Pitfalls On Your Walk With Jesus – Part Four

As we draw this study to a close – let’s review what we have learned.

We are studying mistakes or pitfalls that many Christians fall into and thus destroy the potential that is available in them as believers. We have looked carefully at…

1> Allow yourself to be bitter against someone who has hurt or offended you

2> Use your time, your money, and your resources only for yourself and your needs

3> Spend little to no time with the Lord in solitude – just you and Him alone

4> Neglect reading the Scriptures (your Bible)

5> Defame others or misrepresent them or their work (especially fellow believers).

6> Rarely (or never) read books with spiritual depth or listen to Christ-centered messages by other servants of God.

7> Have no fellowship or relationship with other believers. Live as a solo Christian.

8> Let envy and jealousy take hold of your heart and drive your actions

Envy and jealousy are often the root behind slander (see #1 and #5 in this series). Incidentally, countless Christians don’t know what slander looks like and fail to recognize it when it is right in front of them But, know what it is or not, engaging or listening to slander proves toxic to your spiritual life.

Slander is …The noun

A false tale or report maliciously uttered. and tending to injure the reputation of another by lessening him in the esteem of his fellow citizens, by exposing them to impeachment and punishment, or by impairing their means of making a living; defamation.

Slander is … The verb

Disgrace; reproach; disreputation; ill name.

To defame; to injure by maliciously uttering a false report respecting a person; to tarnish or impair the reputation of one by false tales, maliciously told or propagated.

The Bible calls this giving an “evil report” and God does not turn a blind eye to any situation where an evil report is present. 

9> Never learn from your mistakes not take responsibility for them.

Blame others instead. Blame your past and claim victim status. Blame the situation you now live in. Blame the circumstances of life. Never take responsibility for what is happening in or around you. 

An example: “I drink because of my wife, my job, and the current situation I am facing in my life.”

That is a person who is blaming other people or other things and is not taking responsibility for their own behaviour. They drink because they have made a choice to do so. No one or any thing is forcing them to pour that alcohol into the glass and down their throat. (Feel free to substitute your word for “drink”… eat, spend, do drugs, watch pornography.

These people never apologize for their behaviour, attitude or the harm they have inflicted on others. They never even recognize the people they have wronged. 

10> Waste every crisis that comes into your life.

A crisis is a difficult and unwelcome opportunity to discover Jesus Christ in a new way. Don’t look for the hand of God behind the crisis and submit to it. Forget James and Peter who both said, “Humble yourself under God’s mighty hand, and He will exalt you.” 

1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

James 4:10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

Instead – blame God and others and feel sorry for yourself. That way you will not grow through the crisis or learn anything that might help you be a better person and a more mature Christian. 

The above 10 points we have been looking at over the last few days are in no particular order. And, many other points can, I am sure, be added to the list. But each of these is a sure-fire way to hamper your growth in Christ and waste your time being a follower of Jesus.

Pitfalls On Your Walk With Jesus – Part Three

We are looking at how to waste our time as believers in Jesus…

1> Allow yourself to be bitter against someone who has hurt or offended you

2> Use your time, your money, and your resources only for yourself and your needs

3> Spend little to no time with the Lord in solitude – just you and Him alone

4> Neglect reading the Scriptures (your Bible)

5> Defame others or misrepresent them or their work (especially fellow believers).

6> Rarely (or never) read books with spiritual depth or listen to Christ-centered messages by other servants of God.

Forget the contribution of the Body of Christ, past and present. Throw out spiritual education. Live under the delusion that all you need in the Holy Spirit and your Bible. 

Many believers live this way and don’t take advantage of the large number of resources that are available today on-line and in print. Many Christians who are young are not readers. So, even to convince them to read the Bible is not easy. Many of the young men that I disciple and mentor readily admit that a book a year would be a miracle. I recommend a book a week. 

There are so many amazing Christian writers – past and present – who have insights and understanding that could benefit the whole Body of Christ if those who follow Jesus would simply pick up the discipline of reading Christian literature. And, it is a disciple. 

First, you need to decide to read what great Christian authors have written. Then you need to carve out time daily to read so that it becomes a habit. It can be 15 minutes, a half hour, or whatever you can release from your regular routines to invest in your growth as a believer. And then you need to journal or record the things that the Lord is showing you from the books that you are reading. 

