Spiritual Maturity Builds Churches PIII

The Importance Of Our Motivation and Inspiration

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53: 12

I live in the Los Angeles area, the home of a basketball team called the “Lakers,” even though there is no lake. Anyway, they are one of the top teams in the league, with several championship wins, and usually have two or three exceptional star players. During the end of the regular season in 2004, the Lakers were losing. They had to win two very important games with teams I had never heard of (what can I say, I am just not much of a sports guy when it comes to “foreign” teams), or they would not be in the finals. Then, for the key game, one of their star players, Kobe Bryant, just did not show up. The team was down and unmotivated. Their coach, Phil Jackson, took the rest of the twelve players into the locker room and told them that each one of them had the capability to win. Together, they could win without that star player, or any star player. Then he told them, you have become lazy, relying on Kobe and Shaq and not stepping up yourselves. Then he said, “you all must step up and perform.” They went out, and won.

Do you “step up?” What motivates you in the Christian life?

What is your source of inspiration outside of the Scriptures? Do you just rely on others, or do you and can you “step up” in your faith, reaching out to others to win the game that Christ has put you in? The key to stepping up is motivation. Coach Jackson is a skilled motivator, which is why he has a lot of championship rings. We do not need the ring when we know who we are in Christ and when He is our motivation!

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

Most of us will look to our creeds and confessions for motivation, and for good reason. But, I want to extend further into our personal responsibility. That is, how can we take our faith so seriously that it becomes more personal and real, and all our thoughts, ideas, directions, goals, and inspirations go in the direction of serving our Lord? How do we take our faith to a deeper level, “step up” so it is ours and personal, and not just because this is what our families are and do, and not just because we are part of a good church, school, or work? How do we “step up” so that our faith is solely because of what Christ has done for us and nothing else?

The key is in allowing the work of the Holy Spirit in us. However, we have a responsibility to respond, to grow, and to build on what we are given. It takes trust, faith, and the surrender of our will, our dreams, and our ideas over to the LORDSHIP of Christ. We must acknowledge that He is Lord of us because of His love for us, and that His ways are better than ours. Christ is our King; so, let us live our lives in response to what He has done for us!

© 1992, 2005, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org

Spiritual Maturity Builds Churches PII

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18

One of the clearest evidences of being a mature Christian is the realization that the municipal center of the Christian life is Jesus Christ as our LORD. He seeks to bring us closer to Himself by His love, joy, and peace so that we may share His love with those around us. This is the key that conveys God’s purpose for His people and those around them.

Spiritual maturity involves an increased awareness and knowledge for the need to be in Christ, and not to be living just to oneself.

When we have an increased need that goes beyond our self, and beyond our self-confidence so our confidence is in our Lord and the Holy Spirit; then our self-confidence becomes rooted in and dependent on Christ working through us. We become Christ driven, not self-driven. As a result, our determination becomes more surrendered to God’s will as He becomes the driving force for our lives and existence. This means as we grow in Christ, we are surrendering more of our will, desires, and plans unto our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we see that we have purpose, direction, and our lives and ministries are filled with Christ’s power.

We will realize that we need mentorship and support from other mature believers. What does this look like? We will have a life that comes from the impact of the Spirit and the disciplines of the faith. As we learn, we grow; and as we grow, we engage in prayer, study, exercising our gifts, worship, love, and fellowship that draws us closer to God and others and that facilitates further spiritual formation. We will have a firm, forward, and moving commitment and trust in Christ’s work.

Spiritual Maturity Builds Churches PI

What does it Mean to be a Mature Christian?

What are you willing to do to become one? If you have spent any significant time in the Christian faith, you will have observed that all of us are not on the same playing field of faith and maturity. We Christians have all had different experiences in life, different reactions to those experiences, and different ways of understanding and applying our faith to those situations. These experiences and the decisions we make concerning them all converge to shape us into who we are today and who we will be tomorrow. Coupled with this is the work of the Holy Spirit, guiding and molding us, seeking to penetrate the barriers of our stubborn pride and will. The Holy Spirit does not, although He certainly is able to, overwrite us. He works within us as a gentle change agent, a voice of meekness (as strength under control), desiring us to respond to our life’s circumstances with character and maturity.

Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Psalm 119:89-90

Growing in faith encompasses more than just asking Christ into our lives and hearts, and goes far beyond baptism or our church membership. It means being a disciple.

Discipleship goes further than our conversion, our acceptance of Christ as Savior, our election, or any initiation we could conceive of into the Christian life. Why is that? Because our initiation is extended by Christ, and is only the beginning. The first step we take, receiving Him by faith through His Grace, is the entrance into the faith and Christian life. Accepting our election in Christ is not the only act of being a Christian! Yet, so many live their lives as if this were so.

It would be like joining a ritzy, fancy, exclusive club, but never venturing into that club. Therefore, we would never use the exercise equipment, never swim in the pool, never play on the golf course, never rest in the steam room or partake of the networking, fellowship, and the fun.

We would never go to the parties or the dining, and would miss the connections because we never attended. Thus, we would get virtually nothing out of it, except the satisfaction that we had joined. The only prestige we would have is the membership card on our dresser. It is the same with becoming a Christian. We might join the ultimate “club,” but never use it or let it help develop our connections and depth with God and others. Yes, we may be saved, but if all the opportunities have been set aside, forgotten, and missed, oh, how sad that would be. Perhaps, you think all you have to do is be baptized as a public initiation, profession, or dedication, and then sit yourself in a pew of compliance and comfort, thinking, I did my part; the rest is up to others. Acceptance of what Christ has done is to be the door through which we walk in faith, as is our public profession or testimony of our faith. It does not stop there. It starts there! Why talk more on this? If we do not “get” this, we will never develop our net to be used for fishing because we will not have the materials to do so.

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PVIII

Incarnational Churches are aware of their Eternal Covenant  

Because of Christ’s incarnation, work, and sacrifice, He takes the place of our debt of sin and fulfills the old covenant and the blood sacrifice, which was temporary and flawed, to atone for our sin. Now, we can go directly to God, person-to-Person. God renews His relationship with us, His people, and gives us an age of grace in Christ by faith alone (Ex. 24:8; Deut. 30:11-14; Psalm 37:31; 40:8; 119:11; Isa. 51:7; 55:3; 61:8; Jer. 31:31; 32:40; Ezek. 37:26; Rom. 6:9; Heb. 8:8-13; 9:11-22). 

A Name for Jesus in the Hebrews text is our Great Shepherd, meaning He is the One who leads, equips, and guides us—as we all desperately need. It is our call to hear His voice and obey as a good sheep does in order to be fed and not be eaten by predators. And who and what are our predators? Our wayward ways of all infighting by our pride, and the fact that when the sheep go unfed, they bite each other. For us to be in the safety of faith, we not only need to be in Christ, we have to obey Him. This is a result of our intimate relationship with Him that is synergistically touching all those who come into His Home. We know Him, He knows us, and we do what He says. We are concerned with what concerns Him, and we act accordingly. Like sheep, we can’t lead others or ourselves without being forever lost and unfed (Psalm 23; Isa. 63:11; Jer. 23:1; 31:34; Ezek. 34:6-16, 31; Hos. 6:6; John 10:1-8; 16:13-15; Rom. 10:7).  

For our church to work well, we need to be taught and encouraged to grow so we can be our best, to reach out and to worship and function in humility and encouragement.  

In so doing, we support and remind one another to remain in Christ and not fall away. We do this as we honor the superiority of Christ and hear God’s call so we can venture into Christian maturity. The bottom line of an Incarnational Church is that we are not just the means of the communication of the Message of God; we are also the message to those who do not know Him. Because we are His work, we are His Gospel in action as an example that communicates far more than any book, program, or speaker or evangelist. We present and demonstrate not just the Jesus who lived, but also the Jesus who lives in us (Col. 1; Phil. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:3).  

