In our past meetings, we have talked a lot about community, relationships, mentoring and discipling. We have talked about how these things help us to go deeper in our own faith and also how they encourage and support others to go deeper in their own.
But yet, for me, there is still one nagging question – why bother? Why bother? What is it that really drives us to follow through and actively engage others and share our faith? Doesn’t Ephesians 2 say that we are saved by grace through our faith, not through our works? Can’t it just stop at that?
I know that in past meetings we have talked about the Great Commission but can’t I do my little part of that by praying or giving or serving? Or how about writing? I really enjoy writing. Sort of a nice solitary event for a committed introvert. Isn’t that enough, God? Do I really have to go out and engage others? I know it shouldn’t be but talking to others can really be pretty scary for me. And furthermore, do I really have to be vulnerable and allow myself to be discipled by someone else?
Despite all of the great practical examples we’ve shared about how dicipling another is easy and can be very natural, these questions have really plagued me and a couple of weeks ago I was reading through the 5th chapter of II Corinthians and I really got stopped by some things. As I have kept re-reading this passage for a couple of weeks now, I know that God’s trying to drive home some points with me and take me deeper. I hope you don’t mind if I share with you.
I’m going to start at Verse 9 and I’ll be reading from The Message.
Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that's what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions. Sooner or later we'll all have to face God, regardless of our conditions. We will appear before Christ and take what's coming to us as a result of our actions, either good or bad.
This really got to me because it reminds me that God really is watching my actions. I mean, even if I don’t have any actions that may be perceived as “bad” (and, believe me, I do), isn’t inaction – the lack of action when I know God is calling me to something – the same as a bad action? I mean, inaction in the face of God’s call certainly isn’t a good action.
Let me skip back a second and read something from I Corinthians Chapter 3. This is Paul talking about the things that he and his helper Apollos had done in supporting the church at Corinth:
10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
So this is telling me that, even after accepting Christ, what I do here on earth will be judged … that the quality, worth and value of what I do will be tested. And what will those things be tested against? The foundation that Jesus Christ already laid. That is big stuff. Huge stuff really. Because how did Jesus lay a foundation? Was it by staying at home in His comfy den all the time happily tip tapping away on His computer keyboard? Hardly. As we have read before, Jesus laid the foundation through community with others – and relationships of discipling.
Let me continue on with II Corinthians chapter 5 …
11-14That keeps us vigilant, you can be sure. It's no light thing to know that we'll all one day stand in that place of Judgment. That's why we work urgently with everyone we meet to get them ready to face God.
Now, think about it, this is Paul saying this and he’d already been in his ministry for about 12 years at that point. He’d already done for the Kingdom oh, I don’t know, maybe a bazillion times more than I will do in my entire life but yet he’s still touting the importance of working urgently with everyone he meets. Wow.
Okay, back to the scripture …
God alone knows how well we do this, but I hope you realize how much and deeply we care. We're not saying this to make ourselves look good to you. We just thought it would make you feel good, proud even, that we're on your side and not just nice to your face as so many people are. If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. Christ's love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do.
What do you see in there? What I see is humility … and that’s certainly a good lesson for me … we do what we are called to do not in order to bring glory to ourselves but only to bring glory to God
Let’s keep going …
14-15Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.
16-20Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new.
That’s what God wants to do – to use us to be the catalysts to bring about fresh starts, to create something new from a life that was not in Christ.
The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other.
In King James, this says that God has reconciled the world unto himself through Jesus Christ and that furthermore He has given us the ministry and word of reconciliation – He has charged us with bringing others to Him.
God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you.
21How, you ask? In Christ. God put the wrong on Him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.
Like I said, a couple of weeks ago as my mind continued to play out my fears, God brought me to this passage and I’ve pretty much been stuck on it ever since. He really does want me to take action in bring others to Him. Where He’s brought me is to the realization that investing my life in the lives of others is not “work” but rather the actions of someone fully surrendered to God, striving to Follow Him and live my life according to God’s instruction and Jesus’ demonstration.