Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Love and Mission: Compelled by Christ's Love to Reach Out

Love and Mission, Love and Mission, go together like a horse and carriage.
Okay, this is a bad adaptation of the song "Love and Marriage" (But not as bad as the suggestion I read the other day for adapting Olivia Newton John's song, Let's Get Physical, and making it, Let's Get Missional, Missional."

But love and mission do go together. Note this passage from Paul in 2 Corinthains 5:4f.

4For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

If we have not been convicted by Christ's love for us, we will remain selfish. In order to reach out to others, we must first die to ourselves. And this is tough. It is tough to be selfless in our marriage. We are usually concerned with our needs being met. And we do have certain needs. But the point is, it is hard to be selfless.

And as if it were not enough of a challenge to love others, we apparently struggle to even love one another very well. A study by Lifeway indicates that 58 percent of people who had attended church for at least a year in high school and then dropped out of worship attendance said that they did so because of relationship problems":
  • 26% said that they didn't feel connected to people in the church.

  • 15% said churches were either unfriendly, unwelcoming, or cliquish.
Without a conviction of Christ's love for us, we will always struggle to be selfless. And if our own people do not feel love, how well will we love others whom we encounter?

So, what can we do to increase our love for one another and for others, and be compelled by Christ's love so that we can be better ambassadors of Christ?

Friday, March 05, 2010

If we are not discipling others, we fail to grow

T oday I had another Bible study with--I'll call him Paul Smith. Paul was baptized into Christ 4-5 months ago. Paul had been angry with God for years because he and his wife had suffered two miscarriages and had not been able to have children. Paul came to us because he and his wife at the time were headed towards divorce. This divorce is now finalized, despite his wishes.

Paul was helped in his faith walk initially by the Celebrate Recovery group. Then we studied the Story of Redemption together with a friend that he had developed in Celebrate Recovery. He accepted Christ and was baptized.

I have continued to meet with Paul almost every week since his baptism. He comes each week with questions--lots of questions. He has questions about how to deal with his wife, his boss, his neighbor. He has had many questions from the numerous sermons that he listens to and the book that he is reading now, The Purpose-Driven Life. He continues to wrestle with God.

Paul came to our study today with a question about when life begins, and when a body has a soul. Is it at birth? Is it sometime in the womb? Is it at conception? When is the age of accountability? Did I believe in this concept. And would children be in heaven? Would they be resurrected as an adult or as a child?

It took me a few minutes into the discussion before I realized that these were not just intellectual questions for Paul . He wanted to know these answers because his wife had had two miscarriages. He always wanted to be a father, and he would often curse God whenever he saw a school bus go by.

As I sought to listen and answer these questions, I had to deal with issues like God's knowledge of the future, God's active involvement in the world, God's love and his discipline, the nature of the Psalms, the resurrection, love for our enemies, forgiveness and more.

And as I went through these topics with Paul, I could feel that my own faith was affirmed. And it struck me. If we are not discipling other Christians, we ourselves fail to grow. These truths which I have studied for years gained new life as I thought about them in light of Paul's very real situation.

This is how God intended the church to be. A church that does not evangelize does not have new Christians. And without this influx of "new blood," we fail to grow spiritually. So evangelism is essential not only in reaching new Christians, but in Spiritually forming longtime Christians.

Who are you helping to disciple? How much do you think that discipling others help us to grow spiritually?