We are going to camp out in chapter 5 a little longer and ask the question “why”. Let’s dig in!
Chapter 5 describes Jesus in two ways. These are amazing to understand. Let’s dig in!
We are now looking at some themes past chapter 3. Let’s learn!
The first 3 chapters set us up for a greater vision. Let’s dive in.
Why did he start the book this way? What is it all about? Let’s dive deeper today.
If you know me, you know that I am not a fan of articles or blog posts that berate the Church and point out all of her flaws. Sometimes, as I am reading these writings from well known authors, it breaks my heart that the bulk of their time on earth has been spent associating themselves with a movement that they can’t help but belittle on a regualr basis. I have never understood it really. From time to time, I think there are people who want to just sell books or get the attention of nonbelievers and pull the whole “bait and switch” when they get them to agree. I suppose some could even accuse me of doing that same thing right now, but know that is not my intention.
The Church as God describes it in His scriptures is meant to be the bride of Christ. This title implies union. I can imagine that any time Christian’s with good intentions slander His bride, there is some heartbreak. So, that is one way to look at the waves of negativity. It is wrong and if we are a cross-oriented people then one would think grace would season our talk. There are times, however, the body of Christ needs to huddle up and regroup. There are also times where we need to hear a challenging word and be moved to action. Not in a condescending way, but one that desires growth and stronger unity. The Bible is full of times where God needed to redirect and rebuke His own people. In fact, the Bible practically ends that way with the first third of the book of Revelation seeking to sternly guide the people of God. With that being said, as I look around and see the condition of His bride in current times, I have seen some things I think are becoming endangered in our Christian culture.
Here are 6 Things Today’s Church is Losing:
1. Desperation for the Gospel
I can’t help but think of the early church. The people were enamored by this new revelation. So much so, that they were willing to risk their lives simply to believe and proclaim. Certainly, there were plenty of times early Christians sinned against God, but the newness of the Gospel message swept them away. What about underdeveloped countries? We are hearing stories on a regular basis from missionaries all around the world giving testimonies of lives changed and churches planted, simply because the message of the cross was shared. Today, many people look at their faith as a hobby and the act of community worship as something they do when they have nothing else to do. Or even, something that fits well into their lives when everything is going well. Is this what Christ died for? The people, yes…but the apathetic attitude toward His body? I wonder if we have mentally conditioned ourselves to always look for the more exciting experience. Not sure what the answer is here. I think we need to pray for a huge awakening on this one.
2. Centrality of God’s work
Many people today can and do live a life full of busyness, good health, and plenty of money without God. They do great things, influence people, and leave powerful legacies without their Creator ever being acknowledged. This is because it is a very tempting idea to surround ourselves with security, resources, and knowledge so that the idea of God becomes unnecessary. Christians reading this blog today may think that I am describing sinners or people who do not believe in God, but I am actually describing Christ-followers. Unfortunately, for Christians, it is easy to lean toward a life that calls comfort “blessing” and the good that we do becomes the full expression of God’s word. Certainly, God wants us to be moved to action, but He also wants us to be moved to change and grow. His life and power will give us abundance. Not just temporal success.
3. Conflict Resolution
I will mention the early church again here, because it is pertinent. The fact is, back in the infancy of the Church, people did not leave their worship community because of hurt feelings, different political beliefs, music, preaching quality, lack of programming, stale communion wafers, uncomfortable seats, lack of air conditioning, not getting the part in the play, what someone commented on Facebook, the fact that the organ was moved two feet to the left, or the color of the carpet. People had the spirit in common and settled their conflict by arguing, finding common ground, and focusing on the mission once again. We have lost the art of healthy conflict resolution because we have taught ourselves that running away is better than growing. Let’s just grow up already. This doesn’t just involve church attendance but every edifying relationship.
4. A Hunger to be Less
No matter how humble we are as a body of believers, it is hard to resist making ourselves look great by displaying our spiritual wealth. We want to be the best Christian, going to the best church, reading the best books, and adhearing to the best doctrine…not so we can grow deeper, but so we can know and experience more than the next person. Christ calls us to a cross-like existence that compells us to abandon this mentality. The point of Christianity is to be the lowest, the servant, and those that wake up every morning hoping to die to self. In the immortal words of John the Baptist, “He must increase and I must decrease…” Enough said.
5. Prophetic Voice
The Church, in today’s culture, seems to want to have a voice of political power instead of prophecy. No, not the soothsaying definition that we are familiar with through fairy tales, but prophecy in the respect of God’s conveyed truth. The Church is meant to exist independent from the culture, understanding the culture, and speaking to the culture, not camouflaging itself within it waiting for the right moment to strike. Fellow believers…we live a life that is weird and doesn’t make much sense, and that is okay. This is nothing to apologize for, and nothing to run from. It is okay to be active in politics, and influential in business, but our goal should be to show others the nature of God through our lives.
6. Unity In the Body
There may be several congregations throughout the world but there is only one Church. Whatever your particular congregational brand may be, remember that our mission is shared and it will take all of us to fulfill it. I am so tired of people talking poorly about other communities of believers. Sure, we may not agree with their doctrinal slant, but even if they are driving people to Hell through their teachings, our treatment of them, and talk about them could drive the outsider looking in to Hell even faster. Just stop it. Pursue God and display love for Christ sake (see what I did there?). Preach the truth. Period. Healthy worship to God will draw people towards Him.
We are meant to make disciples, spread the gospel, and serve the world by the resourcing of the Spirit. Just do that. Let’s stick to the things that matter.
Don’t forget you are loved.
