Reverencing Christ

awe-of-god

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…” Colossians 1:9-10

We must understand the importance of our reverence to Christ. We come before a holy God.

Jesus is not just a pal or friend or guide, He is our Savior and our Lord (2 Cor. 5:16; Rev. 2-3). A healthy church is all about who Christ is and what He has done. He is not just a Savior and/or best Friend; He gives us life, holds our lives, and will judge our lives. He is the One who overcame life and death for our benefit, and when we seek to run His church our way, we embarrass and dishonor Him and His Way. He has the keys in His hand, as the door to knowing Him and making Him known is only locked from our side. We have no need to fear our future when He is our Light, Guide, and Lord!

This understanding of Who Christ is will help us truly worship Him, and be people who are humble and be a church that, lives a life worthy, that He can use. 

One of the central themes of humbleness is if we do not do it, God will. God asks us to “humble yourselves” for the essential reason that if we do not, He will, and when that happens, it may just be too late. If we do not start to reform our churches to be as they were designed and destined to be, then it will be too late. The doors will close just as has already happened in most parts of Europe. The church once flourished there, but apathy and disease took over and now her pews sit empty in the midst of a confused and decadent culture. We cannot just visualize what a healthy church can and should look like; we must act on it to make it happen.

A healthy church is not just a question of believing in Christ, but being filled with the knowledge, of doing what He has called us to do with trust and obedience.

A healthy church is not about our comfort or what we can experience, but about being people of faith and maturity, bearing fruit, and being what we can be for His glory.

If you have spent any time at all observing churches, then you have seen what takes place. And, if you have spent any time in the Scriptures, then you know what Christ has called us to do. Many times, these two are in conflict. I have personally seen the results of what happens when we do, and when we do not follow our Lord, when we do not humble ourselves. So, the choice is up to us; we are given choices in life, options to follow. We can see for ourselves in the church that is worshipping the Lord, caring and loving one another, steeping itself in prayer, and reaching its neighborhood and world for Christ. Conversely, we can see the church that is full of strife and conflict.

The church that has given up its call to be in Christ and substituted it with their own inclinations and agenda results in people leaving the church, bitter and disillusioned. Too many Christians have traded their election of grace for advertisements of hostility, thus they have forgotten the main thing. As a result, the disillusioned world has confused the strife of Christians for the care of the Lord, thus seeing an uncaring God by seeing His uncaring people and leaders.

 

Do not ‪give ‪up ‪on ‪the Church!

Revitalize your Church b

“…we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13

Too many Christians have given up on the church, and this is too bad. Yes, it is imperfect and full of problems; so, what relationship is not? But, we can overcome all that and grow to do what Christ has called us to do. It means we surrender to win, as we are not only to give of ourselves, but also freely receive gifts and love and care from others without our pride getting in the way.

Our living faith that God gives and builds on along with our efforts are hinged on each other–not in our salvation, but in our personal growth.

Even the private aspects of faith building require mutual efforts and support, so we need church to keep us growing. We can’t build an effectual faith on our own without a church family.

Scripture warns us against negating our spiritual development or neglecting what God gives. If we refuse to allow His work, then our faith and the future He has for us will not be received.

If we leave the Church, our salvation (if it was for real in the first place) is still intact, but we limit our sanctification and cut ourselves off from God’s reward for being faithful. We will fall to bad or natural consequences for refusing His guidance or the fellowship of others (Psalm 137: 5-6; 147:2; Isa 62:5; Gal. 6:24; Heb. 10:10; 13:9-25; Rev. 21: 2-4, 9-27).

The challenge for us is to be mutual effort to our purpose of presenting who we are in Christ, personally and mutually, telling what He has done for us, and responding to Him with passion and conviction, letting go of the fears that hinder us.