Recording what you are learning is really important as then you retain the lessons you have learned as well as being able, at a later date, to look back and examine the growth that has taken place both spiritually and mentally. 

So, get started. Speak to a Christian leader or a friend who is a reader and see what they are reading and would recommend that you read. 

A warning: 95%+ of the books being published currently in the field of Christian literature are simply not worth reading not the money it costs to purchase them. Choose writings with depth and substance and avoid the pop theology and Christian self-help books being published by the thousands every year. 

Another way to waste your time and not grow as believers…

7> Have no fellowship or relationship with other believers. Live as a solo Christian.

Many use the excuse that they simply don’t have time to have meaningful fellowship with another believer or believers. Others are so self-contained and spiritual arrogant that they use the excuse that they can’t find any other Christians who are mature and who love Jesus like they do. 

Every believer needs to have a number of others in their lives who are sharing their journey with Jesus with them. 

First of all, every believer needs a mentor. This is someone who is more mature and knowledgeable in the faith with whom you can relate. Thy will share their experience and knowledge with you and help you to grow and mature, developing some of the weaker areas of your character and Christian walk. They might even ask you to travel with them – family holidays, fishing trips, ministry trips – opportunities to come to know them in the fullness of their personhood. So, like Timothy in the New Testament, you need to find a Paul (or two).

Secondly, every believer also needs a Timothy – someone you are relating to who is not as far along in their personal journey with Jesus as you are. This enables you to help them grow and mature. Like Paul had Silas and others. What’s in it for you? They will challenge your beliefs and test your character and cause you to grow in many ways.

Thirdly, every believer needs an accountability partner. This is someone you have grown to totally trust and can be 100% open, transparent, and honest with. They will come to know you better than any other person on the planet. And, they will ask you the hard questions and keep you honest with yourself. These questions could include some of the following. 

1. Have you been a testimony this week to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both your words and actions?

2. Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about someone who is not your spouse this week?

3. Have you lacked any integrity in your financial dealings this week, or coveted something that does not belong to you?

4. Have you been honouring, understanding and generous in your important relationships this past week?

5. Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face-to-face?

6. Have you given in to an addictive behaviour this week? Explain.

7. Have you continued to remain angry toward another?

8. Have you secretly wished for another’s misfortune so that you might excel?

9. Did you finish your reading this week and hear from the Lord? What are you going to do about it?

10. Have you been completely honest with me?

Pitfalls On Your Walk With Jesus – Part Two

We are looking at the ways we, as believers, can waste our time being a Christian…

1> Allow yourself to be bitter against someone who has hurt or offended you

2> Use your time, your money, and your resources only for yourself and your needs

3> Spend little to no time with the Lord in solitude – just you and Him alone

4> Neglect reading the Scriptures (your Bible)

The Bible contains God’s Words and is the first and best way that He speaks to us. The Bible reveals Christ to us so we come to know Him better and on a deeper level as we journey with Him in daily life. In fact, Jesus tells us that His Words (contained in the New Testament Gospels) are “spirit and they are life for the believer.

John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

The Bible accounts of Jesus’ life bear witness to Him and reveal to us who He is, His character, His nature, His mind (we can have the mind of Christ) and His heart for us and all people. 

John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me…”

And, the Bible goes on to tell us that the words recorded are inspired by God – set out for us to have life and have it more abundantly. 

2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

If we take out the extra phrases … “profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and training” we end up with the basic point that is being made.

My personal version: “All Scripture is given by God that the people of God may be complete and equipped.”

The word “complete” means to be like Jesus

The word “equipped” means to be able to do what Jesus did (John 14:12)

So, if you want to waste your time as a believer, avoid reading the Bible.

5> Defame others or misrepresent time or their work (especially fellow believers).

If you want to waste your time on the journey with Jesus don’t go to people directly if you have a concern or a problem and ask them for clarity. And, if you do go to them, don’t really listen with your heart to what they have to say. 

Don’t be deceived: To speak ill about or misrepresent another follower of Jesus is to speak ill about or misrepresent Jesus Himself. And, He does not take Kindly to it.

