I’ve been leading our church family through a deep dive in Romans. It sounds trite to say it’s a great book as it has led to the transformation of so many people…but it’s a great book!
We reached Romans 6:8 last week: “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.” After teaching on this verse, especially the “if we died with Christ” phrase that the second phrase rests upon, some great questions were asked. I’ve bundled them up into this one question that they were all pointing at: what exactly has to die within us and within the church so that we and the church can be more fully full of life?
Here are five things that need to die because they are keeping us from experiencing more deeply the fulness of life that God has for all of us and for the church of Jesus.
Believing without Being a Disciple Has to Die
What exactly is a Christian? The standard answer in church and in culture is that a Christian is a person who believes certain things about Jesus. Virgin birth. Death. Resurrection. Check these things off and you believe the minimally necessary thing to be considered to be a Christ. There is no doubt that beliefs are important. But Jesus asked people to do more than just believe. He asked people this: “Believe all I say and obey all I say. In other words, follow me…completely.
The Bible hardly ever talks about being a Christian. The word “Christian” is only used 3 times in the New Testament. But it talks a lot about being a disciple, or a follower. The word “Disciple” is used 269 times in the New Testament.
Dallas Willard said one time, “The New Testament is a book by disciples for disciples about disciples.” In other words, the New Testament is a book by followers of Jesus for followers of Jesus about being a follower of Jesus.
If we are going to come alive in the way that Jesus offers us a chance to come alive, then what must die is the notion that we can believe something about Jesus without following Jesus.
Right Belief without Right Attitude Has to Die
Who exactly can God work with? Can God work with people who don’t quite believe all the right stuff…such as the Trinity…or how the end times are going to happen…etc. What scripture actually tells us is that God can work in anyone and with anyone except the person who possesses down deep a self-righteous and judgmental attitude. Pride and arrogance absolutely corrodes the soul.
Interestingly, you don’t see that God can’t work with someone who is confused in some areas of belief and is still trying to figure it out. What the Bible says is that God “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
This makes perfect sense. When you are trying to work with someone, you can work with almost anyone except a proud person. Someone who is not coachable, who always thinks he is right, who can never admit a fault, who is never sorry is a destroyer of teams, homes, marriages.
So any attitude and posture that looks around the community and looks down on others, and says, “These people need to get their act together, these people don’t believe right, these people are filthy, these people are sick, these people need to stay away,“ is destructive to the soul, It needs to be repudiated. It needs to die.
Any attitude and posture that says, “I’m better than other people, I believe the right stuff, I do the right things, I have God buttoned down and figured out, I don’t need to be forgiven, I don’t need grace, I can do this now on my own” is destructive to the soul. It needs to be repudiated. It needs to die.
Holy Hand Raising that Doesn’t Lead to Change in Behavior Has to Die
What does God want from us? He does not want our fasts and our rituals and our ways of doing church. He wants a heart that is deeply affected by Him and open to Him.
There are many things happening in our culture that are just awful . We Christians must repent because of our silence. Or because of our putting our energy into trying to build our own little kingdoms. Or because we are slow to see that the evil in our culture is embedded in our own hearts.
A starting place might be to do better at attempting to understand the experience of others. We can have conversations with others and learn. Now is the time for across-the table conversations at a coffee shop that begin with these words:
“Help me understand what it’s like to be female…or male…or elderly…or a millennial…or black…or white…or asian…or hispanic…or single with children while working two jobs…or ________ [fill in the blank].”
“Help me to understand.”
My Mental Map of the World Has to Die
You and I have inherited a way of seeing things. We got it from lots of places.
Maybe we grew up scrapping for every dollar and often there were more days in the month than dollars. We developed a mental map of scarcity: there’s never enough to go around.
Maybe we grew up facing abandonment. We developed a mental map that we have to roll up our sleeves and make something happen because there’s no one who has our back.
Maybe we grew up the victim of prejudice. We developed a mental picture that there is no fairness in the world and no one to set things right.
Maybe we grew up with little affirmation. We developed a mental map that told us we’d never measure up.
But Jesus knows some things about God and about life that we don’t know. He has a set of beliefs about God and about how things are. What are those beliefs? How does Jesus view His Father and life so that if I share that way of seeing things, I will be able to live the way Jesus lives and I will be deeply saved mind, soul, heart and body?
When I say that I’m saved, but persist in living according to my mental map, I live apart from the abundance, freedom, joy and thrill of being loved and valued and treasured and embraced at a bone-deep level. My mental map has to die.
The decision to follow Jesus is the decision to give up our mental map in favor of the mental map that Jesus has of God, the world and everything in it.
Fear at Calling People to Follow Christ Has to Die
The church right now seems to to have accepted that it is more and more a place where lovers of Christ gather while growing numbers of people who don’t love Christ think nothing of not joining us. More and more the church has become a place where followers of Christ gather as opposed to a place where non-followers of Christ gather.
This is not the way of the one whom we say we follow. Over and over we see Jesus building relationships with people who hated him, who did not love him, who were deeply different from him, who believed differently than he did, who were living ugly lives. Consistently, as he broke bread with them and had conversation with them, he called them to follow him.
Why would he do this?
He knew that the opportunity to follow Him is the greatest opportunity ever extended to human beings. He knew when people wrapped their minds around this opportunity to follow Him and live in the fulness of His love, some people would cut holes in ceiling in order to get their friends into His presence.
Our time is begging us to join the people who would cut holes in ceilings to get their friends to Jesus. It’s time for our fear of inviting non-Christian friends to a Bible study to die. It’s time for our fear of calling people to join us in worship to die. It’s time for our fear of calling people to follow Christ to die.
What do you think has to die so that we can become a little more alive to God?
This Sunday, over worship and pizza, our church community is going to have some conversation about this. You’re welcome to join in. Worship begins at about 10am and the conversation/pizza starts at about 11am.