We must be excited so when the alarm clock buzzes early on Sunday morning, we jump up, eager about what lies ahead. When adults are energized, it usually becomes contagious to the kids; then, the tyranny of the morning becomes a bounding and fun time looking toward the worship, learning, and relationships ahead. The early church gave us a map for what we can do even in the face of tremendous odds-like the three hundred Spartans heading off the attack of the two hundred thousand plus Persians or our American Alamo. We have the God-given ability to shake off our fear as Gideon did; then the mundane will give rise to excitement, boring will develop into fun, and dread will turn into service.

Then, we can go beyond our pedestrian level of the Christian walk into a transformed, heavenly walk that infects those around us.

Then, the disease that causes division and hurt will cease and the damage and fears that keep us from growing and serving are removed. 

Our Devotion Must be to Christ and not to Ourselves

Prayer

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.” James 4:11

 

The biblical model for our church is clearly laid out in Scripture. We may not agree with one another on how to implement His call, or even how to do our government. We may not agree on how we worship or on the subtle aspects of pre-millennial, post-millennial, pre-tribulation, or post-tribulation doctrine. However, those things we must agree on and what we must do cooperatively are found in His Word. It contains the big picture and call to the essentials of what a church is to be, which is acknowledging His supremacy in all that we do.

Understanding His supremacy means understanding His holiness. Yet, holiness is not a part of a lot of churches because we have forgotten why we are there and what the true role of the church is.

We have forgotten that the Lord of the universe has called us out and has set us apart for His use. We have replaced His holiness with our own experiences because we have forgotten our call, our definition, and the real biblical purpose. We have been placed in a church for a reason, and one of the main reasons is to be set apart for His purpose and not for our own. This is holiness. We have forgotten our adoption into His kingdom and the vision of what our church should be. We have replaced it with gothic cathedrals with magnificent stained glass pictures and architecture that screams, “God is holy,” yet the pews are empty; the teaching and discipleship are forsaken. We have moved the church so close to the consumer we have forgotten what we stand for. We have printed out ideas and motions as “core values” with Scripture that we think rivets His plan to a purpose, yet the people go untaught and continue to spread the disease of gossip and malice. Lust, greed, and power have taken over when peace, grace, forgiveness, and love are to be the route taken.

Well thought out functionally unhitched to the basics of why we do church misleads its members and community and displeases God! Even if the church grows, it is unhealthy church growth and misses the point of who and why we are.

We must see our unworthiness and inadequacy before our holy God and seek His forgiveness and restitution. We must not let our sin replace the call of the church to holiness. We must allow His grace to work within us and through us so we can be the church that is healthy, vibrant, and filled with love. The goal is to have His love and our love, all working together and all surrendered and poured out to holiness and purpose that is not forgotten. The church is about us as the Christians who are in Him, worshiping Him. It is not about our petty needs and us. The church was created for us to house His plan in our lives, to come together in community for worship, fellowship, teaching, and outreach. It is about us because it binds us together for Him. It is not about our replacing His desires and plans for ours, or putting the focus upon us. We are not the main characters in God’s drama of redemption, Christ is.

Thus, we must realize that the church is about our Lord Jesus Christ and His plan for redemption. It is about our coming together and modeling His character. We are the supporting cast of actors and extras that make the story come alive to those around us. The church is not a place for grandstanding our desires and personalities.

We need to depend on the cross because we fall way short of the expectations, obedience, and the law. Now, with grace, we can go through life empowered and indwelled by the Spirit. When we have a growing relationship with Christ, we can go through life without fear; we can have the comfort of His presence and help build His church as healthy, vibrant, and effective. Our response is passionate devotion and obedience. We cannot be devoted to principles or even doctrine if we are not devoted to the person and work of Christ. Our church is not a cause; it is a Person, the God and Creator of all things who loves us, who indwells in us, who empowers us, and who guides us according to His purposes.

Our devotion must be to Christ and not to ourselves, not to a principle or to an idea, and definitely not to trends.

We cannot pour out our lives for false passion and conviction for a goal that has no eternal purpose, one that does not glorify our Lord. When we run our churches by our personal agenda and principles, we go astray because our principles are not in the Lordship of Christ, they are within us. We become in “breach of the contract,” of His covenant of love and acceptance, rejecting it for self-interests that lead us nowhere! We need to receive the love of our Lord from the Holy Spirit, and not allow anything to get in His way!