The Bible is very clear about this:

Matthew 25:40 “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Acts 9:1-4 “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’”

Titus 3:2 “… to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”

Slander is a serious sin and it is a transgression of Jesus’ teaching…

Matthew 7:12a “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them…”

More next time…

Pitfalls On Your Walk With Jesus – Part One

Paul, an apostle whose life was totally transformed by his encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, tells us – no, stronger than that – exhorts us to “redeem the time because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16)

On our journey with Jesus we have much to learn and it takes time to get to know Him better as each day comes. It takes time to learn how to live a life pleasing to Him. It takes time to learn to live before Him. It takes time to grow in His life – learning to release His life from within and allowing Him to live His life through us. And, I observe that a lot of believers are wasting their time. And, let’s admit it, our time is limited and each day seems to have more to do than we can accomplish. So, we cannot afford to waste time.

Here are some ways I see that we waste our time as believers and disciples of the Lord…

1> We allow ourselves to be bitter against someone who has hurt us

Bitterness rooted in unforgiveness will destroy your spiritual life and take others down with you. You will also defile many as a result.

Hebrews 12:15 “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…”

Here is how that works. Someone offends you or hurts you. God immediately pours out His grace upon you. If you grab hold of the grace you will forgive and go to the person who offended or wounded you and deal with the issues. If you “fail to obtain the grace” you will go to others and share your hurt and tell them your side of the story. Of course, it is only one side and only a partial truth. The person, being a good Christian, loves you, listens to you, and prays with you. You feel better. They feel good that they were able to help you.

But, the root is still there and it will fester and grow again – the spiritual pressure and anger will grow inside of you and then you will go and seek someone else out who will listen and “minister” to you. This can go on for months even years. Then, one day you wake up spiritually and realize you need to go to the person who offended you and deal with the issue or issues. And, the grace is there to enable you to do so.

However, every person you have spoken to now has a different picture of the person who hurt you. They have a twisted view of this person. And, although you are now reconciled and doing great…those you shared with and who ministered to you do not have the grace nor, most likely, the opportunity to deal with what they are feeling towards your once one time enemy. So, you are good and many are defiled.

Such a total waste of time and so destructive to both your spiritual life and the many relationships which will be adversely effected by your actions.

2> Use your time, your money, and your resources only for yourself and your needs.

Being selfish and being the center of your life (self-focused) is never healthy or beneficial to your walk with the Lord. We need to be Christ-centred and focused on others. There are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament. Love one another, forgive one another, pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens… you get the idea. You cannot and will not fulfill any of these “commands” if you are the center of your own universe. And, when you don’t fulfill these commands then this has an adverse and negative effect on your relationship with Jesus.
3> Spend little to no time with the Lord in solitude – just you and Him alone.

Christians fill their lives with all sorts of activities staying busy from early morning to late at night. Most times these are good activities and even necessary things that need to be focused on and accomplished. However, maybe we need to slow the pace of life down somewhat and make room for the most important thing – your relationship with your Lord and Saviour, the living Jesus Christ.

This means taking a hard look at your daily schedule and weekly routine and creating some margin. Everyone today lives on the edge. They are filling their calendars full. They are spending everything they are earning and then some. They are emotionally exhausted. There is no extra (margin) at the end of the day. So, we need to slow things down, prioritize somewhat, and then schedule time with the Lord first before everything else. Then, never fill a day full (or spend to the limit, or emotionally give till you are empty and stressed out… step back a bit and fill 90% of the waking hours … giving you some margin. Spend 80% of your money, save 10% and give 10% (tithe) and thus create margin (space to breathe). You get the idea.

So, the third pitfall in our journey with Jesus is living on the edge and not prioritizing and creating margin in every aspect of our life as we do so.

More next time….

A Personal Reflection / Observation

I attended a service recently where after the main event and lunch we took some time to listen to the voice of the Sprit and then report back to the others in attendance what we believe God was speaking to us as an assembly.

The main event did not end with a knock out. It was your regular Sunday morning assembly. It had decent worship and a decent, Bible-basic teaching. The lunch following the main event was good, the fellowship was better than the meal. Good conversations. Some honest and open dialogue with a number of people. Refreshing.

One conversation I found intriguing was with a mother of a teenager. The teen had stopped attending church some time ago. The young man had recently attended for one Sunday. He saw that, in his mind, nothing had changed and so has not returned since. 

As people shared what they heard the Lord saying it was, in my humble but experienced opinion, that we should continue on being faithful. God confirming what we were currently doing.  How we are faithful as believers because we continue to worship, pray, and hold services. It was the regular “God is pleased with us” and we need to keep Jesus at the center of what we do comments. Nothing challenging or stretching. Little that was truly biblical. 

