We, God’s People

Posted: May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God … to the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthian 1:1-3).

“Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?” It’s the most prominent question in Christian circles today! I’m certain you’ve been in the service where everyone closes their eyes, bows their heads, and one or two reluctant people raise their hands to “accept” Christ, without anyone looking. I wonder if this private display tells the new Christian, as well as his/her brethren sitting in the pew next to him/her that Christ died for “me?” Or is the message: Christ died for us?

In a Christianity Today article, “Jesus Disappoints Everyone,” John Koessler talks about our disappointment with Jesus when He doesn’t meet our expectations of Him or when He doesn’t come through for us the way we want Him to. I’ve been disappointed in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When life goes from bad to worse, I may wonder if I’m saved at all, or even if God loves me! I made the personal commitment to Him, I “confidentially” raised my hand years ago—I mean, why isn’t my life turning out the way it should? Where are the miracles? Why don’t I feel the love, the peace? When I think like this, then my perception is off. Koessler points out, “Jesus came for us, but that does not mean that he came to please us. Jesus came for us, but he does not answer to us. He will not subject himself to our agenda, no matter how good that agenda might be.”

I believe one of the issues at hand is in believing that Jesus Christ is my own personal Savior, like my own little genie in a bottle. When we hold the genie in a bottle mindset, have we really given Jesus Christ complete rule and authority over our life? When we, as Christian leaders, tell a congregation that Christ died for “you” the individual, are we really proclaiming the gospel Truth? Where in the Bible does Jesus ever say, or do the writers of the letters ever claim that Jesus is “my” personal Savior? It is always, “our” Lord and Savior, or “the” Lord and Savior. It has only been until recent times that we’ve been inundated with “my personal” Lord and Savior. As the world has grown more individualistic and private, so has Christianity. We live in an entitlement time, a “me”-centered culture, and cultural Christianity is following suit.

Of course we need a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. But that commitment means we have been crucified with Him into His resurrected body (the church). Christ refers to Himself as the Bridegroom, and the Church as His Bride—not just me or you. I am a part of the Church. The way I demonstrate my personal salvation in Christ Jesus is by being a part of His body, the Church. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).  In 1 Corinthians 12:14 Paul says, “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.” We demonstrate our relationship with Christ by how we love Him, how we love and treat each other, how we proclaim the gospel to an unbelieving world by our actions and words.

We, as Christians today, are consumed with our pursuit of pleasure and the “American Dream.” After all, don’t we have rights? Don’t we deserve fortune and happiness and security? Jesus said, “Go and make disciples,” nowhere does He say, “Play it safe. Pursuit happiness at all costs.” I would argue that if we truly believed that we, as individuals, make up the body of Christ, and that we were committed to a biblical way of life and community, then divorce, adultery, addiction, depression, violence, and moral decay would diminish greatly. If our lives were not so individualized and private, and we were open to accountability and transparency, the church of Jesus Christ would truly be a power beyond compare. If we as individuals truly loved from the depths of who we are in Christ, and stopped loving others solely for their “perceived value” to our lives, moral decay would be uprooted by selfless love for the body.

Steve DeNeff said in a recent sermon, “Love someone not for what is in them, you love someone for what is in you.” In other words, to love as Christ loves means that you’ve made a decision to love within the bond of covenant. DeNeff said that one of the main causes of divorce is not that people have given up on marriage, it’s that they’ve “given up on an ideal.” Until we learn how to love from what [or who] is in us, we will never truly love from the inner courts of God’s temple. Love is not about what I can get out of the relationship, it’s about how I can give myself to the relationship. Look at the Cross, and you will see the most magnificent display of selfless love.

I recently had the privilege of listening to Francis Chan when he spoke at Central Wesleyan Church. One takeaway I had from his insight was that to truly live as a disciple for Christ, we must live dangerously. If you’re comfortable in your life, taking no risks, winning no one to Christ, how are you a disciple? Every biblical character lived a dangerous, faith-filled life—and God showed up in miraculous ways every time! We can feel the earth tremble, and miracles will happen—but only when we actually do something that warrants such intervention. Such supernatural intervention will not happen by clinging to our individual Savior. We see God’s magnificence when we live lives of risk for Christ, when we don’t give up on our marriages, when we use our gifts and talents for the edification of the body, when we decide to love as Christ loves. Most importantly, we must raise our hands proudly and declare and proclaim that we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, as the Lord and Savior of all.

Challenge: Read and contemplate the beginning of each New Testament letter. What is God saying to you?

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