The Incarnational Church produces a fellowship filled with real purpose and inspiration because we are rooted in the life of our Lord. As a result, people are treated in the parameters of Fruit and by people of character, as maturity is sought so everyone feels loved, appreciated, treasured, and encouraged because they are so—discipled and involved by mentoring before they are deployed in ministry. This is what a “Christ life” looks like before “Church life” is fully engaged. Thus, the leadership top down is producing a church authentic in spiritual maturity by its involvement in Christ so that the people are inspired to be devoted, as in caught up in Christ and with one another to be more worthy in and for the faith. In so doing, we are all making Him known in the world too. The key to making this happen is how people are cared for before they are deployed; the equipping and encouraging must always continue. The antagonist to this is our pride, apathy, or manipulation, seeking to connive, posturing ones agenda over others, and/or absent from God’s precepts, call, or love. The Incarnational Church shows the kind of direction that sees Christ glorified as our tempers and temperaments come in line with His guidelines. So our church—your church—is a collection of imitators of Christ so we go in the direction of the possibilities of His lead. And, we can indeed do this if we dare stretch beyond what we think we can do or where we can go, and seek where and what Christ has for us, even with our limitations and frailty (John 14:21-22; 1 Corinthians 12:7; Colossians 4:2-5; 1 John 1:2). 

Hebrews ends with this final exhortation: pray and live honorably so God may produce even more in you. Remember your fellow Christian workers and pray for and support them. May the God of peace who saved you continue to equip you. May you produce effectual fruit for the glory of Christ, our Great Shepherd. To God be the glory!

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ P VII

Incarnational Churches live as a response to what Christ has done for us!

If you love Jesus, then you are to love others too. Hebrews is almost written as a letter of recommendation to encourage the hearers to continue in the faith and not give up, and to obey their leaders, because if they do not, they will face dire problems. What they were going through then was nothing like what would come later. The author, inspired by God, advised them (and us) to “shape up” so we could grow through it with joy and not melt in bitterness. Our living faith, that God gives and builds on along with our efforts, has more of a purpose than most of us will ever see or realize. Take God’s warning about negating your spiritual development or neglecting what He gives or where He calls. If we refuse to allow His work, then our faith and the future He has for us will not be received. We will limit our sanctification and cut ourselves off from God’s reward for being faithful and fruitful; we may even fall to bad or natural consequences for refusing His guidance or the fellowship of others. Just think about how many churches in the U.S. close each year—over four thousand. Thus, we have to see our call to be responsible for one another so each can encourage and equip others, helping them when they slip or are about to slip (Psalm 137: 5-6; 147:2; Isa 62:5; Rom. 12-14; Gal. 4-5; 6:24; Eph. 4-5; Heb. 10:10; Rev. 21: 2-4, 9-27). 

With responsibility comes obedience and listening—a call to obey your leaders.

This may not be popular in a day when we are conditioned to challenge and even disrespect authority, but here we are called to respect authority and to care for and keep careful watch over the people as shepherds, because leaders will be held to account. So, to make our church incarnational, make a group effort with some top down leadership, so we can heed the call and submit to those in authority with value and respect. In this way, we can thrive, enjoy orderliness, and learn from others. In contrast, a person with a lack of faith will not respect others because the emptiness where faith is supposed to be is filled with pride and even self-destruction, worry, and stress that lead a person nowhere good. This, of course, does not mean we submit to dictatorial or dysfunctional leadership (Isa. 21:8; Jer, 23:4; Ezek. 3:17; 33:6; 35:7; Hab. 2:1; Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:7; 1 Pet. 5:2-4; 3 John 9-10). 

Christianity is community; we are all mutually dependent upon one another and must act accordingly with goodness to one another so we can show Him effectively. 

As Christians, we are all priests to one another as we collectively rely on Christ and minster to one another. In the desire to pursue Christ and His precepts, we must be careful that we honor Him and not cause others to stray from Him. This must include our devotion and surrender to Christ, for only in Him—by Word and Prayer—and being held accountable by others will our conscience be clear. Even in the face of struggles and hardships, we can live honorably, by our mutual respect and focus on God as comfort! In contrast, if we just live our lives with the attitude of how things affect “me” and not “others,” then we are living with the devil, and not with God (Rom. 15: 33: 16:20; 2 Cor. 1:12; 13:11; Phil. 4:9, 18; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 3:16; Heb. 4:16; James 1:27)!

