.) there is statistically no difference in the way they live compared with those who don’t claim Christ. They talk the same. They have the same morals and ethics. They enjoy the same entertainment. They have the same numbers of divorces, affairs, abortions; the same use of pornography. There are the same numbers of liars, and cheaters, and abusers inside the church as outside.
According to research, many people who regularly attend church have a dismal lack of understanding (or acceptance of) basic historic biblical doctrines: Who is God? Who is man? What is salvation and regeneration?
The church is to be a hospital full of healing and new life, a seminary filled with God’s teaching and hope, and a banquet table filled with spiritual meat that builds the soul.
Instead it’s become a first aid kit offering quick fixes that don’t heal, a kindergarten room full of shiny toys, and a buffet where you get to pick and choose what you like.
Is it any wonder then that we have such an ever decreasing impact in the world?
Are we stuck in our (not so holy) enclave, preaching to the choir, and making Christ a laughingstock or worse, insignificant, to the world?
What can we do to be the Church God wants us to be, and to impact the world for God?
It starts with each one of us. As the man or woman of God grows, so grows the Church. As the Church grows, so grows the world.
Be. Learn. Model. Proclaim. Teach.
Be a Disciple. Make sure you have actually bent your knees in submission and reverence to Jesus and His authority. Let Jesus change your heart, your spirit, your mind. Part of that means the willingness to give up anything that He has said is wrong for you.
Learn from the scriptures who God is and what He wants. Find out what the consensus of the historic Church has been in understanding the more difficult parts. If what you learn doesn’t challenge you to be different, you probably don’t understand that part.
This is the hard part. Actually start to act like Jesus. Do the things He said. Love. Forgive. Don’t sin. Be Holy. Find the parts in the bible that describe God And describe what a Christian looks like. Find the representative lists in the bible that teach which thoughts and actions are right and which are wrong, and follow them. As you let Christ lead you in goodness you will soon find He is adding particular things to your list.
Only after were have learned from and modeled Christ will we then be able to effectively do the next two things.
When people ask why you’ve changed, why you’re different, then you can tell them about Jesus and what He’s done.
According to Jesus, even after they’ve seen miracles, many will still turn away disbelieving and unwilling to change. We must accept that. But those who respond must be taught the whole cycle.. Be. Learn. Model. Proclaim. Teach.
P.S. You’ll notice I haven’t written anything about the role of God’s grace and power in all this. That’s because He is the Author and Perfecter of all:
He draws us to Himself, and saves us by himself, so that we may BE.
He teaches us by His Spirit so that we may LEARN.
He empowers and changes us so that we may MODEL.
He draws others around us so that we may PROCLAIM.
He fills and guides us so that we may TEACH.
While God’s grace enable all these things, they won’t get done if we don’t follow His leading and act.
God’s grace is not opposed to effort.
God’s grace is opposed to earning.