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A reason to worship Jesus

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"One of the heavy costs of discipleship, I suspect, is not what my discipleship costs me, but what my discipleship (i.e. the discipleship that I’ve received) has cost others in the way of pain."

C. John Miller, The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2004) p. 172.

A parent knows the painful toil of disciplining a wayward child.  It taxes the parents' time, emotional strength, and relational energy to form the child's character.  The child will flourish to the degree the parent is willing to suffer on their behalf.

The same principle applies in spiritual formation.  In order for a young believer to be fashioned after Jesus Christ, an older believer must walk alongside the younger one and provide training, correction, and at times a painful rebuke.  The younger believer will mature to the degree the older believer is willing to suffer for them.  

This principle is at work on an incalculable scale in the Gospel.  Jesus Christ is the true shepherd who lays down his life for His sheep.  He didn’t experience merely a tax on his time, emotional strength, and relational energy.  He incarnated in weakness, poverty, and ignominy.  He was condemned, spit upon, derided, and hung from a Roman gibbet. Far worse than this, He was severed from the Father.  He experienced the Father’s righteous indignation for our sin.  Yet, Jesus did it all gladly in love for us.

If you can see ways in which your parents suffered so that you could prosper, if you can see ways an older believer toiled so that you could mature, then know that those are small windows into the sufferings that Jesus Christ gladly experienced so that you could be forgiven, made righteous, and be received into His eternal kingdom.  My your heart warm to love Him.

Posted by Matthew Roberts with

The Church's Progress and Regress

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Acts 8:1, 4, 11:19  “There arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria . . . Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word . . . . Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch . . . .”

A naive assumption that young followers of Christ often make is that they expect the church corporately to experience continual growth.  They reason, “Jesus states in Matthew 16:18 that the gates of hell will not withstand the church’s progress.  A healthy local church or denomination will experience ongoing growth.”

This assumption overlooks the fact that Jesus’ own public ministry was marked by times of numeric progress and regress.  There were times when crowds flocked to hear him, and there were times when the same crowds turned away (John 6:66). 

This assumption overlooks passages like Acts 8 in which the church in Judea is scattered.  Furthermore, it ignores the testimony of church history.  The church experienced sharp regress from the rise of Islam, internal schism, and doctrinal pollution.  The church’s influence on culture and society has been extensive or negligible depending on the time and place in history.  Church historian Kenneth Latourette describes this reality.

“From the seventh into the tenth century the Moslem Arabs mastered about half of the lands which had been ruled by Rome.  This segment also embraced about half of what might be denominated Christendom.  In it the Christian churches dwindled more or less rapidly.”

Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Volume 1, page 270

“In the four centuries between 950 and 1350 Christianity was carried over a wider reach of territory than even in those great first five centuries of accomplishment which had inaugurated its course. . . Now followed another period when it seemed that Christianity was fading from the human scene.  Between 1350 and 1500 the geographic frontiers of Christianity shrank alarmingly.  The faith vanished from most of Asia and was hard-bested in Asia Minor and the Balkan Peninsula.”

Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Volume 1, page 587

These facts should promote a more mature view of the church’s vitality.  Seasons of pruning can be ordained by God to purify the church.  Persecution can diminish the church in one region and force people to migrate.  This in turn can cause the church to bloom in another region.  

A mature faith says, “The Lord may place me in a time and location in history in which the church is experiencing numeric growth or decline.  He may place me in a time and location in which the church’s impact on culture waxes or wanes.  Regardless of the circumstances, I know that God's eternal purpose will prevail.  Whenever and wherever Jesus places me, I will be faithful.  The church doesn’t have to appear successful in order for me to faithful to Jesus Christ.”

Posted by Matthew Roberts with

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