Is it really worth it? Is the inheritance Christians have been given worth all the hardships and heartache of living as a child of God in this life? Many people answer no. They profess faith as a Christian, and seek to live God’s way for awhile but in time, they find that their present sufferings are not worth it, and they fall away.
But Paul answers the question with an emphatic yes! In fact, Romans 8:18 says, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Paul is saying, “If you know where your future lies, you won’t entertain the idea that your current problems and pain aren’t worth it.”
So what is this glorious inheritance? Romans 8:19-23. There is a glory coming that is so blindingly powerful that when it falls upon us, it will envelop the whole created order and glorify it along with us. We will bring nature into us a renewed, restored, redeemed reality.
Another common obstacle to prayer is an enslavement to “feeling.”
“I don’t feel like it.”
They assume that prayers are only efficacious when they rise from an eager and emotional heart. We should keep our appointment with God, whether we feel like it or not. The meek submission of our will deepens our surrender; our resolution to engage in prayer strengthens thought control.
Faith, not feeling, measures the efficacy of prayer.
There are many obstacles to having a strong prayer life and none more employed and observed than the lack of time or busy-ness. It’s a shallow obstacle because we clearly find time for less important things–entertainment and friends. We rarely use that excuse meaningfully to excuse our lack of time spent with those closest to us. Christ stole time from his sleep to pray. Just begin with 15 minutes/day and try to grow that over time.
Amidst the “Worship Wars” that churches have been going through for over 30 years, let’s be clear that Scripture addresses our question at hand. What kind of music does God like? God likes music with the following components:
- Skill: God does not appreciate poorly written or sloppily performed music (1 Chronicles 25:7; Psalm 33:3).
- Volume: God commands us to shout for joy (Psalm 33:3). What will be the volume level of the mass choir described in Revelation?
- Joy: The Psalmist exhorts us to sing for joy (Psalm 33:1).
- Creativity: The creativity of God is mirrored in the men and women who have ability to create beautiful musical sounds and to use them for praise.
- Participation: Musical praise is not for isolated individuals alone. It is a corporate activity (1 Chronicles 23:5; Colossians 3:16).
- Motivation: This involves the heart of the worshiper. We may have all of the above but if the songs are not offered with love in the heart for Jesus Christ, the exercise is futile.
What kind of music do you think God likes?
In Romans 8:15, Paul distinguishes between two ways in which we can approach the Christian life.
- A Slave.
- A Son.
It is possible, having trusted Christ to make us righteous, to have the spirit of a slave again, to return to an attitude of performance-based acceptability, acting as if God’s blessing is maintained or increased by our work.
A child of God is never afraid of being “fined.” A parent/child relationship is based on unconditional love, not performance standards.
The “Spirit of Sonship” that Paul speak of is, therefore, an ability that the Holy Spirit gives us to approach God as a father instead of as a boss or slavemaster.
A slave obeys under compulsion, because they have to. A son obeys out of love and joy in “daddy.”
A slave works under the threat of loss or “payback.” A son is disciplined to loving instruct, not retribution.
A slave is insecure because if he slips up…. A son is secure because his father will forgive him.
A slave concentrates on external behavior. A son concentrates on attitudes and relationships.
A slave has to work but given no honor. A son is honored and invited to join the work.
Jesus was more than a leader. As the Son of God, we see in Christ every trait perfected and the only One who can purchase redemption by His sinless life sacrificed in our place. Therefore we look to Him as our primary example of Christian leadership. As you read over the descriptions, take time to assess your own life and activity as a leader.
- Jesus invested in people. Jesus demonstrated incredible confidence in the potential of people to let Him use them for a higher purpose. He doesn’t just want us to “believe” in Him. He believes in us!
- Jesus saw long and far. In John 17:20 Jesus was living beyond the moment.With the pressures of NOW, it is possible for us to shorten our sight. But we must think the long term.
- Jesus sent people away from Him on mission. The environment around Jesus was like an airport terminal. Disciples were constantly coming and going to practice what they had learned and to serve others.
- Jesus grieved for communities. Jesus could look over a city (Luke 19:41-42) and be heartbroken over the rebellious nature of its’ inhabitants. Jesus wept over a community and calls us to love ours.
- Jesus led a balanced life. By “balance,” I mean that he invested perfectly into multiple environments. Jesus knew the value of time away from crowds to spend time with His Father.
- Jesus embraced other cultures. He was not afraid or offended by Samaritans. He went out of his way to talk with them and refused to give up when they rejected Him. The heard of Jesus is for people, all people.
- Jesus surrendered His will to the Father. True Christian leaders are in tune with the heart of God. We must resolve to do WHATEVER the Father requires. Jesus gave up His human will for God’s higher purpose. So must we.
- Jesus surrounded Himself with lost people. By offering grace and truth, Jesus was attractive to lost people.
- Jesus’ harvest vision was leveraged by prayer. We have no ability to transform anything without God’s power. Matthew 9:37-38. The source for harvest workers is not in recruitment strategies, but in prayer. Prayer recognizes God as externally focused.
- Jesus felt the needs of people. Why did Jesus weep at the death of Lazarus? Jesus was a man who deeply loved others. He cared for people who were hungry and afraid. He cared for the physically sick and the spiritually oppressed.
Is a great church one that does great things like have excellent programs, preaching or praying? Is it great because of its size? I don’t think so.
Ed Stetzer’s and Thom Rainer’s book Transformational Church reminds me of some things I already knew but haven’t talked about in a while. A great church is one in which LIFE CHANGE is happening at the individual and corporate level. How does a church begin to do that?
- They must rely more on God’s empowered mission and biblical mandate than the personal preferences of the congregation. Sadly, Christians are often more in love with the way they do church than they are in love with people in their community. The church must develop a “missionary mentality.” That means that the church understands the community and will minister in contextually appropriate ways to reach local people with the gospel. Moving to an external focus pushes the church from “doing missions” as part of some program into being “on mission as a way of life.”
- Vibrant leadership. Change starts with the leaders of the church. Vibrant leaders lead their people to worship, live in community, and live on mission. They are leaders who are being transformed in the presence of the people they lead. When the church assumes the role of missionary, a radical shift in the view of leadership must take place. The old model was to hoard and retain control. Vibrant leaders seek to empower and multiply. Leadership is the stewardship to help others exercise their gifts. We must move away from “How may I serve you?” to “How can I help you serve?”
- Relational intentionality. The church was designed by Christ as a collection of people participating in one another’s lives. So the church must provide platforms for new people to engage in significant relationships with one another and with people in need. A challenge today is that most people find themselves too busy. So we must teach people how to create relational space. But first we’ll have to teach why. Another challenge is to produce familial relationships without creating a closed group. This includes providing space for difficult people.
- Prayerful dependence. Prayer is the engine of truly great churches. Characteristics of praying churches? They have praying leaders. They commonly experience answers to prayer. They value corporate prayer. They engage their communities with prayer.
- A sense of anticipation and expectancy surrounds their worship services. While they may count attendance, a better barometer is how many encountered the transforming presence of God through worship. This means that people have to actively participating in worship, not just listening to a talking head or following along in their bulletin.
Is there anything you would add or subtract from this list? How have you seen these in your church?