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PVI

Incarnational Churches are not led Astray 

Scripture in Hebrews, 2 Peter, and many other places clearly tell us do not be carried away, as in do not be led astray by false ideas, trends, or other things just because they are new. Lusting for something we may think is better, from a bad food to being charmed by a clever preacher, or teaching false doctrines and thinking, hey, that is their interpretation and it is OK, we will fail at being an effective church. We are just as responsible in listening to bad or false or junk teaching as the false teacher who speaks ill of God’s Word is for spreading them. False doctrines are rooted in speculative thinking and whims and not upon God’s clear Word; they kill our growing relationship with Christ and others and dissolve the incarnational approach to church life because they will leave us complacent so we do not reach forward and outward with the Gospel of Truth. What we will have is the emptiness of false ideas, meaningless rituals, and traditions that serve no purpose and do nothing to grow one’s communion with Christ or fellowship with one another. For it is by grace we are saved and we respond to God in and by faith. 

If we get too carried away with our ideas we will miss Christ, so we must be in His Word, be reflective, be in prayer to see what we are really doing and who are we serving (Psalm 31:16)? 

We must go to God’s Word—not to whims; the Bible means what it says and you can know who is false because false teachers will never use discernment or context or real word meanings. They will deceive, and not receive His Truth, thus your church will be resting on a crumbling foundation rather than the strength of Christ’s true Truth. He is our Altar and help; our truth for daily living comes from Him and nothing else—no ceremonies or special practices, for such things do no good and may even hurt us. Only by God’s special favor will we excel spirituality, in life, and in Church. For Christ suffered and paid our debt of sin so we can all live in Him and be there for one another (Lev. 7:11-18; 1 Cor. 10:18; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Peter 2).

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PV

Incarnational Churches show Brotherly Love and it is Real 

In what ways does brotherly love define you? How should it? Francis Schaeffer and others have told us over the centuries; men from Augustine, Kempis, and Aquinas as well as the Reformers have warned that the attitude and trends of the church tend to be the attitudes of the culture. We must heed this warning; for if we do not, this will be a very wrong outcome! We are called higher, to be incarnational so we can listen and put into practice what Christ teaches and gives to the lives of others. We are to be good, fruitful, and faithful as followers, first and foremost, before we can be so as followers and as leaders. We are to care for our souls and watch over and care for others too. This is Christian community and effective leadership in action—the practice and application of our faith in our lives first and then letting it pour over others. For we lead by venturing forward with our eyes upon Christ as Sovereign Lord. This is a responsibility; as we follow our Shepherd, we shepherd others. We do not dictate or lead from behind nor do we connive or manipulate out of our pride; rather, we are in front, forging ahead on His path, being the example, encourager, and teacher, cutting the way of His Way for others to see and follow. We make Him real and visible as we all come to the throne of grace. Let us be fruitful, practical, real, and faithful. If we are not, we will have enormous problems and strife instead of the love of Christ in and through our churches and us. 

As Christians who are receivers and partakers of the incarnation, we are to be in a tighter community together in Christ as Christ-followers. We are to be deep friends who are bonded as family, and take this practice unto others around us.  

The purpose of our doctrine and the study of His Word is not just for the knowledge, (which is very important), but our supreme goal should be what we do with that knowledge. This is the relationship that is growing in Christ, then outward to others around us. Remember: His shed blood paid for us! You have truly dedicated your right to yourself and church to Christ! We give Him our all! It is easy to die for a cause, but are you willing to live for Him in perfect obedience so your life is poured out, your strength is gone, and you must rely on His? Hebrews, chapter thirteen, reveals what happens when we follow the incarnation, placing it into application. This is about keeping our personal and mutual faith real and growing, which means the encouragement, support, and using of spiritual gifts, and everyone working as a team. This is the strength and prime purpose of the Church that comes from our growth and worship; without them, we will fail. Our relationship with the Lord must be transparent and not secretive (unless you live in a closed Muslim country) (Psalm 34:8; Rom. 1:8-17; Eph. 4:15-16)!