I mentioned that maybe we need to change some of what we believe and most of what we do as believers. The focus became the technology. Not what I was referring to. I mentioned that although the message – the Gospel of the Kingdom – has not changed, the methods by which we communicate the message must change. Some became defensive as if we were attacking them personally. Maybe we were. Others wandered off into sharing their own thoughts and feelings about things not related to the topic currently under discussion – escapism or simply a wondering mind … one comment led to a new thought led to a rabbit trail excursion.

But, the point was missed – even after I mentioned the story of the young person who had seen no outward change to the way we “do business” (after being away for a number of years) and, as a result, has not bother to return. 

One young man – husband, father, and business owner – mentioned that in his opinion the church of the future was going to be directly connected to the business world that he was involved in. You know, build community among the staff of the company, begin to win them to the Lord, and then have a daily or weekly gathering in the business facilities where they could share and pray. Another business man agreed. Others – by their comments and by their faces and body language – were certainly not in agreement. For them it was “business as usual,” church business that is.

It was good to air our thoughts on what the Lord was saying to us in our time together. However, there were a number of things that I observed.

1> There is a definite divide between the younger generation and the old timers.

2> Some old timers are moving forward in the things of the Kingdom . They are the ones who are readers and who are interacting with believers in other geographical areas and from other flavours of the Church and who are also involved in reaching the lost.

3> In general, believers do not want to change. They may not like what they have and are experiencing but it is better than the “unknown.”

4> The heart for the lost is missing in most believers. They are focused on what they want, need, like, desire or already have. It is a series of unending “what’s in it for me” comments without that phrase being spoken.

5> Most believers think they are hearing the voice of God but they are not. When all you hear is that things are okay, it is usually not the Lord speaking. When what you hear is not challenging you or stretching you spiritually, emotionally, relationally, even physically then it is most likely not the Lord. Believers have not taken the time to sort out which inner voice is the voice of the Spirit.

6> Believers who have been raised in a traditional setting for church will usually not be flexible when it comes to doing things a new way. Oh, there may be small concessions and minor changes but basically the format and content of their experience and the expression of their faith (the church service) is not going to see any changes. It may be time to move on and start something new.

7> The local churches are dying. This is seen in the definite lack of life in the services. Not to mention the declining numbers, the decreasing income, and the increase in the average age of those in attendance. 

8> There is a “protect the fort” mentality and little sign of a desire to attack the gates of hell and rescue the lost. The lost seldom come up in conversations between believers. 

I walked away somewhat frustrated even though everything I heard and experienced during the day I have come to expect. I work with many groups in many areas of my country and elsewhere in the world. What I experienced yesterday can and does take place in every country and in a lot of churches. 

In the book of Acts, chapter eleven we read “Who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 

Well, many should be asking themselves that same question because in the church today many are standing in the way. Yesterday was simply one small example. 

Just a personal observation.

Hungry For More?

The Message Version… Colossians 1:5-6

“The Message is as true among you today as when you first heard it. It doesn’t diminish or weaken over time. It’s the same all over the world. The Message bears fruit and gets larger and stronger, just as it has in you. From the very first day you heard and recognized the truth of what God is doing, you’ve been hungry for more.”

If you are a Christian, it is in your spiritual DNA to hunger for more of Jesus. That hunger can be chocked by other pursuits. Even religious pursuits. But that hunger is always present if we will simply stop long enough to recognize what it is. 

That hunger is always present. It just needs to be watered a little. Reading a book that reveals Christ … or hearing a message where the riches of Christ and the deep things of God are unveiled … causes that hunger to be watered and even awakened. 

It is that very hunger that causes many to leave the institutional church and to seek the experience of the true body of Christ, the organic Church, where they experience body life. Boiled down to the basics, a longing for a real church experience in a real body of Christ is really a hunger for more of the Lord.

In my opinion, if a ministry is not utterly centred upon and revealing Jesus Christ in ever-greater depths, it will eventually wear out in your life. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only thing that never wears out. Everything else grows thin eventually … and that includes the 1001 religious and spiritual things that Christians chase after today.

In my personal experience, I have inside me a hunger to know more and learn more. It is a hunger that is tangible. I can feel it. It cries out to me, “feed me, feed me.” Whenever I stop reading for a few days – reading my Bible AND reading other books (see below) there is this deep cry inside to learn more, know more, and to grow. My inner man needs feeding. 

