It struck me afresh recently that many in our churches may be missing a very crucial element of Christianity.
They know the answers, they’ve prayed the prayer, they go to church, they live good lives, they may even witness (or they know that they should), they have grown to enjoy Christian gatherings, they see the emptiness of the world’s alternatives, they can explain the gospel, they look the part, they serve the church, they teach the children, they give to the collection, they make sacrificial decisions, they pray and they mean it and on it goes. So much Christianity wrapped up in one life, but yet, what is missing?
Christianity is not religion, nor is it ecclesiology, nor is it church participation, nor moral and ethical living, nor family tradition, nor schedule commitments, nor participation in a social gathering, nor any number of other things people seem to make it. Christianity is about being in relationship with Christ.
When I first met my future wife and then returned home to England I spoke about her to folks here. I remember one particular conversation. I was enthusing about the person who I thought I might actually get to marry. He was melancholic about the whole concept of relationships. I shared information about her. He shared complaints about the whole structure of dating and courting and marriage in his experience. I talked about her. He had yet more to say about the “institution” of romance.
I suppose you could observe that we were talking about the same thing. The difference was that I was captivated by a person, he was not.
I wonder how many in the church today are ticking the boxes and we all assume they are safely in the family of God, but actually they are not. One of the most overlooked verses in all of Scripture is in 1Cor.16 where Paul states that “if any man does not love Christ, he is accursed.” Perhaps we should be far slower to assume people are already born again based on the indicators of their confession, conduct and church participation. Perhaps we should be looking for that delight that comes only from someone who knows someone special. And perhaps in our preaching we should look for ways to shine the light of the Word beyond the peripheral issues, through the created “christian” structures that people hold to be their faith, and show the empty place where Christ should be captivating the heart and changing everything from the inside out.
3 thoughts on “Shine the Light on the Core Issue”
Amen and Amen. Lord, forgive us for forgetting you even as we chat about you – as if you weren’t in the room.
Thank you Peter, and well illustrated! I also wonder about many who are doing the religious activities but seem devoid of a passionate love for the Lord. As you were sharing with your friend you couldn’t help but speak about the person you had come to know and longed to know more. It seems to me that this is the core problem with many who call themselves Christians but who have no passion for Bible study or evangelism. It is those who have a joy filled pursuit of Jesus in the Word and a longing to share the One Whom they have come to know is the true source of vibrant Christianity. I have found that the only sustained evangelistic outreach is done by those who are so excited about their ongoing relationship with their Lord that they could not help but speak of Him. It is no problem at all to talk about the ONE they Love. For them Christianity is not about what they can’t do or have to do, but about the Person for whom they have sacrificed many good and legitimate pursuits for the sake of pursuing the prize. I do love the picture Paul paints in Philippians 3 of his own pursuit after Christ. It is as if Paul is the master of a sailing vessel in pursuit of another vessel which would become his prize if captured. He speaks of throwing over board all that cargo and the things which were going to be gain for him in order to lighten the load and make his ship lighter to lessen the drag against the hull and gain a little more speed in order to capture the prize. This passionate pursuit of Jesus, longing to spend time with Him and having others come to know Him becomes the goal of our lives. Not just as preachers but for all those who have come to see the all surpassing value of knowing Jesus as our Prize.
Thanks again, Peter. Your sight is always a source of encouragement. Steve
Thanks Lance and Steve, much appreciated encouragement!