Join me as I dig just a little deeper into the background of this book.
We are taking it slow!
If you have spent any considerable amount of time in a church Sunday School class, you may have heard the Biblical parable of the “Prodigal Son”. This story is also called the “Lost Son” in some Bible versions (among other titles). If this narrative does not sound familiar, allow me to briefly summarize…A young man approaches his father and demands his inheritance so he can start “living his life” immediately. The father reluctantly agrees, and gives this boy the biggest payout of his life which leads to this young man living on impulse and squandering everything.
Scripture indicates that the wealth the boy was given was “liquid currency” meaning immediately spendable income. In ancient inheritance practice, this son would have also been entitled (unless the father deemed differently) to a certain portion of the family land. The older brother (there were only two sons in this family), in the case, would have been entitled to double the portion of inheritance that the youngest would have received. After spending all of the money and becoming homeless, the prodigal (meaning “one that squandered monetary resources”) returned home to a very warm and mercy-filled reception. The older brother was angry at this grace given to his sibling.
So, normally, we read this story and get a “warm-fuzzy” feeling when we realize the immense love shown to the young man who obviously did wrong. Then, we easily wag our finger at the older brother…acknowledging his lack of mercy. But wait… Let’s not condemn the older brother too quickly. It may be possible we are assuming something about him that isn’t true. If we are not careful in our reading, it could seem that the older brother was jealous and even competitive with his younger brother. This may not be the case. It could be that the older brother simply forgot his own status. He also could have forgotten what was rightfully his which in this circumstance amounted to exponentially more than the younger brother (due to the fact that land couldn’t be spent impulsively like money).
This older sibling was concerned with justice, and he had such a love for his family, that he found it to be a personal attack when his younger brother asked for “his portion” of the wealth. In those days, this was essentially telling your father that you are ready for him to die. This amount of disrespect was unmatched by any other action. Especially to a father that was only able to produce two sons in his adult life (which was an extremely low amount considering the assumed wealth and size of estate of this family). This older brother worked very hard because he knew that most of it was going to be his…or at least he would be the steward of it (assuming it could also stay in the family for the family). While this man looked at this action communally (what was best for the household), his father cared about the individual. Neither one was actually wrong according to ancient thought. This story just helps to remind us that there are times where we need to snap out of our cultural routine and focus on bringing the individual back into the fold.
Don’t be so quick to assign a villain to this story. The father knew that his son was more valuable than what temporary currency he spent. The older brother also knew that everyone would bear the burden of his sibling’s wrong choice. It was just simply taking him longer to process. We also learn by reading in between the lines that God’s grace is disproportionally generous to our transgressions.
In the end, the older brother needed to go on a learning journey too. Just like his brother.
Now, ultimately, this is a parable, but Jesus expertly uses it to instigate a thought process in His disciples. One that would lay the foundation for how the Kingdom would be structured.
Most mornings, as a part of my daily routine, I enjoy a couple pieces of toast. I usually wait until I have taken the kids to school, and when I come back home, where there is no noise or distractions, I eat. The invention of the toaster is one I truly appreciate in my life. With that said, even though toasters make bread better, it can still become a very boring part of a meal. It’s quick and easy, though. I simply reach into the plastic bag and pull out 2 nearly identical slices without thinking about it very much.
If you are like me, you think of a bag of individual slices when you hear the word “bread”. In our culture, we know that a farmer grows wheat, grinds it up, and someone waves a magic wand and “POOF”…bread appears (I am pretty certain that is how it is made, but don’t fact-check me on it). We can reach into this same bag, take out a uniform slice each time, and have an identical experience again and again. To us, “bread” in very individualistic. We eat to satisfy our needs in the moment.
The fact is, in ancient times, this would not have been the experience of anyone eating bread. Sure, it was not completely uncommon for a shepherd to have a pouch with individual servings, but for the most part, bread was a community experience. Allow me to explain.
A person who did the cooking, would gather the ingredients needed (flour, oil, perhaps some spices, etc), and would knead the dough and would make sure to make multiple loaves (if they had the means) in one sitting. This way, the family would have plenty to last them for several meals, and even accommodate potential unexpected visitors. The head of the table, during the meal, would break the bread and distribute the pieces for people to enjoy as they wish. This distribution would symbolize, not only provision, but sacrifice and unity. If I am the head of the household or gathering, and I invite you to share my bread, I have found you worthy to partake of it. Someone in my family put their heart and soul into the bread, and pressed it to the right shape, and carefully monitored the stove to make sure it was baked to perfection. You see, in scripture especially, bread was not only about nutrients, but about sharing life.
There is even more to it, though. Look at two nations, or tribes who have been at odds. When reconciliation would occur between the two parties, a feast would occur and bread would be broken and distributed. It would be recognized that one of the parties did work to make the meal happen. Also, consider the fact that every family, tribe, nation, and region would have there own “take” on taste and texture. Spice combinations (or lack thereof) would vary, and every tasteful note that one would experience would identify the origin.
In the Bible, bread is used as a symbol to remind people of unity, provision, reconciliation, and so much more. Bread, to us, seems like a silly theme, but to ancient hearers of the word it was serious and profound. The example of the showbread in the Tabernacle not only symbolized the grace receivers (12 tribes of Israel), but there was also the implication of community that needed to be developed among them for their survival and ability to flourish. Bread, for them, was about obedience.
So, the next time, you sit down and eat, look at your dinner roll, or garlic toast with deep gratitude. God is trying to each us something.
Check out the video for this week’s teaching! This is such an important concept to grasp.