November 26, 2014.
As we finish our five part study on the church of Christ, I hope these devotionals have been helpful to you, whether you are inside our fellowship or not. Usually it is best to go to the source when looking for information about a certain group and it is certainly always good to reevaluate our where we stand on issues and why we take such a stance. I believe that this type of self reflection, along with prayer and meditation, can greatly guide our path and bless our future, walking only in the will of the Lord. This is how we are going to conclude these lessons, with a look at our future and what it should hold. Again, I want to stress that I am a firm believer in our movement, but I think we need to revive some of the early characteristics of the Restoration Movement if we want to continue to grow and, more importantly, follow Christ.
1. Remembering who we are.
“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
(I Corinthians 1:10-13)
Our movement was founded on a call for all Christians to come out of denominations and form one church, the church of Jesus Christ, which all the saved were already members of. It was not a movement to start a new denomination, but one to unify Christianity by relying on the scriptures to provide all life and godliness, dropping the creeds and teaching of men that kept us separate from one another. What a wonderful movement. Over the years, we have allowed ourselves to get comfortable and let pride slip in to where in some cases it is hard to recognize the place we came from. Our history is not always accurately taught, and this leads our children to make statements about our movement that simply aren’t true. I wonder sometimes what our founders would do if they walked into one of our congregations today. Perhaps they would be pleasantly surprised. Or perhaps their message would get rejected on the spot.
If our future is to be healthy and thriving, I think what we are going to have to do is remember who we are and where we came from. We need to remember our original call, a call that is founded in the words of Jesus’s high priestly prayer found in John 17. A call to be unified, not divided. A call to be a family. A call to be one, with the bible as our only guide. “We are Christians only, but not the only Christians.” The purpose was not to separate ourselves from the greater Christian community, but rather to unite the greater Christian community, inviting all to join the movement of a purer form of Christianity. Is that who we are today?
I am certainly poised to help us lead a revival of our movement. I think the time is coming, as a growing urgency to reevaluate why we do the things we do is upon us, which will hopefully lead us closer to the Christianity that was found in the first century. It is my prayer that we can bring this about, uniting the Faith by riding ourselves of man-made doctrines that work to divide and surviving on the pure words of the New Testament. May His will ever be done.
2. Renewing our biblical study.
“The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.”
In the golden age of the churches of Christ (around the 50’s and 60’s), we were known as a people who knew the bible. We knew the bible because that is what we lived by, not simply trusting in the word of man from the pulpit, but studying for ourselves just as the people in Berea did when Paul and Silas came to them. We have been taught to not to just take man’s word for it, but search and study the scriptures to see if what they are teaching is biblical. I believe this to have been one of our strongest assets.
However, it seems as the golden age has dwindled, less and less of our number know their bible like they once did. Why? I don’t think this was intentional, but rather the children of the golden age and the generation beyond didn’t need to know their bible as well. They were taught by the giants who came before them. They were well trained in proof texting and concepts of the church rather than looking to find out on their own. Now, obviously this isn’t the case for every one, as there still are a great number of our younger fellowship who indeed know the bible very well, and I am vey grateful for that. But I don’t think it is as it once was.
What must we do? Revive our bible study! We need to once again obtain a thirst for the word of God. The bible should be on our minds daily, as we set aside time to read and study from it. This is important, not as an obligation, but rather as a growing desire to mature in the Faith. We need to once again take an unbiased look at the bible and gleam the spiritual truths that come from it, always searching and testing to see if what we are doing is indeed scriptural. If we are walking on blind faith of what our church teaches, then we are walking a most dangerous line, a line that is likely to snap when it comes under pressure of those who challenge our beliefs. I’ve been there. I’ve been to the point where I would get so irrationally mad at something someone said in challenge to something that I had always held to be true. But you know what? There were times that I would get mad, and then realize… they were right. And that was frustrating. But when someone else is right, and I am wrong biblically speaking, it is time for me to change. We need to test everything we do. Someone challenging our beliefs is not necessarily a bad thing.
“but test everything; hold fast what is good.”
(I Thessalonians 5:21)
3. Reviving our mission.
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Finally, I believe it is time to reignite our mission laid our by the Lord Jesus Christ. The church of the New Testament understood the point of Christianity. They understand the great gift of love that Jesus had came to bring. They understood the news they had, and they went out to share it with the world in the face of brash persecution. Why? Because it was really. It mattered. Today I believe we focus more on keeping our children in the church as opposed to seeking and saving the lost. Again, teaching our children and training them up in the proper way is a very good thing, and very biblical. But when we only focus on this, we are not holding to our mission. If we were carrying out the great commission (I am very much talking to myself here as well), then I don’t think we would have to worry about our children as much. They would see us living the gospel as opposed to just hearing us teach it. Actions speak louder in words. I believe more of our children would actually be converted as opposed to just having their faith handed to them. Christianity is not about what you do three times a week, but how you live your life. Others are watching, I promise, for better or for worse.
It is time American Christianity had a revival. It is time we get away from the fake gospel of peace and prosperity, of consistent pleasantries and unbelievable smiles. It is time we teach Christianity for what it is, and not promise a life of ease or enjoyment. Christianity is hard, but there is a joy that passes all understanding that comes with it. This is not the joy that we see in the world, nor the smiles we see on entertainers. This is the joy that comes through contentment in Christ, regardless of situation. I think that our movement is poised to lead this revival, say the third great awakening. But we need to fix some things before we are going to operate with any efficiency.
Do I believe this can happen? Absolutely! But it is going to take a joint effort in the spirit of unity. This is not going to be easy, but you know how the saying goes. If something is easy, it probably isn’t worth it. No movement that changed the world in some way was always easy. It took hard work and dedication. I fully believe that it is possible, as I know that it is the will of God that we all be unified. It is the will of God that we all walk in His Spirit. It is His will that we show the world His glory. May we ever, ever be able to do this. We can make this happen.
So, who’s in?
Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 4, Mark 1, John 1, Acts 17.
Let’s start a revival.