Contemporary Christianity – Part 4
Posted by Jose Philip on April 29, 2016
Follow me as I follow Christ: Walking in the Light, together
I go to church so that I can feel good. I go to church and am part of a worshipping community so that my needs will be met. That, if I may, is the true disposition of countless Christians as they meet week after week. Worship, fellowship, small groups, prayer meetings, almost anything done in the name of Christ has to deliver the goods: self-fulfillment. I am not sure how many of us realize that we are actually short-changing ourselves in the process. Thinking about spiritual formation, particularly prayer, we often forget that as God’s family and Christian community, when we come to pray, we are also the answer to someone else’s prayer. We have lost that perspective, and we are poorer for that. In his book Living Church, John Stott said something very important which we will do well to pay attention to,
“The Church lies at the very centre of the eternal purpose of God … His purpose, conceived in eternity past, [is] being worked out in history, […] to be perfected in future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build his Church, that is, to call out of the world a people for his own glory” (Stott, 2007, 19-20).
God did not intend for us to be alone. He is Trinity, and he created us to flourish in community. This, I believe, will be our prized possession when we commit to walk in the light, together. If we walk in the light says John, we will have fellowship with God and man (1 John. 1:7).
In a paper, reflecting on the way they did church in his village in Mongolia, a student of mine came to the conclusion that since most of the churches in his hometown were planted by missionaries from Korea, “… [as] first generation leaders […] to think of living as Christians and being a disciple of Christ is to do everything our Korean missionaries did”. Yes, there is a place for us to recover what Paul said, “follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1), but if we do so uncritically, our fellowship will be about becoming clones of each other, and not children of our Father in heaven. The call to follow “me” presupposes the commitment to walk in the light.
As followers of Jesus Christ we must nurture a healthy appetite for transparency. Discipleship is impossible without discipline, and discipline demands openness. One of the dominant problems in most urban churches is church discipline. There is little or no space for church discipline. Here is what one pastor said when asked why he was not in favour of church discipline: “There is no point because if I do, then they will just leave this church and go somewhere else”. Discipline is never easy, and to be candid, the reason why pastors shy away from disciplining their flock is the pointlessness of it all. How are we going to wash one another’s feet, so to speak, and serve to sanctify one another if we don’t create space for each other? We need to nurture a healthy appetite to be open to one another under the Lord.
You should be looking at me intently to see if I am following Christ. When I am, you must do your best to follow me as I follow him. But when I am not walking in his ways, you must not take your eyes off me you must admonish me so as to encourage me to pursue Christ. That is what Paul was actually saying to the Corinthian church in his first letter to them. He was opening his heart to them, and inviting them to look into his life. He was not asserting his supremacy over them. He did not need to be commended to them. His life was an open book so that he could say to them, ‘follow me as I follow Christ’ (1 Cor. 9; 11, 2 Cor. 3).
To call people to follow us as we follow Jesus does not require moral perfection. It requires humility. Paul did not walk around with his head in the clouds. In his letter to the Philippians, he wrote,
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12-14).
The Christian community will not be able to call the world to consider its moral standard because we do not have the moral resolve to hold one another accountable. The church is the salt of the earth, she is a light unto the world; she must take her place on the hill. We must learn to walk in the light, together.
Losing to find, dying to live and living to reign
Human beings are created to reign. “And let them rule…”, so God decreed when he created humankind (Gen. 1:26-27). Sin destroyed everything, and because of human sin, death now reigns (Rom. 5). That, however, is not how things will end. Redemption restores our ability to reign. Yes, death reigns because of sin, but in one man, Christ Jesus, we are restored to reign in life. Jesus’ invitation is for us to come to him and receive fullness of life (John. 10:10).
How would you like to live your life on a treadmill? Some of us appreciate the health benefits associated with using a treadmill frequently. Even so, I have yet to meet someone who is thrilled at the suggestion of having to live his entire life on a treadmill. No one likes constant action, yet that’s how we live life. We long for satisfaction, yet we define who we are by what we do. Living unsatisfied lives is the result of having chosen to define who we are by what we do. The hands can only give our hearts what it does not want – constant action. But it does not end there. Even when we are satisfied (with what we have accomplished), we are not satisfied with being satisfied once, are we? We want to be permanently satisfied. Satisfaction is something given to us and so is permanence, neither of which can be gained on our own. This tells us that the world is desperately looking for help, and we must acknowledge our predicament if we are to find an answer to our problem. Jesus alone says to the world, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mat. 11:28-29). Unless we, as followers of Jesus, commit ourselves to learn from Jesus, humanity has no hope. But when we live for His sake, and for the gospel, we will be salt and light in a decaying and dark world as He commissioned us.