CHECKLISTS AND CHECKLISTS

1.Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess, be Baptized (check). 2. Acapella Singing (check). 3. Congregational Autonomy (check). 4. Elders (check). 5. That Which Every Joint Supplies, the Proper Working of Each Individual Part (       ).

Ephesians as the “church” epistle supports the 5th identification on our checklist above (Ephesians 4:16). You and I will decide if there will be a check and, if so, how big a check Jesus will place in the box. The elementary matters of 1-4 are fairly easy to affirm (though there really is more to them than is sometimes understood),however the fifth consideration on the list asks for more; relates to how well we practice connected, united, common purpose body/family service.

A question is then what are my niches? Hopefully, we all have more than one. With my involvement in mind, if the level of my church commitment to service were transferred to a spot with the Hilltoppers, what would the sports writers say and how well would the team fare considering the value of my contribution to the whole? Looking at this participation principle from a spiritual point of view, how fittingly am I described by Paul’s statement regarding my ability to suffer and rejoice with other members of the body (I Cor. 12:26)?

Okay, I understand that you and I are human and thus saddled with limitations hindering us from perfect performance. However, Jesus, the builder of the church, did not have the Spirit speak of expected relationships without His having some expectation that these relationships would be more than puny.

I also know that Rome was not built in a day. We are all works in progress; improvement comes with time. Also, progress involving a group can be messy at times. Therefore, the question isn’t whether or not we have arrived at perfection, rather it is a question asked about if we are consistently taking the next step. Is there movement? What tangible progress is evident in my life and in the life of the congregation?

A local congregation is expected by God to provide an environment conducive to growth. Individual Christians are expected to take advantage of this and grow. Even if the congregation’s environment is not helping me as much as I think it should, my responsibility before God remains. There is no way to escape my duty and privilege as a Christian to do the best I can to make things better in the Kingdom.

How does my “checklist” look? Is is just a checklist of outward behaviors or does it address my spirit and its ongoing quest for Christ-likeness? Who has made my checklist, me and my selfish, unambitious attempts to place my “commitments” in a rather small box, or Jesus who wants to own me?

OMMM, A “MANTRA” FOR EFFECTIVE CHRISTIANITY

OMMM, not really a mantra, but an acrostic to pursue successful Christianity.

OBJECTIVE (needing to be objectified), CHRIST-LIKENESS (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 2:5; Gal. 2:20).

MOTIVATION, JESUS (Jn. 14:15, 23; I Cor. 5:14-15).

MATERIAL, SCRIPTURE (II Tim. 3:16-17; Jn. 17:17)

METHOD(S), CHRIST-IMITATED (Acts 1:1; I Cor. 11:1).

These create a synergistic effect that is powerful in the most extreme way. Jesus, however, must be the key in this energizing of Christianity. He must shape it, define it, motivate it, supply it, lead it, and serve as its model in every way!
This will work if we are willing to make the commitment. It is in fact, how Christianity is supposed to function (Rom. 8:29; I Cor. 2:10-16; II Cor. 3:18; Gal. 2:20, 4:19; Eph. 3:16-17; 4:11-16; Phil. 2:5; Col. 1:24-29; I Pet. 3:15, etc.).

THOUGHTS ON THE CELEBRATION OF JESUS’ BIRTH

For those who believe in The historical reality of Jesus, the fact that He was born comes as no great revelation. Toward the end of every year, this reality gets a special boost as the subject becomes so unavoidable even the most ardent skeptic finds no escape. From the endless stream of increasingly cheesy movies to majestic, solemn cathedral presentations, Jesus’ birth hits much of the world right between the eyes!

This poses an interesting and awkward dilemma for many of us who ardently believe in the birth of the Christ. Those of us holding a restorationists point of view seek to take a fresh look at the nature of Christianity and revisit the revival of a completely biblical point of view in all we do.

On the matter of celebrating the birth of Christ, may of us may therefore feel somewhat  conflicted. We don’t want to throw cold water on efforts to honor the birth of Jesus. Nevertheless, we correctly declare that we neither know when Jesus was born nor have authority to bind any particular day for the celebration of His birth.

In this quest for biblical authority, however, we must not inadvertently slight the amazing fact of the incarnation. As with any biblical truth, we are privileged to praise and celebrate all God’s blessings any day of the year. Jesus was born and that is most worthy of praise and celebration at any and all times!

This post is therefore not another call to put Christ back in Christmas. My sights are set on much more expansive territory. I’m calling for a movement to put Christ back in Christianity.

