Month: August 2013
If you found yourself in an emergency situation, who would you call? What if you fell into the middle of an intense emotional struggle…to whom would you go? Suppose you got some fantastic news that thrilled you no end…again, with whom would you want to share it? All of us should have those “go-to” people in our lives who want to know about our ups and downs, our joys and our sorrows.
The basic nature of our city has become that of an uprooted people, a people removed from the support structures that extended family used to provide for our parents and theirs before them. The mobility of the culture has changed all that. So where do we go to find counselors or cheerleaders as we need them?
One of the characteristics of an uprooted people is a developing spirit of independence and self-sufficiency. Without that kind of attitude, we are afraid that we would be very susceptible to be hurt by the indifference of people around us. Rather than risk new relationships that call on us to give as well as receive, we have a tendency to pull back and retreat into a subtle isolation in the midst of the crowds of people we pass every day.
This sadness can be found even in the church, a place that should be the very center of loving community and caring fellowship. The sadness surrounds us when we find that in the midst of Bible-believing disciples of Jesus Christ, the same kind of indifference and isolation confronts us that we see in the non-Christian world around us. That should never be!
People in churches know that they are supposed to express concern for one another. Good intentions abound toward that very purpose. But in the final analysis, we often do not really care enough to reach out to others in need because of the threat of inconvenience it might bring into our comfortable, self-sufficient worlds.
Obviously that reaction and response is not God’s design for His people!
Christians are to have the reputation and character of a people who are loving, selfless, giving. That is only possible when we are willingly sold out to Jesus Christ and totally available to see the needs of others with His compassionate eyes.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ…As we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:2, 10).
“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves” (Romans 15:1).
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
The burden for breaking out of the world’s mold of apathy and indifference is placed directly on you and me as followers of Christ. Until we consider how to meet the relational needs of one another in more tangible ways, the love of Christ will not be shed abroad. Our orthodox beliefs will be nothing more than intellectual affirmations–knowledge that puffs up but does not build up!
In an age of radical change and constant mobility, should we not expect the church to be that one place where people can find what Christ intends for it to be–a place filled with people who are looking for ways to engage with one another in living lives that matter! Will we be the kind of people who break out of the mold and take to heart the call of Christ to express our faith with practical expressions of love for others?
Are the people you would call in times of trouble, confusion, joy–are they your fellow members in the body of Christ? Are the people who openly and freely invite you to share life with them? Are they the same folks who reach out, “especially to those who are of the household of faith” and call you friend?
We are the body of Christ and it is both our privilege and responsibility to live in and enjoy community together. For many, the church is that for them. But that is not so for many others. What can you do? Who can you embrace? To whom will you go and issue a loving invitation to “do life” together? We must not give up until all know what it is to love and be loved by Jesus Christ through people just like you and me!
When a church decides that it needs to check its progress, what are the criteria it must use to do so? For the small business or the large corporation there is an easy way to measure success by checking out the “bottom line”. They can determine whether or not they are making progress by seeing what their labor is producing relative to their goal, profitability.
But how does the church measure its progress? We have a difficult time determining what the “bottom line” is since we are dealing with many intangible issues and with the hearts and lives of unique individuals whose progress cannot always be measured by objective standards. Yet we cannot ignore the need to evaluate and determine whether we are indeed making any progress simply because the task is somewhat subjective.
Since our goal is to grow to maturity in Jesus Christ personally and to introduce others to Him, it only makes sense that we should be able to ask ourselves some probing questions about the presence our absence of several marks of spiritual maturity. Here are eight categories in which to ask ourselves how well we are measuring up to the standard to which we attain as disciples of the Lord Jesus.
Satisfaction with Our Portion. Have you learned to be content with the knowledge that the Lord Himself has promised to be your portion? It is extremely difficult to resist the constant barrage of influences around us telling to be more ambitious, to settle for nothing less than the best. With our children, our homes, our jobs and in every other imaginable way, we are flooded with the thought that what we have and who we are is not enough. When we have been given life in Jesus Christ, we can learn to be satisfied and rest in Him.
Sensitivity to Sin. Am I more aware of aspects of my character that are unworthy of Christ now than I was before? One of the most obvious evidences that we are growing to maturity in Christ is the extent to which we are aware of the presence of sin in our lives. The closer we get to Christ, the more His light exposes the areas darkened by sin. Therefore, we should be recognizing more areas of our lives which need to be changed to be more like Christ and become more sensitive to our sin.
