Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What's it Supposed to Be?

I know this sounds like I've just discovered objects fall to the ground when you let go of them but I'm going to say it anyway.  Summers in Texas are hot. 

True, it isn't just Texas, but where I live to the north of Dallas can be absolutely brutal.  Walking outside in August feels like stepping into a blast furnace.  Forget, "average temperatures."  Those numbers are meaningless.  Any day between June and August that ISN'T a hundred degrees or higher is a win.

I've lived here for 11 years now.  I'm not used to it but I can cope...until September. 

That's because my house is close enough to the local high school that I can hear the marching band practice when I leave for work in the morning.  The drums and horns evoke a Pavlovian response that makes me think of sweatshirts and jeans. That's what I'm supposed to be wearing, not shorts and a t shirt.  It should be crisp and cool and not as if there's a hair dryer blowing in my face.  That's not what September is supposed to be like!

If that's irrational, I apologize.  Blame the heat.  What the weather is, "supposed," to be is relative.  Ask people from Alaska and Guatemala what winter should be like.  You'll get vastly different answers and neither one of them will be incorrect.  Weather is allowed to be in the geographical eye of the beholder.

The local church is different.  There are some things that are supposed to be.

Consider 1 Peter 2:9, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."      

Peter is quoting from the Old Testament and applying language whose original audience was Israel to the New Testament church.  In doing so, he expands the meaning of the word priesthood. 

In the days of the Old Covenant, a priest was a priest because of the family into which he was born.  Was he or was he not a member of the tribe of Levi?  That's what mattered. 

Under the New Covenant, a priest is a priest because they have placed their trust in Jesus Christ.  Are they or are they not a Christian? 

Under the Old Covenant that meant administrating the sacrificial system; burnt offerings of grains and animals.  Under the New, it means living out the purpose for which Peter says God's people are chosen, "proclaiming the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." 

People tend to view church much in the same way that they view the dentist or the place that fixes their car.  They view it as a service provider.  Has it been a tough week?  Could the battery use a jump?  Church should do the trick and as long as it does, we're satisfied. 

Obviously, I'm not against refreshment.  Jesus said, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink (John 7:37)."  The problem is when we see our involvement as an exchange, when we see it as give to get. 

Just like we pay to have our car fixed, if we expect the giving of our time or money to yield a return on that investment, we are falling short of God's design.

When I was on Young Life staff, my favorite times of the year were staff conferences.  I loved those 24 hours at the Holiday Inn in Zanesville because the room was filled with people who were putting it on the line for the Kingdom and I couldn't believe I was one of them.  I thrived on the sense that a small corner of the ministry was my responsibility.

That's the way the local church is supposed to function.  That's the way it's supposed to be.

Church is not meant to be filled with consumers of services provided by a professional staff.  We are what Peter says we are: a royal priesthood.  We should walk into Sunday mornings hungry to worship the God who called us out of darkness and privileged us with the shared responsibility of the advancement of His Kingdom.  That's His intention.  That's His design.  What does that mean?

Discipleship is meant to be everyone's responsibility.  Evangelism is meant to be everyone's responsibility.  The same is true for care, service, and support.  No one gets left behind if all are involved.

Do you see yourself as part of the team?  Do you believe that you have a role in the discipleship of the body?  Is it your conviction that people need to hear about Jesus and that God has equipped you to be involved in the process?

If not, what do you think the apostle meant in 1 Peter 2:9?

It isn't easy.  The temptation to see the church as give to get is real but when Christ died on the cross He didn't simply pay the penalty for our sin.  He supplied all our needs according to His riches in glory.  We lack for nothing.  We are therefore able to give.

Instead of looking for where to find life, trust the words of Christ who said, "Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

That's the way it's supposed to be.

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