I’ve spent the past four days in Orlando, Florida at a conference with my husband. It’s a church revitalization conference called Renovate. Church revitalization is just a fancy way of saying “fixing broken churches”. A bunch of pastors and church leaders from all over the country have gotten together this week to pray and cry and learn and plan and dream about how to bring stuck churches back to their original purpose of making disciples. So many churches in America are dead or dying. So many are plateaued, not seeing any new growth at all. Something has to be done to help these churches turn things around and reach the lost and make disciples in their communities.
It’s a rough life being here in Orlando. Tonight my husband is out with some of his old seminary friends from his days of working on his doctorate at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I was welcome to come along, but I was also welcome to stay in the room and order from Panera Bread and do whatever I wanted in peace and quiet. You’ll never guess what I chose…
And yes, that is totally a Christmas movie on TV. It goes against everything in me to be watching one on November 4th, but hey, I’m wanting to live on the edge tonight. I’m such a rebel.
Being in Orlando obviously prevented me from teaching Bible Study in Gonzales today, but I still have so much to share with you. 1 Peter 4:11-19 addresses suffering for the cause of Christ. This of course isn’t Peter’s first mention of suffering and trials in this letter. It was obviously a big deal back then. Life wasn’t easy for believers. Being a Christian wasn’t easy. Being a Christian meant persecution and trials and testing and being willing to be ridiculed and beaten and even killed. Being a Christian meant following Jesus Christ, no matter where it lead, no matter what happened. It almost never meant fame or notoriety or wealth or success as measured by the world’s standards.
So is today different? Because when I think about myself and my Christian family and friends, for the most part we don’t seem to be suffering, persecuted, tried, tested, ridiculed, beaten or killed. We seem to be a bit more on the safe side.
I got to hear a guy named Ed Stetzer speak yesterday. He’s the President of Lifeway Research and a whiz when it comes to statistics, especially the statistics that affect the church. He told us that yesterday a bunch of new data was released that pointed to a very interesting trend. Basically, a division is occurring in the church. The “mushy middle’ (people who call Jesus Lord without actually making Him Lord of their lives) is leaving the church. For so long, church has been a great thing to be associated with, so much so that many people have chosen to attend church and claim Christianity as their faith, even though they have no real relationship with Jesus Christ. For example, if you were to walk down a busy street and ask each person one question, “Are you a Christian?” many of them would automatically respond with a “yes” even though they have no personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ. They’ll argue that America is a Christian nation, that their mom and dad always took them to church, that they are basically “good” people, but they don’t have any idea what being a follower of Christ is. Ed Stetzer explained that the statistics point to the trend that those who claim to be Christians without the substance of a genuine relationship with Jesus are leaving the church. While it’s tempting to think of this as a negative thing, this leaves the Church full of believers who are truly sold out followers of Jesus Christ, which is definitely fantastic.
Ever heard this verse before? Matthew 7:21 says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
You can call yourself a Christian all day long and not be one for real.
This is terrifying to me because I know a lot of people who call themselves Christians and I am beginning to see that this applies to many of them. How do we know which ones are real and which ones are not? Back it up to Matthew 7:20- “You will know them by their fruit.” So, apples and oranges? Bananas and grapes? Nope. Look at Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.”
Are you calling him, “Lord, Lord” without a real, genuine relationship with him? Here’s what I mean…Is Jesus your BOSS? Are you dead to yourself? If he asked you to move from your home, would you? If he asked you to leave your job, would you? If he asked you to adopt a child or give away your money or tell your neighbor about him, would you? Are you a Christ-follower or are you a pretender?
What does the word Christian mean?
As culture changes and everything we once knew about church becomes obsolete and all of the people who used to define themselves as Christians leave the church, who will be left? Who are the real Christ-followers? The real Christ-followers are those that not only acknowledge Jesus as Savior, but those who serve Him as Lord. The real Christ-followers are the ones that bear the fruit of the spirit. The real Christ-followers are the ones with an unreserved “YES” on the table before God. Before God even calls them to do anything, their answer is yes.
A very special verse to me over the years is Isaiah 26:8. It says, “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you. Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.”
When the Church in America begins to suffer persecution and trials and ridicule and even death, (in the same way that Christians in Asia Minor were suffering in 1 Peter) the division will become even more pronounced. Which side will you be on – those who follow Christ no matter what, with an unreserved yes? Or will you land on the side full of people claiming “Lord, Lord” who never intended to follow Him? There will be people on that side. People you know and love. People you thought were Christians. And He will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
Check your heart, my friend. Are you sold out to Jesus Christ or are you just giving him lip service? It’s not too late for you. Our God is mighty to save. Put your yes on the table and watch him fulfill ever precious promise He has for you and live your life every day with Him as your boss, all for His glory.