The Church: Ordinary people sent out to announce and demonstrate the reign of God

As followers of Jesus we need to realize that Sunday is only the day to prepare us for discipleship the six other days. We need to live generous, hospitable, Spirit-led, Christ-like lives as missionaries to our own neighborhoods.

Some of us grew up in churches that expected less. For a start, we were often told we are all evangelists, and we were expected to memorize prefabricated gospel presentations and share with anyone who might listen.

Because we found it impossible, we ignored the Great Commission and did little to nothing to spread God’s word. Why do it when we are bound for heaven anyway? So the church growth movement convinced us that all we had to do was befriend our neighbors and colleagues and invite them to church to hear the preaching of the word.

I think both approaches are unfair to us. The former places too high a set of expectations on us but the latter reduces us to church marketers who primary role is to advertise the church’s benefits. Surely there is a way we can see the church as an army of ordinary people sent out to announce and demonstrate the reign of God though Christ.

The Heart of Worship is Surrender

The heart of worship is surrender.

Romans 6:13 (TEV) Give yourselves to God…surrender your whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes.

Surrender has negative connotations because it sounds like we are “giving up” or have “lost.”

Three barriers that block our total surrender to God: fear, pride, and confusion.

We need to answer these three questions:

  1. Can I trust God? the more you realize how much God loves you, the easier surrender becomes. “Love casts out all fear.”
  2. Can I admit my limitations? We don’t want to admit we’re just creatures and not in real control.
  3. What does it really mean to surrender? it’s not passive acceptance but active sacrificing your own wishes and walk for God’s.

The Only True Life

Bonhoeffer said, “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘You were bought at a price.’ And what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.”

Discipleship is not a heavy burden that we must bear by our own strength–it is the light yoke of a death that leads to true life. Whatever investment I have made in the lives of others has produced a return completely out of proportion to what I put in.

Discipleship is the process of raising up spiritual sons and daughters so they are empowered to live a fruitful life by following Jesus and reproducing their own spiritual sons and daughters.

Make Room for Jesus

Luke 2:7, “They laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.”

For 4,000 years the world had been looking for Christ. When he finally arrives he is laid in a borrowed feed trough.

He could have come in grandeur and in the glory of the wealthy. But he came poor and went down into a manger…

The manger wasn’t the only thing borrowed for Jesus. He borrowed a donkey to ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. His corpse borrowed a grave…

When the Prince of Heaven came down what kind of reception did he meet? There were no hallelujahs from the people. 

No sooner the news comes that he is born and the sword of Herod comes unsheathed and follows him…ultimately to Calvary. Jesus was born on death row.

There is no room for him. What nation wants him today? Does our nation want him? Suppose we put it to a popular vote. I don’t believe there is a state in our union that would vote for him. Does the church want him? We have the institution but rarely act like the body of Christ. We deny the power so I think most churches don’t truly want him. 

Where is there room for the Son of God? There are some who wonder how people can commit suicide. It’s no wonder to me. When people feel there is no room for them, that no one wants them; when they feel that they are a burden to their friends and a burden to themselves, it drives them mad.

But then look at the Bethany home. It was there that Martha received Jesus into her home. It was the best thing Martha ever did. Little did she know that her loved brother was going to die soon, when she made room for Jesus.

When all earthly hope had failed and they had given up, then the sisters sent for Jesus.

Little did Martha think that the teacher she was entertaining was the Resurrection and the Life! When he saw Mary and Martha weeping, the heart of the Son of God was moved to compassion and Jesus wept.

He commanded them to take the stone away and he spoke, “Lazarus, come forth.” That was the happiest home on earth that night as Lazarus emerged. That’s what happens when we make room for Jesus.

Don’t Put Chains Back On!

If we try to prove to God that we love Him, it is a sure sign that we do not love Him.

We are loved by God because of His unfettered grace. Don’t put chains back on!  We don’t prove our love to others. We simply love them and they recognize it or don’t.  Either way, we love them. The same is true with God. He knows whether we love Him.  If we have to prove it, it is more for our own satisfaction and justification of our own lives when it was Jesus who justified us through the cross.