Taking It to the Streets
Growing in Christ
President Carter tells a story where a band of Christian witnesses came to an Amish settlement. Coming up to the first farmer they met, they asked him point-blank: “Brother, are you a Christian?” Rather than give them a flip answer, the man quietly went into the house and came out with a piece of paper with several names and addresses. “Here,” he said. “These are my neighbors, the people who know me best. Ask them if I am a Christian.”
It’s a wonderful thing to experience justification and realize that God has given you the lasting, eternal gift of salvation. But what now? If this is an incredible offer, a doorway leading to a thrilling and noble adventure, how can we now help expand it? It’s exciting when your candidate wins on Election Night. But now he or she must govern . . . and the new President, no doubts, hopes that the coalition of sixty-five million people who spoke with their ballots will now help implement the generous new agenda.
There’s a wonderful promise given in 1 John 2:1: If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. But now that Jesus has gone to bat for us, does He, in turn, have an advocate here in the world . . . in your state . . . in your town . . . in the company where you work among unsaved people? Are you and I Jesus’ effective ambassadors and spokespersons among people who need to share in our amazing discovery? Rick Warren observes in The Purpose-Driven Life: “To be a friend of God, you must care about all the people around you whom God cares about.”
How to grow in Christ. Growing in Jesus is actually no mystery. Any young man who has wooed a beautiful girl knows the key ingredients that grow a friendship. Time together is the key.
1. Bible study. New Christians who want to understand kingdom principles and articulate them clearly for others will study their Bibles and other solid Christian reading material weekly and even daily. Tony Evans, the dynamic pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, provides this biblical prescription in his book, The Victorious Christian Life: “It’s impossible to implement the Word without first becoming acquainted with it. You should begin by setting aside time each day to spend with your Bible. Many prefer early mornings, others chose the late evenings after the kids have gone to bed. The hour you select is not especially important. What counts is that you have made an appointment with God.” He admits with a sheepish smile: “The truth is, studying the Word is sometimes like eating vegetables. They don’t do a thing for your taste buds, but they’ll work wonders in your bloodstream.” The fact, however, is that the Bible is a book of unsurpassed beauty and stirring themes; the more we get into it, we will come to appreciate and revere its life-saving power. 2 Timothy 3:17: There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us (Message).
2. Prayer. We pray for many good reasons: seeking forgiveness, lifting up the needs and spiritual wants of friends, asking for God’s blessing upon the worldwide Body of Christ. Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6), which contained praise to the Father, support for the victory of heaven’s agenda, daily physical needs, a request for forgiveness, a plea for protection from Satan’s attacks, and a concluding affirmation of God’s position of loving authority over us.
But most of all, we pray simply to growing in Christ, to become deeper-thinking disciples who are in love with the Master. In The Meaning of Prayer, Harry Emerson Fosdick writes: “Prayer is neither chiefly begging for things, nor is it merely self-communion; it is that loftiest experience within the reach of any soul, communion with God.” You and I read enviously about great saints of God who seemed to spend hours each day in prayer; oftentimes, their secret is not that they are making great lists or articulating a myriad of details; they simply talk. Their minds wander and skip from one concern or joy to the next, and they simply stay in prayer mode, realizing that their friendly God doesn’t mind. Philippians 4:6: In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
3. Worship. Many church services now begin by greeting those who are joining in over the Internet! And when a Christian is sick, or many remote miles from a church, we can be thankful for a reliable modem. But the reality is that God’s community is invited to regularly meet together, to physically join together as a fellowship army, drawing strength and encouragement from one another. Ephesians 5:19, 20 reminds us: Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is difficult to summon up a heart-stirring anthem of praise when alone under your bedclothes. The author of Hebrews put a high premium on the efficacy of communal worship: Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching (10:24, 25).
If we want to be mature in the faith, with a Christian diet of “meat, not milk,” then unity involves being with the rest of the church. Ephesians 4 describes such ideals as unity in the faith and a built-up body of believers — meaningless metaphors if we deliberately isolate ourselves.
Consider this. How would our hurting world be transformed if there were multiplied millions of people who were just like Jesus? Now, we cannot all raise the dead and feed five thousand people at a time — but we can provide meals to a few. Jesus told life-changing stories; He prayed for enemies; He was generous and caring; He brought cheer to the downtrodden . . . all things we can do as well. Growing up in Christ means that we will become like Him and radiate hope and the saving gospel everywhere we can.
An agnostic woman rolled her eyes whenever passing by a certain neighborhood church. What a bunch of saps, she thought. Then several tragedies struck in quick succession: lost job, illness, divorce. Blushing and fearful, she crept over to the church seeking any possible help. Friendly members drew her into their small-group fellowship. The pastor’s weekly sermons gave her new hope. The music each weekend provided comfort. There was tuition assistance so her kid could stay in school. The church provided job-training lab modules; she soon enjoyed a higher-paying job. Helpful mechanics even tuned up her engine at no charge!
Admittedly, God’s people don’t seek out church as a replacement for Pep Boys — but it is the biblical ideal for the community of believers to be just such a safe and resourceful family!
View related article: Taking to the Streets
David B. Smith writes from California. (11 of 28) His web page is Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information. Biblebay