What is the church and it’s purpose, what is God’s grand design, and what is our calling in Christ?
Talking about those questions often is muddled by all the either/or, false dichotomies touted by various voices in the Body of Christ who want:
- the Living Word without the authority of His written Word
- grace without transformation
- relationship without discipleship
- fellowship without accountability
- favor without sacrifice
It often seems that these either/or false dichotomies are rooted in the prevailing existential, post-modern perspective of this age – which heavily influences many Christians and seems to stunt us from growing up and reaching out.
This produces a very self-content, “I’m OK, you’re OK” mentality that seldom breaks out of its insular cocoons.
With them, Jesus seems little more than a friend with benefits.
I am 100% committed to the life of Christ in me and among us – and enjoying all the benefits He provides.
But in our fellowships, we also are 100% committed to seeing Christ outwardly expressed through us – in those who are lost, in our culture, and in all spheres of human endeavor.
Some, however, are so focused on Christ in them and among them that they have lost all sense of engagement – and so they and their churches no long redeem lives, history or the world around them.
For us, though, the passion of Christ’s life in us and among us naturally includes a very outward component.
The Jesus we know not only lives among us, but also is expressed through us – individually and collectively – to a world and a culture He so dearly loves and seeks to redeem.
I don’t know how others got their either/or, insular, self-focused perspective. Yet every time I encountered it, it troubles me because I see lack of health and wholeness.
My hope is that the Body of Christ can affirm Christ, while also affirming the things He calls us to do in fulfillment of the Great Commission – which is us extending His life and His Kingdom to all aspects of His creation.
It is not either/or – and it is not about me.
Jesus in me is the fount of life.
Jesus among us is the source of community and fellowship.
But Jesus through us should be the healthy expression and outgrowth of His authentic life in us and among us.
If He is not being expressed through us, then I seriously wonder who it is that we claim lives in us.
Great post! The overly zealous inward focus on Christ within individuals and whole churches that neglects to express Christ outwardly is what I believe to be one of the core issues that is crippling the church. Thanks for expressing that more clearly!
the Living Word without the authority of His written Word
grace without transformation
relationship without discipleship
fellowship without accountability
favor without sacrifice
Your points above could easily describe a parable in Matthew 13:24-30. ‘Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.’ Then Jesus told his disciples the following, ‘…The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity…’, Matthew 13:41-43.
However, until we see Him face to face, lets be diligent to make our calling and election sure. “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” 2Tim.2:25,26 And, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” 2Tim.2:19
Great post. I really agree with the dichotomies listed. The only instant transformation is the Spirit that now comes alive and dwells in us, but the transformation of ourselves comes through discipline, forgiveness, and learning more of Him. Another thing I have learned in my travels (which you know well) is that sacrificing is not a one-time thing. To sacrifice everything at one time meant moving. We moved and my husband drove 2 hours through rush hour to work and two hours through rush hour home from work each day. That was the sacrifice. It was all outward behaviors. I’ve heard the term “dying to self” as a way of self sacrificing, although in reality it was very self focused; instead of submitting and sacrificing everything to align my life to His and have Christ shine through me, it meant submitting to specific people and not the Lord so we were sacrificing, but it was so that feathers were not ruffled, it wasn’t for the betterment of the Kingdom. To actually die to my wants and needs would mean to speak up when something isn’t right, instead of being encouraged to keep quiet in very manipulative ways. The living Word is what brings us back to the truth. Everything is based on that, we are drawn to Him by that Word, we first knew of Him through that Word or by those who knew the Word and shared it with us; yet those who discredit it as being less than a Living book go against everything that the Lord has taught us. If the spirit in us tells us that the Word is not alive and is not as important to our faith as the spirit is, well than that is not the Holy Spirit speaking. Thank you for the blog and especially today’s post. Good stuff Jim!
BTW, I follow and recommend your blog (folks can click on your “name” atop your comment). I relate to how you’ve been facing the health challenges you discuss there. I’m going in for a heart operation next week – which the doctors say should turn out just fine. I am at peace about it, but still, sometimes it just gets tiring…
Thanks Jim, I will surely be thinking and praying for you and the heart operation. It sounds very serious, thank the Lord that it has all passed through His hands already. It does get tiring, I completely relate! Sometimes health feels like a race with hurdle after hurdle. I hope this will be just what you need and your last hurdle for a while. In Him, Jackie
Interesting. I have encountered those false dichotomies but more so framed in the reverse manner. So I guess the trend you are seeing is a reactionary response. Many groups and individuals plowed on in a certain direction for years or generations but did not see the fruit they thought they would so they’ve gone back to the drawing board or got caught up in something else.
Balance or at least being seasonally adjusted is a noble and necessary challenge, at the same time it is easy for us to judge ourselves and our friends as being balanced while others are not. I’m yet to encounter a church that openly claims they are cherry picking the life and mission of god within and amongst them.
There are no shortage of internet prophets claiming their stream is balanced, and from their position of authority they can judge all others accurately.
Personally I think we’d be in better shape if there was enough humility for communities and leaders to just admit they do some things well and others not so well… so balance is only seen from a birds eye view of the body. Meaning there are significant learnings to be had from people we initially think have nothing to offer. Identifying issues in belief or practice is one thing, dismissing the value of different expressions is another… which is unfortunately what your above language lends itself to. ie that you and your crew are 100% committed whereas these others seemingly aren’t according to your measure which just so happens to line up with gods measure i would assume?
It is much easier to focus on “Christ in me and Christ among us” than it is “to seeing Christ outwardly expressed through us.” The challenge is that the latter requires us to be different, stand alone, and face the reality of the world not liking us very much. “In and among” allows me to be a member of the “in crowd.” “Outwardly expressing” forces me to stand out and be counted.
Christianity as a club is attractive. Being vilified for allowing the Savior to express Himself through us is frightening… at *best*!
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