Monday, September 15, 2008

Commitment and the Cross

(by Rich Gregory)

* Rich serves at Grace Church as a ministerial resident. He also works in the admissions department of The Master’s Seminary.

Although there are many people in the modern age who are committed to going to church, very few of them are as committed to sacrificing everything for Jesus Christ. Shocking though this may sound, it is true that while many churches within modern evangelicalism are typically full, their impact upon the world around them is minimal. The modern church has excelled at filling its pews with bodies, but to a large degree has failed at producing warriors fit to do battle for the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many churches today are filled with “pew potatoes” who come on Sunday morning, soak up the message, but become overweight spiritually by failing to exercise their faith. Successful Christian living, and truly successful Christian churches are not measured through the size of their worship center, or the number of bodies gathered on a Sunday morning. Rather, a successful church is to be judged through the spiritual health of the members that constitute a “church.”

When reading through the book of Acts, it is nearly impossible to miss the initial numeric explosion of the church. What was it that allowed the gospel to be unleashed upon that society with such power and force? The answer is simple, and is revealed in the opening chapters of the book. The were focused upon the sacrifice that Christ had made for them, and they weren’t afraid to spread that message to all that were around them.

The culmination of Peter’s great sermon on the day of Pentecost that sparked the detonation is recorded in Acts 2:36, “Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” The tension that must have been in the air can be sensed in the text. He forced them to come to grips with the fact that they had crucified the very Son of God! Peter did not know how the crowd would respond. When confronted with those words would the people become penitent revivalists, or would they be transformed into a surging mob? Peter not only knew the truth, but he went further and confronted his world with the words of truth and life regardless of the personal cost of what such an action might mean. The point is not the results of what happened that day, but rather the Peter’s willingness to the proclamation of truth.

Peter, and thousands like him in the early church, did not allow their faith to be active solely at a worship service. They lived their faith, and they were willing to sacrifice everything on behalf of the idea and the resulting reality of the gospel that was at work within their lives. As Christ had commanded them in Luke 14:28, many of them had counted the cost and found that all other things were worthless when compared to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8).

Because of that fact, many of the early believers were focused upon the gospel and sacrificed everything for its advancement. They saw the value of knowing Christ, and were willing to give up everything else in its place. Worldly wealth, wisdom, and worries were counted as rubbish, if only the name of Christ could be made known and glorified. Those early believers made a mark upon their world that history can never forget or erase. They were not just committed to a church; they were committed, sold out, and on fire for the name of the One who had redeemed them through an incomparable sacrifice upon a rough wooden cross!

Where is that same commitment within the church of modern America? It may be seen in individual lives, but on a large scale, people come, the church grows, and an addition is added to the building while the all-consuming passion for the gospel lies largely in dormant silence. The church is consumed with seeking programs, donors, and philanthropic projects, while lost people stream around Christianity on their way to an eternity apart from God. God has graciously placed every believer into his or her world where he or she alone is able to have a unique ability to witness to those who are lost and dying around them.

It is an incumbent responsibility upon Christians of our day to not only strive after this goal within their own lives, but also to be actively cultivating this mindset within their local flock. Pastors and laymen alike must be challenged to awaken from their spiritual lethargy, and to become fully committed to their commission and reason for existence. Every believer ought to be viewing himself as a minister of the gospel. It is not just the pastor’s job to be an ambassador for the faith, but rather it is the job of every person who claims the name of Christ to live heart, soul, and mind in passionate pursuit of becoming a premier ambassador for Christ, actively begging men to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).

The pursuit is too crucial, the outcome too critical, to simply allow ourselves the luxury of a Sunday Christianity. It is imperative that we as Christian leaders challenge ourselves and those within our pews to rise up and exercise their faith in a dynamic way by allowing the power of the gospel to flow forth from their lives and impact the world in which God has placed.
But how is this done? We will consider the answer to that question tomorrow.


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