Christian or just something like it?
(James 2:14 ) What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Today we live in a difficult time. We find ourselves in that space of time between being the Great Christian Nation of America, and in just being the next atheistic society of the world. It seems that at least some portions of history does repeat it’s self. Just as the Great Christian Nation of England once boasted a near 90% Christian population, today they find them selves close to 2 % Christian. This cycle has held true with every Great Christian Society. America if she is not cautious will find herself in that very same condition.
Although there are many reasons for why this cycle exist. I am not here today to discuss those reasons with you. Rather I am here to discuss with you what it is that we need to do to get back to where we are supposed to be, which is being in God’s will.
I believe that an alarm is being sounded today here in America. Recent social and political happenings are evidence of this. The Church instead of continuing to hit the snooze button had better wake up to a new day in Christ, a day where the Saints of God are once again active in the work of the church.
Now I know that there has been a lot of talk about Works over the years. Much of the talk has been in reference to “Works” not getting one into Heaven. I believe that they are right. Works alone will not get you into Heaven. But I believe what we see here in the book of James says loud and clear that faith alone will not get you there either. Theologically I would love to be able to stand up here and tell you that all you have to do is believe. James 2:19 helps to shed some light on the subject by saying”Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Jesus also addresses the subject himself in Matthew 25:30 where he says “And cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. That doesn’t sound like Heaven to me, and I don’t know about you but I have seen my fare share of dead Christians sitting on church pews in my day. I for one am tired of watered down teaching and Sunday morning nursery classes in the sanctuary.
Is it possible that we have taught for so long that all that is required is to believe, that the church has become just too lazy to be about the work of the Lord. Even worse is the possibility that because so many so called Christians were lured in with easy listening preaching, that all they are interested in is a free ride to heaven. Now I don’t want to burst your bubble but there is no free ride.
But Israel no man may earn or buy his way into heaven. That is true. You can not buy your way into Heaven , but a person who is a real Christian, not just something like it will also bear fruit. Now I know I using some strong language here but if Faith without works is dead…? And unprofitable servants are cast into outer darkness… Maybe we should reevaluate where we stand on a few of these issues.
So how did we get this way?
Unfortunately one of the “so called benefits” of teaching the unimportance of Works, like I have heard done so many times over the years is that it helps us to recruit the lazy , and self centered or self serving to church. This type of teaching however does not lead a person to Christ. There is a big difference in the two. Those people feel that they do not have to be useful in the Body of Christ. Any thing else would be too hard right? The truth is that this type of teaching has been successful in filling church after church with people who are just that, no use to the body of Christ. But it is not because they are without the capacity to be useful; rather the opposite is true. They have been taught they can not be useful to the Body of Christ or even worse that it does not matter if there are of use to the Body of Christ. Churches across America tonight are full with people who think that they are Christian. When they have never been in pursuit of Christ, all they have ever been in pursuit of is to be saved. Most of the blame can be placed right here behind the pulpits of churches all across this land. We in the church have been guilty of prosperity teachings that focus on Me, me, me, instead of Christ, and there is a big difference in where the two roads lead.
Those people have been robbed. God help us when we have been lied to and taught that we can’t make any difference. God help us when we believe the lies that are being taught. God help us to come to the understanding that the result of true faith is fruit. True Faith more than simply believing that Jesus is Lord. True Faith believes that Jesus is your Lord. When you have made the deliberate choosing of the cross, to be a Disciple of Jesus Christ, the natural result is Fruit.
When the gospel has been cheapened down the results are people who think that they are Christian, when they are not actually Christian at all. To remove Discipleship from Christianity means that the people who are lured in under those lies are not actually Christian converts, but rather just something like it. We call it Christian. But how does it stack up against the model which is Jesus Christ.
Jesus made Disciples, and in the 28th chapter of Matthew starting in verse 19 Jesus said “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” If we as Christians are to be Christ-like then we must also be producing Disciples. The problem we face today is how do we make something that we are not? If we are to get back to the Biblical example of making Disciples we must first become Disciples of Jesus Christ ourselves. To do this we must ask the question . What then is a Disciple?
I bet if I were to go around the room and ask each of you what a Disciple is I would probably get many different answers. But we must be clear it is difficult to produce or become something if we don’t know exactly what it is…. So I have been doing some reading and what I have come up with is three basic things that best describe what a Disciple of Christ is. They are…
- First and foremost a Born again Christian servant of Jesus Christ
- Filled with the Holy Ghost
- Active in Ministry
Now lets cover a few things again Jesus’ Disciples were commanded to go into the world and to Make Disciples of all men… those Disciples are commanded to do the same. We to are commanded to go and both be and make Disciples and just to be clear in Mark 16:17 Jesus said “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Did you get that? These signs will follow those who believe. In other words Those who believe “Christians or Disciples” will have signs following them that means “Fruit or Works” right? And since we as Christians are also then called to be Disciples our duty then is clear.
