A Pastor once told of being chauffeured to a speaking engagement by a cab driver who had been sent to pick him up. The cabbie gave his testimony and waxed eloquent about Jesus Christ until the pastor asked him what church he was a member of. He replied, “I have church right here in my car. I’ve got preachers on the radio and congregants in the passenger seat.” In other words, he hadn’t stepped foot into a church in years. The cabbie’s situation highlights how badly we’ve misunderstood the role of the Christian community in God’s plan for our growth in Jesus Christ. The fact is, you can’t be the kind of Christian you’re meant to be without people. You can’t be the kind of Christian you’re meant to be without real relationships in a local church family.
Much of our growth in holiness comes in the context of relationships. In Ephesians 4 Paul instructs the Christians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Did you catch that? Paul tells us that walking in a manner worthy of our calling (that is to say, holy living) happens in relationships. God isn’t interested in you growing in patience and gentleness toward yourself! He wants to grow in you a love for others that helps you bear with them. He wants you to love yourself less and love others more.
God’s plan for your life is far bigger than your individual salvation. He has saved you into a people that are His own, people who are eager to do good (Titus 2:14). He has made you a living stone in a spiritual house (I Peter 2:5). He has given each believer gifts of grace for the edification of the church body (I Corinthians 12). He has called you to love your enemies and embrace those who are different from you (Ephesians 2:11-22). None of that can happen solely in your car, your office, or your family.
God has given the gift of other brothers and sisters in the local church who can spur us on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). In turn, we have an obligation to do the same for them. We weren’t meant to simply pursue holiness alone in our rooms. We were meant to grow in holiness together as the body of Christ
-Adapted from an article by Michael McKinley
Among Jesus’ last discourses before his arrest and crucifixion was the story about a wealthy man who entrusted part of his wealth to one of his servants with the understanding that the servant would invest it wisely while the employer was gone on business. But the servant made the mistake of looking around him and comparing himself with other servants who had been given more than he was given. When his employer returned and asked for an accounting, the servant replied, “I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.” These were the words the “one talent” servant used in an attempt to justify his inaction to his master. Each of us can identify with his motivation. Fear has frozen many of us in our steps. “What if we make a bad decision?” “What if we lost what little we have?” “What if we fail?”
It isn’t difficult to understand why he hid his small satchel of money. But in spite of it all this master still replied, “You wicked and lazy servant!” We are tempted to think the master over-reacted. We find it easier to sympathize with the servant. But Jesus plainly teaches us that the servant was disobedient, that he evaded his basic responsibility, that he failed to take any risks whatever.
We have been called by God to take risks. This is not a wild and crazy thing to do. It is not an immature reaction or a momentary emotional response. It is a normal part of our walk as Christians. They are “risks” only as we look at them through eyes conditioned to see conventional wisdom and power. But our Master is not limited to conventional wisdom and power. He is unlimited in power, and “faith” is our recognition of this fact as applied to every area of life. We are asked to take risks with our families by daring to lead them in ways that others would not. We are asked to take risks on the job by demonstrating attitudes that no one else exhibits. In fact, we are asked to take risks in every area of life by making decisions and choices or exhibiting conduct out of touch with our culture but consistent with our calling as children of God. Don’t lose your nerve. God loves it when we step into risky territory. It’s why we’re here.
It continues to happen: another newborn baby was discovered in a trash-filled dumpster in central Phoenix. The baby was found by two homeless men foraging for breakfast. And while this story was coming across the news wires another abandoned newborn was found in a toilet at Disneyworld with only its head above water. These are not just isolated acts performed by demented people. They are happening with uncomfortable regularity among all classes of our people. ”What message does this send when you put a child in a dumpster?” asked one authority. “Is a child worth the same as a Styrofoam cup?” These chilling stories continue to rattle the conscience of a society becoming known for its low view of human life. But it’s only one piece of a larger picture. In this picture we also see innocent people killed every day in Phoenix through “drive by” shootings. In this picture we also see daily abortions sought for no other reason than that the unborn children were an inconvenience to their mothers. Other pieces of this picture are also coming into view, such as the establishment of suicide and various forms for euthanasia as “rights” which all of us should be able to practice without guilt.
America has long stood in silent bewilderment as the various third world countries slaughter their own people (Sudan comes to mind here). But there is only a short step between where we are and where they are. The road has already been paved that leads us to become a national slaughterhouse of the innocent. I am talking about our indifference to the things of God. These horrible things we wish would go away are only the natural fruit of spiritually indifferent living. It is not a social problem. It isn’t even a moral problem. It is a spiritual problem. God has informed us that we are made in His image and likeness for a purpose: that the dignity and sacred nature of our lives would be forever established. It is predictable, then, that our indifference to God should be followed by our indifference to His sacred creatures. Ideas have consequences after all, and this idea is producing the gravest of all consequences.
It should be obvious to all of us that God’s people have their work cut out for them. If the growing indifference to the sacred is to be turned around then we must all present ourselves for service. This is not a time to be passive and lazy. Christians must support their churches by their regular presence, their talents, and their treasure and be prepared to be a voice of clarity in the midst of a miserable swamp of demonic ideas. We must be equally as vocal about the things of faith as the enemies of righteousness are about their lack of it. Maybe, just maybe, God will spare this nation in spite of its abominable actions. But if He does, it will only be because His people are being faithful in their mission.
I will never forget the statement of my brother-in-law after I had just purchased a car from him. He was preparing to go and live in Europe and had just disposed of his last major piece of property. He said, “What a wonderful feeling to be unburdened!” There was no particular spiritual philosophy behind that statement; just a relief that his last major possession had been disposed of. From an American point of view that truly is an odd way of looking at things. We always seem to identify ourselves on the basis of what and how much we own. We continually define our self worth in terms of dollars and cents.
But the Word of God mercilessly attacks such a philosophy of life on at least two fronts: 1) First of all, because of a terrible tendency toward a self-imposed blindness. In the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21) we see this tendency carried to the extreme as we hear the selfish, miserly speech of the rich farmer dotted with “I” and “my,” “me” and “mine.” Jesus had to remind His audience that “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 2) The second problem with defining ourselves by our possessions has to do with dependence upon God. There appears to be a relationship between trust and poverty. It is not a necessary one. There is no spiritual law that says a person can’t be wealthy and faithful at the same time. But the two definitely seem to fight each other in practice. The Apostle Paul learned about this the hard way when he experienced a weakness in the flesh about which he prayed fervently. He was told by the Lord that His (God’s) power “is made perfect in weakness.” That turned on some lights in Paul’s mind so that he could ultimately say, “I delight in weaknesses….for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
All of this has a bearing upon churches too. We church leaders also fall prey to the temptation to define success by buildings built, record attendances and great offerings. But what about those of us who lead smaller flocks in little buildings? We must also understand that our relationship with God is not at all diminished by limited physical resources. The presence and power of God is there wherever God’s people assemble. We hope you are aware of that each time you drive your car toward our parking lot at CCF.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship