I would love nothing more than to call every person that likes to attend church regularly a Christian. But the truth of the matter, there’s no way I could qualify ANYONE at church to be a Christian… It’s a big pill to swallow! We can only pray.
I read today John 6-7. Jesus said that we were to “eat of his flesh and drink his blood”… That turned many of his would-be disciples away. Many liked him. Many believed in him. But this standard was hard to accept, and after he qualified his followers with that statement – only 12 remained… one of which would still betray Him. And I think that’s a good point to take to heart. The term “Christian” means more than those who “believe Jesus” as opposed to Allah, or being Hindu, or Buddhist. Unfortunately in America it’s kind of a label slapped loosely on people; Republican, anti-abortionist, white, southern, conservative, Christian, anti-gay, anti-rap music, etc… It can describe a person who only attends church on Easter and Christmas, who swears like a sailor and is a bigot, but would consider himself a Christian with the same level of respect as if the Star-Spangled banner was being played during a baseball game: To take a few minutes out of the year and stand with their hats off and the right hand on your chest.
First I saw a tremendous determination on Jesus’ part to let the people know exactly who He was and what He wanted. He is preaching to the people, and they get hungry – so He feeds them (all 5000 men + wives and kids). Then they want to make Him king by force and put Him up against the Roman empire – so He blatantly lets them know they missed the point. It’s like He was saying, “Hello! I am the God who loves you and wants to take care of you! And I care more about you than the things of this world, I need you to understand you need me to LIVE. Like you need bread and water, you need Me. My words. Even the greatest miracle recorded in Hebrew history – how they were fed with bread from heaven across the desert for 40 years – doesn’t mean a blessed thing. You need to LIVE, and that through ME.”
So He went from doing a miracle to placing an abrupt hand on their forehead when they were just seeking Him for what they can get out of it for themselves. And I think that’s one level of “church-going” we are all too familiar with: Going to church and serving Christ to see what He can do for you. How He can give me all I want. How the music at church can make ME happy. How the ministries at church can feed ME. It’s a very shallow and self centered kind of church attendance that is the most popular – but completely misses the point of what Christianity IS.
Christianity, after all, was the term given to those who years after Jesus’ death and resurrection looked so much like Him they brought Him glory. They lived like He did, talked like He did, but most importantly: Loved like He did. Makes you ask yourself, “Am I a Christian? Not ‘do I go to church’ or ‘do I believe in God’ – but am I Christ-like to where others would see a Risen Savior LIVING in me?”
And when Church is really a group of Christians united – not a social club, not an “insider’s things”, not a “mega” structure of feel-good Sunday morning experiences, but a network of Christ followers uniting to powerfully reflect the hands and feet of God to the world…. That’s when the Name of Christ will be respected in our communities, and we’ll see many people touched.
I am praying through “Seek God for Your City 2010”. And the points from yesterday and today have been hitting me square in the head. If we prayed with an outward focus on everything we do inside the church, then maybe church could be more than just an optional Sunday morning activity that some prefer, while others sleep in.
- That Christian ministries would be prayed out, empowered, funded, and designed to increase the impact of local churches in the community. That the ministries would be focused on loving those who are hurting and lost, so that it would benefit those who really need it.
- That believers could see gathering on Sunday morning as more than just a “to do” list or at best, a pleasant experience – but rather what it really is: a taste of what it’s like to finally go home. That it’s how God let’s us get a glimpse of what our destiny is when we come as loved sons and daughters and celebrate together before Christ’s throne.
- That we may be fused as one according to God’s purpose, to bear His beauty.
His Word says of CHRISTIANS that “by the rivers [of living water, His Spirit as defined by Jesus in John 7] will grow all kinds of trees for food [the REAL Christians]. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail… and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.” (Ezekiel 47:9,12 paraphrased). Jesus is the life-giving river to the world. We are to be trees that feed and heal the nations. We are to be sources of healing to those who are broken, hopeless, and hurt. That’s who Jesus was on earth. That’s who Jesus is in His resurrected glory. Is that who YOU are? If you so freely declare, “I am a Christian”, would those who don’t know God and don’t live for Him see YOU as a nourishing, healing source?Don’t we see that NATIONS are supposed to be restored and healed through the work of the CHURCH as CHRISTIANS follow the teachings of JESUS? Don’t you see that WE hold the hope to Haiti, and Iraq, and Ethiopia, and every other poverty-stricken country of hurting, broken people? But how can we ever even fathom NATIONS if we can’t even positively impact our homes and our workplace? If our church isn’t even impacting the families of houses that live down the block and down the street?