We must not allow ourselves to be content with simply calling people to an alter of repentance, but we must once again go the next step and take people from the place of repentance to their place of special work in the ministry.
One of the hardest things to do in this day and time is to get people from the pew into ministry. But that is what we are called to do is it not?
The reasons we have such a hard time with this one is because each of us are insecure. We tend to remember what our past is like and some how we continue to allow ourselves to call unclean that which Jesus has made clean, and in doing so we cheapen the price that was paid for us. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be guilty of cheapening the price that was paid for me any more.
But how do we do that?
Well the first thing is to come to terms with what ever that thing is that you have been dragging around with you for so many years… get in these alters today at the end of the service and turn those things over to God. Many of us have felt like we are not worthy of actively serving God. And that is the furthest thing from the truth. The truth is that all have sinned a fall short of the glory of God. So you are no different in that respect from anyone else. The only difference is in your mind because you can’t let it go, when God has forgiven you long ago. Way back when you asked forgiveness of what ever it is that you were guilty of. He is just waiting on you to stop feeling guilty for yourself so you can start being productive.
The second thing you have to do is to find out how you are gifted. Each of you here have a spiritual gift, and if you don’t know what your spiritual gift is, that is the next step to finding your place in the Body of Christ. That’s right you have a place in the body of Christ. The church body is like mine and your physical bodies. In the physical realm if all I have working for me is my hand and maybe my foot… I can’t even get off the couch. It isn’t until I get more of my body working, like my arms and legs, or maybe my backbone and hips that I can actually get up and stand.
The church body is the same way. With the body parts we have working for us, just like in so many other churches; we find that it is very difficult to even get up off of the pew, much less go out into the world and be witnesses. Ephesians 4:16 says “ from whom the whole body, joined and knit together (talking about Christ) by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love”. (KJV) The New Living Translation says it this way, “Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” When all of the body parts are working together not only can the Body of Christ stand but the Body of Christ will be healthy and will grow and be full of love.
I hear people talk all the time about how they want there church to grow. This is the very reason we are not seeing the growth we want. The truth is that one of two things is going on in the avg church. Either there is no one new coming in at all. Or people are coming in the front door just fine but the wander out the back door just as fast as they came in the front… The reasons for this is that in many cases is either the Spiritual Nursery is full… the pastor can’t handle any more baby Christians than he already has or people get board in your church and they leave out the back door just a fast as they came in the front because there is nothing for them to do besides bicker and complain… (Each of the people who come into this church has a talent they have a task that they are supposed to do. A place they are to fill within the Body of Christ, and what does the Bible teach us about unused talents…. They are taken away) in either case the answer to both problems is to stop measuring the success of the church on the number of Christians in the church or the number of new converts we have. Just because a person gets saved in your church doesn’t mean that they are a Disciple, or even that they will be back next Sunday. Do not measure the success of you church based on the successes of your alter calls. But rather measure the success of your church based on how many Disciples you have active in the ministry in your church. The truth is that your pastor can only reach a limited number of people which is not his primary role any way…
So whose is it then?
Well in Ephesians 4:11 we read “And He Himself (Christ) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” This is the best definition I have ever found for apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers… to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, who are the saints? You are… You want to know who is going to win your neighborhood or community to Jesus? It’s not your pastor, it is you. According to the plan that is laid out for the church here in Ephesians, you are responsible for doing the work of the church. Which is what? Spreading the plan of Salvation (And how do we do that?) by being witnesses to that which you have seen and heard.
If you want your church to grow, if you want to fulfill your calling, I encourage each of you to get with your teachers and preachers and find out all you can about the spiritual gifts so that you may be able to find your proper place in the Body of Christ here at Bethel Temple. This is the Biblical model which has been laid out before us here in Ephesians. Once the equipping of the saints has begun, the pastor can concentrate on getting all the parts of the body working together. You want to see some work get done? You want to see some souls get saved? You want to see your church grow in a meaningful way? We have scarcely seen what is possible when the Body of Christ is working together with purpose of mind moving forward in the Holy Spirit.
I can see it on some of your faces… that look of He is talking about hard work!
1. One of the great things is when a person is in their proper place doing the work that they were built for you will find that one that person gets fired up for Jesus Christ.
2. Two they don’t get tired, because they are where they are meant to be.
3. Third when this happens there friends and family will take notice and will naturally want to come and see or be a part of what is going on.
Let me tell you something that has been on my heart for a long time. I can not think of anything harder than just sitting on a church pew and trying to squeeze and hold on to my salvation. And that is exactly why most people cant or don’t do it either. We have allowed Christianity to become me centered. Instead of Christ centered. And as long as we are calling people into our churches who are only interested in themselves. And what they can get out of this whole Christian experience. Then we are allowing good pew space to be used up on someone who is not using it in the first place. The truth is that if we will stop centering salvation on the don’ts and start focusing on the do’s we will find that the don’ts will in many cases take care of themselves.