THE DANGER OF REDUCTIONISM IN CHRISTIANITY

A very unfortunate, but common, religious phenomenon is the gradual erosion of robust, rich, biblical conclusions leaving a reduced content inadequate to support truth. The bankruptcy created by this lazy reductionism disillusions those who find pseudo “reasons” inadequate. Additionally, such dilatory exegetical folly lends apparent support to those who would dismiss truth. Therefore, one of the most destructive forces against the acceptance of correct conclusions is an inadequate argument.
I Peter 3:15 reveals the solution needed to preserve substance and prevent a destructive slide into insufficiently supported assertions.
When our hearts give Jesus the most privileged place, our apologies have the force of Christ-likeness. We then share in the power of His complete, compelling, truthful embodiment of His Father’s will. Only in this way can we insure the vibrancy of Christianity. Reductionism cannot exist where Jesus lives!

THE MATURITY OF NEW COVENANT RULES

The Old Covenant is in many ways, but not in all, more elementary than the New. Therefore, we encounter more lists, more ceremony, and more regulations to restrain immature conduct.
The New Covenant is developed more along the lines of mature, abstract principles. By its nature it is a more “grown up” revelation (Heb. 5:12-14; 6:1-3; Gal. 3:21-4:7; Eph. 4:13-16).
Nevertheless, it is not the case that the principles of the New Covenant do not allow for inferences both concrete and abstract. Mature thought is expected. Such thought allows Christians to draw conclusions that lead to well-developed, specific actions.
As with the human growth process, there comes a time when warnings about playing in the street would be rather ridiculous. That time does not, however, give less shape to life. Maturity carries with it much more responsibility.
For my friends who are eager to move away from rules. Please remember adults have lives of greater definition than do children The Bible does not need to provide lists to present truths that can be listed.

HELPING IN TODAY’S CULTURAL CLIMATE

Helping people in need is imminently biblical. This is not even open for any rational discussion. Nevertheless, at the risk of being completely misunderstood, I want to address a matter of priority that seems to need clarification. I enter this post with caution, trepidation, and uneasiness, yet enter I will.

Though I am usually well behind most folks when trends dawn on me, eventually awareness makes its way into my head. Of late, a shift towards what was once styled the “Social Gospel” strikes me as an emphasis making a comeback. In the company of this return, I also sense a growing ascetic spirit floating around.

I get it that our culture in America is significantly materialistic and I also realize the need to do regular self-analyses to discover if I have become possessed by my possessions. As a Christian, these are not small matters. The Bible has much to say in this area. However, I think I see a baby headed out the window with its bath water in this one.

Maybe I am simply justifying that I have stuff. I have not sold my stuff to feed and house the unfortunate, though I have spent considerable time and money helping people in need. Not only that, I do not believe such a virtual total divesting of my stuff is supposed to be the defining mark of my Christianity. I do not believe Jesus came primarily to feed people and make them well. He could have done both of these things to every person in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, but He did not. What He did do was preach and teach as many people as He could about matters tied to eternity.

Yes, we should share our blessings. A lack of compassion cannot walk in fellowship with the Good News about Jesus. Yet, the Great Commission is about salvation. Granted, compassion can and will open doors, but only the Gospel can open the doors of Hades to free its captives (Rev. 1:18). Well fed and housed lost people eventually die without Jesus (cf. Jn. 6:49).

I don’t intend to be guilted into a quick fix “Christianity” that either substitutes being kind for speaking a good word for Jesus or liquidating my possessions for proclaiming truth. I reiterate; Jesus saves! Churches are groups of people primarily in the business of growing in Christ-likeness so they may help the lost become saved.

I appreciate congregations, such as the one I attend, which have very well thought out assistance initiatives. But, pardon what may seem to some as mere self-justification, let Christians in their compassionate sharing be known without apology for talking to people about the Christ.

 

LABELING IN THE RELIGIOUS CONVERSATION

Labels are an interesting way to categorise things into groups. They are particularly interesting when used to define groups of people in religion. Some of the more common broad-brush terms are: liberal, legalist, and conservative. Like it or not, and some just refuse to acknowledge any proper use of labels, they are not without value. Religious labels may certainly be misused, but religious people are not homogenous, they are different and their differences mean some have more in common with some folks than with others.
Essentially, once a biblical center is discovered, religious people tend to either over do, under do, or do. They bind where God has not, loose where God has not, or adhere to what God has revealed. I realise the trick is to find the biblical center and that everyone seems feel they are there, nevertheless, beliefs differ and the Bible does not necessarily teach what any particular person thinks is right.
With the acknowledgement that labeling takes us into hazardous and often rancorous territory, we need to venture into its risky environs. However, I want to venture into an aspect of the discussion not often entertained. Believing there to be a biblical center, I propose that both liberalism and legalism exist for one or more of the following reasons: pride, selfishness, loving the praise of men, or ignorance. Walking with Jesus, on the other hand, is the result of loving Him more than self, caring more what He thinks than what others think, and knowing Him as a friend.
I’m not a fan of labels myself. They are commonly misunderstood, misused, and all too easily employed. Yet, they do have a place in religious discussion. If we will remember what they really mean and why those characterized by them fall into the groups they do, we can begin to have more honest discussions. The only question then is, can we handle the truth (Jn. 17:17)?