Whenever that feeling rises strong on the inside I can look back and realize that it has been a week or so since I last made time to sit and read a book. And, I can look back and discover that I have been surface reading my Bible and not digging deep into the truths contained in the Word of God. 

I hear myself and others say that time is lacking in our daily schedules to regularly read. I don’t believe it. We always find time for what we deem to be important. I recently realized that some evening when I am home and not on the road ministering I watch two episodes of a series we are working through on Netflix. That’s 3 hours of television. Good program but not a good use of my time. So, I have taken up watching just one episode and then excusing myself, going to my study, and reading for 90 minutes. There is always time for what is important to us. And, feeding the hunger in my spirit is important to me.

It is simply a matter of priorities and setting goals. 

It is easy enough to take a new book off the shelf on Sunday, see how many chapters there are (or pages) and divide by seven. That is what you need to read each day to finish a book in a week. Think about how much you would grow if you read 52 books a year. It is really not that difficult to imagine reading that much if you make it a priority in your life and then plan how it is going to be accomplished. 

Try it – you just might like it.

I mentioned ‘other books’: 

I read classics (Currently reading Phantom of the Opera). 

I read current novels so I stay current with what non-believers are reading (currently reading “Camino Island” by John Grisham).

I read books on the Church so I am growing in my understanding and seeing ‘church’ from someone else’s vantage point (currently reading “Irresistible” by Andy Stanley)

I read books on leadership (currently reading “Integrity” by Henry Cloud)

I read books to help with my teachings (currently reading “Wisdom of the Jedi” by Dick Staub)

I read books on Jesus (currently reading, “The Challenge of Jesus” by N.T. Wright)

I read biographies (currently reading “Bruchko” by Bruce Olson)

And on the list could go. And, yup, I have more than one book on the go at the same time.

Personal Reflections – The Church #9

We have been looking at the New Testament expression of the Church that Jesus is building.

These 14 images of the Church that Jesus is building give us a fairly clear picture of who we are – for, we are the Church. Each picture of the Church shows us that the church is a close-knit, shared-life community of people who exalt Jesus together in everything they do. Remember, Jesus said that if we would lift Him up (exalt Him) He would draw all people to Himself.

God has chosen to make His Son knowable, touchable, visible, and locatable on planet earth through only one vessel – the ekklesia, the ‘gathered and separated ones,’ the Church. Jesus Christ – His very nature and heart – can be seen only through the Church. The Church that He is building is God’s designated instrument for the expression of His Son. And, it is the very heartbeat of God’s ultimate passion.

As we live life connected to the Church, God’s passion, every aspect of our lives should be influenced by what He is passionate about, His Church. The Church should add texture and richness to our spiritual experience. It also delivers us from a passionless Christianity, a shallow walk, and a purposeless faith. The overwhelming passion of our Lord is to obtain a strong following in every city of the planet. A Church that expresses the Gospel of the Kingdom and the salvation message. A bride who dearly loves Him, a House where He can dwell, a body that freely expresses Him, and a family that brings Him delight.

In this light, it is the supreme calling of every Christian leader to equip God’s people to see the mystery of God’s ultimate passion with spiritual eyes … to hear it with spiritual ears … to handle it with spiritual hands … to taste its sweetness and smell its fragrance. 

God is looking for those who will burn for His ultimate passion and allow their lives to be shaped by it. This is the true Church.

Personal Reflections – The Church #8

As we continue the series of personal reflections on “The Church”…

13> A Temple

See: 1 Corinthians 3; 2 Corinthians 6; Ephesians 2; 1 Peter 2

We are living stones designed to be assembled together with other living stones to form God’s house. Jesus Christ embodies the house of God – His holy temple. Christ is the chief architect, the builder, the foundation, the cornerstone, and the capstone of the building.

1 Peter 2:4-5 “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

So, as a local church … Are the members of your church being built together? Or do they have little to do with one another outside of church gatherings? Is your church a rock heap, or is it a building?

14> A City

See: Philippians 3; Hebrews 12; Revelation, chapters 21 and 22

We are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of God. Jesus Christ is the prince of the city. He is also the light of the city. One of the central characteristics of the heavenly Jerusalem is that she is born in freedom (Galatians 4:26). Old Testament Jerusalem was discarded by God because it was enmeshed with the bondage of legalism, religious duty, and guilt-ridden tradition. The heavenly Jerusalem is free from all of that.