Remember, your church can be healthy. The question is, what are you willing to do about it?

Are we His sheep? Do we hear His Voice?

masters voice

“…to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” Ephesians 1:10

If so, do we respond and follow? God calls us to Himself and to love Him and one another with the love of God. God calls us out of our self-love pride that mutes our effectiveness and purpose and changes us so we are effective and purposeful for Him. So, we need to ask ourselves how is my love life? How is our love for our Lord and the response of love we are to have for one another? We are the sheep of the Lord, and He has given us endless love and care. He gives His sheep endless life and abounding fellowship with Him. He gives us His perfection and His protection, gathering us in to the fold of His wings, as a hen calls her chicks. Giving us the confidence and support for us to stay away from the dangers of the world, protecting us from Satan’s grasp while we engage the world for Christ. Christ perseveres in us, modeling to us how to persevere in our walk with Him and our call to one another.

Our shepherd desires for us to be true and faithful because He is that way with us. This is our call to be true and faithful in our love, in our care, in our walk, and in our talk.

So, are we hearing the voice of God?

Are we practicing the centrality and supremacy of Christ? Are we? If not, where is the call? What do we need to do to build His kingdom church? As Christ bore witness to the Father, so we are called to bear the care for one another and bring it back to Him. We cannot be as the so-called “expert of the law” and debate whom our neighbor is, thus excusing us from our responsibility. Nor, can we ignore the sheep in our care, ignoring our Lord’s call. Yet, so many churches do.

Consider this: how we see others, whether it is a spouse, child, friend, boss, or stranger, will be the measure of how we see our Lord and how seriously we take our faith. What if we were measured by how we see others? What if this is how Christ sees us? Not a very pleasant prospect, is it? Fortunately, grace covers us¾His amazing and loving grace for which we could not venture to do anything to earn it, be acceptable, or receive anything eternal except damnation.

We are to forsake our pride, arrogance, and selfish nature and receive our Lord with joy and eagerness so we can help build His church as He has called us to do!

Remember, the doctrine of Scripture and the call of our Lord will cut “against the grain” of our pride and will. We are fallen, but He will lift us up, as our Lord is our shepherd, guiding us His way and showing us the way of the shepherd, the way of love and care.

Too many Christians only see the church as a consumer entity, which becomes “what I can get out of it.”  But, are we reciprocating that care or are we just catering to our clique and ourselves? We cannot expect others do be the “doers” while we sit comfortably in a pew. We cannot even expect a return on our investment (money given to the church) for personal gain of some sort. The consumer church will become the demise of the church before Satan even has a chance at it. We can utterly eliminate ourselves and achieve total annihilation without any external help from below. God calls us out of the “consumer” mentality and into His reality. Ask yourself if you only see the church as what it can do for you or what you can get out of it.

We do need to be in a church that will take care of us. It is our attitude and determination that will set us apart to either be fully used by Christ, or sit in a pew for our selfish gain and receive our judgment later. I know I do not want that to be me; do you?

Summarizing What God Calls Us to Do

 call of Christ

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8

God calls us to distinction and to Himself. There is nothing we could ever do to earn our grace or place in heaven. There is no program, ministry, outreach, or person saved that could ever earn or add one tiny immeasurable amount to His love for us. So, does this mean we sit in our chairs and do nothing? Well, lots of people think so, or at least they act like they think so. Our faith may not have a price tag attached, but there must be a response that shows the fruit of what He has done.

We need to wake up to our call and our responsibility, to give a response and reason for our faith. Yes, we can just sit in a pew and do nothing, receiving our heavenly award in the afterlife to come. But, will we receive a “well done, good and faithful servant,” reasoning for our election, a response of love to His love for us?

Did you know that God calls us to be a lover?

Not like the lovers we see portrayed on TV or in the movies or in romance novels. God calls us to real love that is a response to who He is and what He has done in us. We are based and rooted in Him so we are able to respond to those around us as our Lord has responded to us. So many Christians will see their faith as a self-centered journey that involves them and God alone, even though the Scriptures say otherwise. Our faith may come as an individual choice to receive His election and grace, but we are still in community with one another. It is like going up to a person who was just in an auto accident, and saying, “gee, you are hurt,” and then just walk away. “No need to bother to call for an ambulance.” “They are not my responsibility.” “It is just God and I.”

That individualistic thinking is imaging a God who is different that what is revealed to us in Scripture, and replacing Him with our selfish inclinations and laziness. We are not “Lone Ranger” Christians. We are part of a posse, part of a community all working, learning, and serving the same Lord and God together. Remember, even the Lone Ranger had Tonto, and their focus was to help others. He did not ride alone. Our faith must be in community, as we are the body of Christ, and not parts to ourselves. Are we responding to the privilege we have in Christ by honoring Him? Or, do we try it alone, our rationalizations serving as our “savior?”

There are too many churches that neglect their call, ignore their neighborhood, and burrow themselves away from the call that Christ has given to all of us.

There are even churches who target a specific audience or demographic, that is, only the people with whom they are comfortable, and ignore the call of our Lord to reach all people.

We have to reform, to get beyond ourselves, our prejudices, and our desires so we can go beyond our felt needs and plans and seize the opportunities to be our best for His glory. We have to see the church as what it was designed and destined for, a haven of rest, a place of worship, a place of discipleship, and a place of fellowship, not merely a place of self-interests and misplaced piety.

Is Your Church Healthy?

health church

Luke 10:25-29; John 4:24; 10:25-30; 17:21-23; Acts, chapters 2 and 4; Romans 1:16-17; 12:1-3; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 1:10; Philippians 2:5-8; Colossians 1; James 4:8-11

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:8-10

A healthy church is one that is poured out to our Lord. It practices the love of our Lord through worship, teaching, learning, loving, caring, praying, and outreach. It is a church that chooses to be a bag of marbles with different colors and sizes and all working together, each marble seizing its call and exercising its gift for the game. But, in our case, it is not a game. Rather, it is a very serious matter that is joyful. Have you ever tried to play marbles with just one? Not much fun, is it? To play your best, you need more than one, each with a purpose and direction. In spite of that, a lot of churches choose to be the lone marble. Such a church really cannot be used to play any marble games, not because there are too few, but because the marbles just do not get along.

Yet, the more marbles you have working together, the better you can play. And the “more” is two or more gathered in His name, people working together for a common purpose with vision and strength, all striving to give God the glory.

A Healthy Church Looks Like This in Practice 

  • A healthy church will worship Christ first and foremost.
  • A healthy church will enable its people to connect with God and then connect with each other and then connect to their community with the cause and the power of Christ.

To accomplish this, a healthy church will equip and encourage its people to grow deeper in their faith and walk with Christ and further help them facilitate their godly impact onto others. In so doing, expand God’s Kingdom by becoming and developing wholeheartedly, fully-engaged followers of Jesus Christ! For this to come about, a healthy church will be biblically oriented, active, and focused on Jesus Christ.

  • A healthy church will know and practice the supremacy and centrality of Christ, so it glorifies, trusts, and worships God wholeheartedly.
  • A healthy church will be passionate for Christ and then for one another.
  • A healthy church will be genuinely learning and growing in Him.
  • A healthy church will encourage one another’s spiritual formation and be able to bring into being and equip disciples with a teachable spirit who know Him and desire to make Him known.
  • A healthy church will connect with others and in so doing develop vital relationships, working and growing in the Fruit of the Spirit. When a healthy church is functioning, it will be better at mobilizing its people by their spiritual gifts.

Our healthy church will be an effective, generous steward of all He gives us individually and collectively.  Then, our healthy church will have a mission and purpose and be engaged in intentional evangelism, missions, outreach, and meeting key community needs, all led and envisioned by called out, effective, empowered servant leaders who are Kingdom oriented. Sounds like a mouthful, but this can be you in your church, leading others!

