Give Yourself to Others …

This is a great post.  Please read it now:  Five Bible Verses You need to Stop Misusing

 

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The reality is that, for most people, that’s not a very exciting invitation.  (I struggled a little with what adjective to put in front of invitation).

The reason, in my view, is the connotation surrounding “church.”  Many theological people are typically quick to point out that the “church” is truly made up of Christians.  And I acknowledge that fact.

However, also true is that the word, church, comes from the German word, kirche, which refers to the cathedral, not the people.  And in everyday usage, church more often refers to the building or facility, than to the people who gather there.  It also often refers to the organization more often than to a generic gathering of people.

So, when you say, “come to church with me”, what does your audience really hear?

It seems to me most likely they are hearing you invite them to an organizational meeting, which you hope they will join.

Perhaps we would be better off, if we invited people to “come worship with me.”

Like many people, I’ve probably read 1 Corinthians 13, a thousand times.  The description of “love” by Paul, is beautifully inspiring.  I often read it when I perform weddings.

On a side note, the old King James Version translation of agape as “charity” is probably a better translation than “love.”  But that’s a topic for another time.

What I’ve missed in the thousands of times I’ve read 1 Cor 13 are the first three verses (this is from The Message):

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Am I the only one who missed this?

I can be the smartest person in the world.  I can understand everything … even the greatest mysteries about God … I may have so much faith that I can perform miracles … I can be the most generous person in the world.

And if all of this is true, but I’m not loving others, the way Jesus loved me, then it’s all pointless.

If we are not loving towards one another, we’ve missed the whole point from Jesus.

Think about that, the next time you argue about doctrine!

Your life as a Christian should make nonbelievers question their disbelief in God

I have to start with a little Greek lesson … old news for some, news to others.

The English word, church, comes from the German word, kirche, which is actually the word for cathedral, or the building.  The word in the Greek NT is ekklesia, and actually refers to a called assembly.  Among it’s earliest uses is a as a reference to gatherings of the citizens of a Greek city, when they gathered to vote on city ordinances.

There is no basis in how ekklesia is used in the NT to understand it as an formally organized group.  All of the evidence is that when used, it refers to all of the Christians in a local area or everywhere globally.  Even in the earliest days of the ekklesia in Jerusalem, all of the evidence is they met is numerous homes, scattered around town.

Assuming you accept this, so what?

Well, the so what is that many well-known evangelists … from Billy Graham to Francis Chan, often speak about the importance of being a part of a local church.  I’m not going to bother to repeat all of the NT citations they use.

But the problem is they infer a modern day understanding of “church” when the inference is not there.

When we give our lives to God, we become part of God’s family.  The NT admonitions about the ekklesia do not have to be understood in a modern context.  The ekklesia exists because people who share this relationship with God, quite naturally, will want to spend time together and sometimes collaborate to do good things.  But that is truth, whether the group is 3 or 30 or 300 or 3,000.

You do not have to meet in a building, you don’t have to have a preacher or a pastor.  You don’t even have to have a church checking account!  Imagine that!

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with “mega-churches” as they’ve come to be known.  But there is also nothing wrong with gathering with a couple of Christian friends at the coffee shop, or your home, or at the beach, or around the camp fire.  Such a gathering is as much ekklesia as is a gathering of 10,000 at Saddleback Church in California.

It seems to me Jesus knows us well enough to know we need to be around other Christians.  We can encourage each other.  Teach each other.  Advise each other.  Worship with each other.  So we should be together.

But there remains a lot of freedom to find the gathering most helpful to each person maturing and remaining faithful to Jesus.

Within the Christian tradition where I was raised — the Church of Christ — there was an often spoken, but sometimes unspoken assumption that the Text of the New Testament was the Covenant.

I think that’s not correct.

The writer of Hebrews described the new covenant in chapter 10, verses 16-17.  But actually the writer is quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34.

There is a sense Jeremiah admits the old covenant was written down … in stone … in the form of the Ten Commandments.  But then he goes on to describe the new covenant that is coming:

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

God is going to write the new covenant on our heart … He didn’t say, he’d put the covenant on paper … he said he’d write it on our hearts.

And yet, so many believers look to the Text and argue about doctrine and other things.  As I wrote in the comments on Jay Guin’s blog, OneInJesus.info, when he wrote about these verses:

One of the implications of this passage is how it affects our use of the Text … we have often equated the NT Text to the covenant. The NT Text reveals the covenant, but is not itself the covenant.

Is your relationship with God wrapped up with the Text or is it engulfed by Jesus?

I don’t think there is a doctrinally-based message that draws people to Jesus.

We cannot convince people to follow him.  We cannot persuade them.  People must seek to know about Jesus.  When they seek him … then we can help them to find him.

I’m sure this has been different at other times.  And it may be different in other countries … a friend who lives in China, tells me it is different there.

But I noticed this phenomenon in the work my wife and I do with marriages.

We have noticed marriages that need help, but have learned thru experience, we cannot help until people come to us.  If we go to them, we have no credibility.  We have no stature to share anything.

But if a couple comes to us for help with their marriage, there is a lot we can say.  We can say it much more directly … more pointedly … and sometimes even more toughly.  Because the couple has come to us and asked.

The weakness of the gospel message in the United States is that everyone thinks they’ve heard it before and knows what it is.  So, until our lives provide evidence … radical evidence … of something that is out of the ordinary … until people are so moved by watching us that they come to us saying, “You are really out of the ordinary … please explain!”

Not until they come to us can we tell them about Jesus.

So, what are the words necessary for evangelism?

Hey, tell me why you’re so different from everyone else I know?

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