Philippians 3:17-21 “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

So, in your local church … Are the members of your church free in Christ, or are they in religious bondage? Are they inflicted with an incurable headache of guilt, or are they secure in God’s love and liberated to love Him back freely? Are the practices of your church based on human tradition, or are they built on the spiritual principles of the city of God?

Next time – we will summarize this series of “personal reflection”…

Personal Reflections – The Church #7

The Church, in the New Testament, is described many different ways. We have been looking at the various names and expressions for the Church in the past week and a bit. Let’s jump in and continue…

11> A Vineyard

See: John 15

Jesus Christ is the Vine and we are the branches. The vine and the branches cannot be separated from one another. In a real sense, the branch is in the vine, and the vine is in the branch. When the branch is in the vine it bears fruit. The branch is the assembly of believers that we call the Church.

In any cluster of grapes, some grapes will be green. These green grapes will not bear fruit until they ripen or mature. But, these green grapes must remain in the cluster in order for them to ripen. If a grape is removed from the cluster and left on its own, it will crinkle and wrinkle. That is, it will become a raisin. So, the vine is Jesus, the branch is the Church, and the gapes are believers who are relationally connected to Christ and to one another. This then is the Church.

Our fruitfulness as a church (the branch that bears fruit – grapes) is directly connected to the depth of our personal relationship with the vine – Jesus. So, we must focus on Jesus and take the time and make the effort to have a deep, personal, intimate, ever-deepening, daily, unique love relationship with Jesus (the Vine). We must never let anything hinder the development and deepening of that intimate relationship. 

Romans 6:23b “The gift of God is eternal life”

John 17:3 Defines the gift called ‘eternal life’…

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

So, in your local church … Is your church like a vineyard where the cluster of grapes lives and grows together? Or is it made up of ‘raisin Christians’ who live outside the cluster? Is your church extending outside of itself to influence others or is it insular and ingrown?

12> A Sheepfold

See: John, chapters 10 and 21;1 Peter 2

Jesus Christ is the Great Shepherd, and we are His beloved sheep. Sheep are the only animal that requires the existence of a human being for their survival. Sheep are the most helpless of God’s creatures. A sheep left on its own will die. Sheep also travel together. If one of them moves independently from the flock, they will be raw meat for predators.

So, in your local church … Do the members of your church seek and follow the direction of the one Shepherd together? Or do they blindly follow a human being? Do they all move together as a flock with one mind? Or do they move independently and individualistically, as sheep without a Shepherd?

Personal Reflections – The Church #6

There are a few descriptive names for the Church that are not well known. This is the case with the next two…

9> One Loaf

See: John 12; 1 Corinthians 10

Jesus Christ is one grain. When He was put into the ground (buried) and rose again, He produced many grains (believers). Those individual grains are not to stand alone or be isolated from other grains. The Christian faith is not about rugged individualism. Christians do not survive spiritually outside of the Church. A lone sheep is a prime target for the wolves. 

Those individual grains are useless unless they are crushed, have oil (the Holy Spirit) poured upon them, and are baked in a fiery oven (persecution) to create one loaf. In the process of becoming one loaf, each grain loses its individualism and independence. 

1 Corinthians 10:16-17 “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”

John 12:23-25 “And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

So, in your local church … Are the members of your church so connected together that they have lost their independence and individualism? Or do they live as independent, individualistic, uncrushed grains of wheat?

10> God’s Field 

See: 1 Corinthians 3

We are the crops that have been planted and have grown up in God’s field (the Church). Jesus Christ is the seed. God the Father causes the growth. The DNA of the seed is the very nature of Christ Himself. When the crops grow appropriately, they express Him.

Someone shares this example:

“Think of a bouquet of roses. In a bouquet, each rose has the same life. They are part of the same species. But they are not vitally connected. So they don’t grow together. Compare the bouquet of roses to a rose bush. In a rose bush, the roses are one organic whole. Each rose possesses its own individuality, but none are individualistic. They grow together as they share the same root. The bush passes through seasons of death and resurrection together. They are one organism. The Church that the New Testament envisions is a rose bush, not a bouquet of roses.”

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

So, in your local church … Are the members of your church growing more into the likeness of Christ, and are they doing it together? Are the people changing while being in the church? Is their character being molded into the image of Jesus? Are they passing through spiritual seasons together? Are they a rose bush or a bouquet of flowers.