Today’s blog revisits a topic from a time when I was involved in a church breakup. Many people got very hurt, and we looked at why and what we could possibly learn from it. While it was uncomfortable at the time, the wounds have now healed, but there are still some lessons we can think about.
Many people have drawn the wrong conclusion from Jude 3, which states, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3)
People get comfortable in their surroundings, which includes their church group. They depend upon ministers to teach them God’s ways – as long as they don’t have to work too hard at learning. Far too many people are comforted by attending church because their church is where they first encountered God and therefore, that church must have the “faith once delivered.”
However, the teachers of God often leave God’s ways and bring God’s people with them.
How can you know if the church group you are attending is the group that will help you continue your spiritual growth? The answer lies in scripture, the manual of life given as a guide and a help by God to His children.
Next 3 Posts
In the next 3 posts, I’ll share some observations about 3 big instruments that God powerfully used and then changed for his people Israel:
- The Rod of Moses
- The Fiery Serpent
- The Temple of God
Or you can just download the entire original paper How Does God Work with Mankind? right now, if you’d rather get it all in one shot.
Does God want us to change?
So first, we have to ask ourselves, does God want us to change? Does God require anything of you?
Many Christians teach and believe that all you have to do is accept that Jesus is the Messiah and that he died for your sins, thus you are saved. Although God loves each and every human being, He does not want us to remain just the way we are. Dietrich Bonhoeffer explored this concept, which he aptly labeled “cheap grace”, in The Cost of Discipleship.
God actually not only wants but requires us to change and grow, just as any father would want his children to change and grow. There are far too many 12-year-olds who act like 4-year-olds and 40-year-olds who act like they are 15 for us not to realize growth is required for the human condition.
Matthew wrote, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 4:46-48)
Far too many legalists have stated that God demands perfection and will settle for nothing less, but that is not what Jesus is telling his followers in the fifth chapter of Matthew. The Greek word translated as perfect is teleios, which can be found as Strong’s 5056. It has the connotation of being complete, as a car is complete when it rolls off the assembly line. Barnes notes that Job was a perfect Christian, in the teleios way, but not a perfect man. Job “was not merely a pious man in one place, but uniformly. He was consistent everywhere. See the notes in that passage. This is the meaning in Matthew. Be not religious merely in loving your friends and neighbors, but let your piety be shown in loving your enemies; imitate God; let your piety be ‘complete, proportionate, regular.” (Barnes Notes on Matthew 5:48)
We are to grow up and become adults. Even Jesus, “grew and was strengthened in spirit, being filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:40 Young’s Literal Translation). That is why Peter wrote and told us to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 3:18) Paul was disappointed when people did not grow up to be mature Christians:
“Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For everyone that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14)
C.S. Lewis described this building process in Mere Christianity.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”[i]
God even gave helpers to Christians so they could grow. God “gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” (Ephesians 4:11) Even Jesus warned of those who have claimed the role of apostle or evangelist or pastor or teacher so they could lord it over Christians. (Mark 10:42-44)
However, just because some have usurped roles for which they were not qualified does not mean that God does not supply helpers for our faith. (II Corinthians 1:24) Paul wrote that these helpers were:
“for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12-15)
God supplies these helps so we can continue our journey with Him. God said through the writings of Solomon, “I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths. When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straightened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.” (Proverbs 4:11-12)
He did this so we would, “make level the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:26-27 RSV)
God Helps us
God gives us help when we need it. And if we ask for it. In Part 2 of this theme, we will look at a time when God gave Moses some help.
- How Comfortable Are You? Part 2: The Rod of Moses
- How Comfortable Are You? Part 3: The Fiery Serpent
- How Comfortable Are You? Part 4: Temple of God