Servant’s Heart. Do I have a heart to serve others and to love them as Christ does? Whenever we walk with Christ, the immediate impact upon our hearts is the presence of a servant’s heart in our Master. We cannot escape the fact that He came to serve and that to follow Him we must also develop the spirit and attitude of a servant. Maturity in the church will always be characterized by a servant’s heart.
Scriptural Soundness. Is what I believe based upon the teaching of the Word of God? The marriage of belief and practice is such an alien concept in our society that an editorial in the local paper some years ago expressed dismay that evangelical Christians were dangerous because they allowed their “religious beliefs” to influence their social and political thinking. Do we dare plead guilty? We better! Our beliefs must be biblically based and practically expressed.
Submissive Spirit. Am I willing to yield what I want for the sake of others? Until we find an attitude in our lives which willingly submits to others, we will not be able to function in the unity of the Spirit nor enjoy the bond of peace which maturity in Christ promises.
Strategy for Non-believers. Are we concerned enough about those who do not know Christ to invest ourselves in developing a strategy that introduce them to Him? We should always be looking for ways to share the good news of salvation in Christ with an ever-increasing circle of non believers. The tendency most of us have is to divest ourselves of most of our relationships with those who do not know Christ. We need to build up more regular contact with those who need to meet Him.
Stewardship. Am I growing in my understanding of the biblical truth that I am just a manager of the resources that God has entrusted to my care? Am I giving faithfully to the work of the body of Christ so that I can share in the blessing of knowing the joy of obedience? When a church is mature, its people are generous and faithful, often sacrificial, and seldom need to be reminded of their responsibility in the area of personal stewardship.
Stable Prayer Life. Is my personal prayer life growing and the content of my conversations with the Lord giving evidence of a deeper walk with Him? The depth and breadth of the prayer life of the body of Christ serves us well in determining something of the spiritual vitality and health of the congregation. Prayer must be an integral part of our personal spiritual lives which adds to the richness and depth of our corporate experience of prayer.
What’s the Bottom Line? If we want to be the kind of church that “measures up”, that is growing in maturity, why not ask ourselves these questions? As you and I can see, we are not what we once were, but we are not yet what we are going to be!
Let’s press on toward the goal together!
Just a little teaser of what is to come for those of you in Raleigh this coming Sunday! Each August at Providence, we take a Sunday to remember, give thanks and celebrate God’s faithfulness to us. Come and see!
If you have a story of how the Lord has worked in your life this past year, email it, text it, mail it to Providence so that we can add it to many other stories to be shared in the weeks and months ahead. For more information, go to http://www.pray.org.
(Thanks to Andrew Barnes and his team for the video.)
For the past couple of years, I have posted some of my own photography here on this blog. With thousands of images on my hard drive, a guy has to find an outlet!
Well, I now have a broader platform. This week I have set up a new website which will have a growing number of images as the months go by. They will be arranged by categories–initially three categories: Around the Nation, Around the World and Oil Works.
If you have a chance to drop by the site, let me know what you think. Just click on the word “browse” to see what is available for view at this point. If you have time to look around, there is room for comments below the pictures. Eventually, there will even be a way to purchase some of them for those interested in that sort of thing. Here is the link…
Here is a sample from the home page. Thanks!
Vance Havner — “The cause of Christ has been hurt more by Sunday-morning benchwarmers who pretend to love Christ, who call Him Lord but do not His commands, than by all the publicans and sinners. They say they are evangelical but not evangelistic. They glory in being… disciples of the Lowest Common Denominator. They traffic in unfelt truth and refuse to get excited over religion. Their ideal service is ‘a mild-mannered man standing before a group of mild-mannered people, exhorting everybody to be more mild-mannered.'” He goes on to say that a genuine follower of Jesus Christ “…does not have to freeze in formalism or fry in fanaticism.”
The subtle humor and succinct way Dr. Vance Havner had of communicating biblical truth set him apart as one of the most quoted preachers in my generation. Yet, in spite of his humorous way of holding up a mirror for the church to see itself honestly, he also had penetrating insight and wisdom that continues to challenge and build up the body of Christ these many years after his death in 1986.
If you want to hear him for yourself, I found a rare audio copy of one of his sermons. His topic is “Discernment in the Church.” I wish you could see him preach as well as hear him but at least you will be blessed to hear one of the greatest voices for Christ in the 20th century.
Pastor Horner is out of the pulpit for several weeks so we will be posting sermon materials from a series he preached in 2008. The series was entitled “Is it okay to ask…?” Each week, we considered questions most followers of Christ have asked at one time or another. Hope you find it helpful!
August 31, 2008
Click on this banner for the sermon and links to video, audio, devotions and study/discussion questions
pertaining to that sermon. Thanks!