Essential and Relevant Christianity
By Dan Beaty
In 20th Century America, Christianity claims to have the answer to all of mankind's problems. We say Christ Jesus is that answer, and attempt to direct others into the path that we have found. First of all, most of us do agree that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Even those who are less committed to Him will assent to this fact. Thousands can testify of experiencing Him in a present reality, and this should not be denied. Yet there still remains a number of unanswered questions.
Any thinking person must face the failure of Christianity to truly make a difference in today's world. Believers themselves struggle daily with many of the same problems that their neighbors have. What follows is the inability to present the reality of God to others in an effective manner, for our own doubts become evident when we are challenged. After nearly 2000 years the dangerous memory of the historic Jesus and His revolutionary band of followers continues to haunt us. How did they undauntingly face the tremendous opposition of both the religious and political leaders of their day? How did they continue to multiply even though any new convert knew that death was a possible consequence? How did they possess the power to witness to His resurrection so courageously and convincingly?
Today, a great effort is in progress to rediscover the power and purpose of the early church, and to recapture the love, excitement and joy they knew. This effort is coming about because of a great sense of need and dissatisfaction within the Christian community. But even more importantly it is happening because of the dealing of God and the time He has planned for His people.
Are we to simply complacently wait for His return, when He will correct all wrongs? Or are we to diligently prepare for what He has determined to bring to the earth? It is the former attitude of idle waiting that has brought us to this place of dire spiritual need, which is also in direct disobedience to His Word. These are days of repenting and returning to His will for us, and thankfully He is bringing us new and exciting direction as a result!
This writer has been on this quest for essential and vital Christian faith for many years now, and with great joy I can report to you that a personal renewal of His Life and Presence has finally come! It is only from these experiences that I can share with you the overwhelming conviction that God is on the move in His people. He is at work today, to remove many of the false concepts and practices that have hindered us from His glorious Purpose! He is determined to reveal Himself today to our generation, breaking from us the shackles that have prevented the visible, tangible manifestation of His Kingdom to humanity!
His fire is burning up the selfishness, the pride and vanity of our lives, that we may live and give freely of ourselves unto Him in service to others! He is making known to us that the true power we have is in our unity, love and commitment to one another, under His glorious Hand! Here is a life that is full, abundant and free, but it does not fit the modern American definition of freedom.
His is a freedom to love, rejoice, to sing and dance, but it is also a freedom to sacrifice, to mourn and feel the pain of others. This freedom releases us to serve and lift mankind from every form of bondage! How often do we pursue freedom from such obvious prisons as poverty and sickness, but fail to realize how bound we are to the subtle powers of complacency, indifference and to the illusions of vanity and materialism? These also rob us of our ability to be truly and fully free!
The Gospel of Jesus Christ must preached in all of its fullness. Therein is the power of God at work in those who believe and receive it. This Good News means you can make a difference in your family, your community and your world! By means of full surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ, you become empowered to overcome sin in your life, but you will remain powerful by the sharing of Him. You and I are called to war in a glorious battle! You are on the side of the Lord and His hosts! Let us gird ourselves to march to His call, challenging every thought in our minds and in the minds of others to yield to His marvelous life-giving Word!
It is time to face the fact that Gospel has too often been greatly distorted by the influence of our culture. The idea of the quick fix, our preoccupation with personal pleasure and satisfaction, and the warped view of success and material prosperity have crept into our concept of salvation with little notice. Without realizing it, we became slaves to our own desires and aspirations. Where has the joy of the Christian experience gone? It left when our joy ceased to become based on the Joy of the Lord! What does He take pleasure in? He joys to see us standing in His Grace, walking in His Truth, and running with His message! His great Heart leaps at witnessing our selfless, generous and joyous giving! We feel the passion of His Love for His children when we give ourselves to the liberation of the abused and oppressed. Do you want a full and satisfying life? This is it.
Today, Christians are so afraid of becoming works conscious, that they have forgotten the joy of giving, caring and even suffering for the good of others. Hence, the true abundant life is lost to us. Self preservation and satisfaction become the goals. We go to church in order to feel good or to feel better about ourselves. What a shame! The only way we can experience true joy and peace is to dwell in Christ and live out His righteousness that is within us. The best way to feel better about yourself is to believe in and obey Him. The only truly satisfied person is the one who knows Christ, and shares the love of God with people in real life circumstances.
To fully activate ourselves individually, many are finding that a return to various expressions of Christian community is necessary. While some practice their concepts in actual separate communities on farms out in the country, others are being directed by the Lord to begin thinking in these terms where they already are now. By acts of deliberate obedience to God we are breaking away from the trends of our time. We know that God wants us to be more closely integrated in our lives together. Therefor we must make the effort to build relationships that allow for what He wants to accomplish in us individually and collectively.
Throughout the old and new testaments, we see that the context was almost always one of family and community. Moses led a nation out of Egypt. David shepherded a kingdom that evolved from 12 families. The prophets prophesied to individuals, but also to cities and nations. Jesus Himself, Who came as the only begotten Son of God, traveled with and trained 12 men, who lived together as a community. The sense of family and brotherhood that He established in them, was ultimately multiplied, as each of them helped build up communities of believers wherever they were sent. In this way, Jesus accomplished greater works than any single prophet or teacher ever could.
While many are gifted to work alone in what God has called them to do, the reality is that most of us work better and accomplish more as a team. The team that God has chosen to work through is His Church, the Body of Christ. He is the Head of His Family. Even though we all depend primarily on Him, through a personal relationship, He has so ordained that we learn of Him from each other. With each supplying the others lack, we all become stronger and more effective in His service.
Here is another case wherein our culture has denied us the full freedom of our faith in Christ. The glorification of independence and individualism, is bred in us from birth. Then, when we hear the Gospel, it becomes another tool to protect that individualism. We hear the word "freedom," to mean no one can influence us and our walk with God becomes one of isolation. Truly, each one of us is solely responsible for our relationship with Him, but that relationship also depends on our connecting with other members of His Body. Holy wisdom states that we express our love for the God that cannot be seen by loving those who we can see. Should not the Love of God be the center of our existence?
It is interesting to note here that this need for some to be independent, breeds in others the need to control those who seek their own. Now the people of God are forced to tear at one another, bringing mutual destruction! God set us all free from ourselves, that we may serve only you!
The Lord is determined to have a powerful people, who are themselves free to liberate others! That power is derived from their divine source, and is drawn from their union in Him. He alone is Lord! He is King of His Kingdom! He is establishing His throne in us. Through us He will break in pieces every system that oppresses the people of the world that He so loves! Beloved, it is time we faced the fact that none of are fully free until all are free. By pursuing His direction in our lives, we all work together to break down the walls that imprison us all.
This is what it means to be fully alive! We must let go of all our meaningless pursuits, abandoning our lives to His Love! On our mission for God we find meaning and purpose. That mission for you might be to give yourself to prayer and intercession for only one person. For another it could be to simply hold a child in your arms and fill it with love. The Spirit of the Lord might impress upon your heart to support those who work publicly to influence our culture in the ways of the Lord. By our binding together we find the strength to fulfill our individual callings toward the glorious goal of setting creation free!
Are you tired of being alone, even when surrounded by other believers? Then begin to seek God to find those with whom you can really bond. This is His desire for you. Together you can grow into a local expression of the greater community of believers around the world. Seek not to form an institution, only a living organism built on strong, trusting relationships. Serve one another in Godly fear. Join together in however God directs you to serve the world around you more effectively. In this way, perhaps we will experience something that the early saints knew -- essential, relevant, living Christianity.