We have a responsibility to be obedient to His Word and carry out His call. When we do not carry out our call and duty to be in Him and act within His character, it will be costly.

We must ask ourselves what our inactivity will cost us, and to those around us. When we do not accept our responsibility, the cost will build up and may even overwhelm us. Not because God is without compassion and love, but because we refuse His compassion and love, or we refuse to share His compassion and love. The cost we may accrue is the cost of lost opportunities, “what ifs,” and what could have been. The comparison is of a church that is flourishing and being used by God versus the church that is closing its doors after decades of being there (in a physical building form) but not really being there (for the community and use by our God.)

A church can “be there” with facilities, but “not be there” with heartfelt worship and poured out teaching. Or, it can “be there” as a club, but “not be there” as a church. What are you costing God? Is your church a haven of lost opportunities, or a haven of rest? Is your church surrendered to His will and holiness, or to self-seeking motives and desires?

Does your Church have Love or Relevance at its Core?

 church loveThe principal factor that grows our churches and glorifies the Lord is not chasing a numbers paradigm or the latest trend. Rather, it is all about how we love with the impacting Gospel of our Lord that is preached uncompromised with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Then we bring it with the conviction of the true Truth of God’s Word, and the clarity of the reverence and relevance of our Lord moving in our lives. These are the precious items we bring to build our church in God’s Way!

Love is. The primary Greek word is Agape, which means “self-giving” and “sacrificial,” that is more concerned with others than self. It was used in Classic Greek literature to refer to someone who was generously favored by a god. It conveys the idea of a person giving all his or her love, or favor, to someone else rather than to self. It is a love that is not earned; in contrast, it is relational and given freely. The word “Love” also refers to parents giving all of their love for their child.

In the New Testament, agape love was used to make a similar point, as God gives to each of us all of His love.

Real love goes deeper and further, as a deep adoration that is bestowed without expectations of a response from the other. Agape love is also the most common word used both as a noun and a verb in the New Testament. The greatest example of agape love is what our Lord Jesus Christ did when He died for our sins.

Consequently, God’s agape love gave us His forbearance and rescue from the punishment that we deserved. Rather than receiving what we should have, we received His favor without earning it.

(Deut. 6:5; Joshua 24:14 -15; Isa. 44:9-20; Mark 12:28-31; John 3:16; 21:16; Matt. 22:34-40; John 3:16; 13:1, 34-35; 14:1; 15:9; Rom. 1:31; 5:8-10; 8; 12:10; 13:11-14; 1 Cor. 7:32-35; 13; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; 5:5 Gal. 5:5; Eph. 2:4-7; Phil. 2:2; Col. 1:1-6; 3:5, 12-14; 1 Thess. 1:3; 2:8; 3:6; 12; 4:9-10; 5:8-13; 2 Tim. 3:3; Heb. 10:24; 1 John 4:7-12).

All men will know that you are my disciples. When we love one another, we prove and exhibit Christ!

This is our “mark,” the prime characteristic that makes us friendly and connectable to others, and how we are to be known-by what Christ does with us and calls us to. We are to love one another-period! No strings attached! This is the mold for the form that we use to display God’s love to the world (John 13:34-35; 15:13-17; 2 Cor. 5:20; Gal. 5:22; 1 John 2:10; 3:14-16)!

How do we know if this is working? This is exhibited in the form of the example from Whom our Lord is being lived out in the leaders lives. Then we can examine our practice with this question, “do you use people, or do you serve them?” Remember, Jesus was God, who came to this earth to love and to serve (John 13-14; 18:15-27)!

Thus, we do not aim at our people with numbers or manipulate them to whatever the latest business model or schema, we present the Gospel of God’s true Truth in love by teaching it and by living it out. Then we grow our churches, God’s Way.

What is real love? How is it shown by the fruits of it, like humility and service?