We often look back at scripture and clearly see the faults and mistakes of the fathers of our faith and the Israelites in general, whether made blatantly or unintentionally in hindsight. Yet, as we often mention, we frequently fail to see that we too have followed in the same steps as those before us. We too have made obvious repeated mistakes or willingly, even if for but a moment, rebelled against God, which led to a brief detour down wilderness way or an extended stay in wilderness wonderland… both of which God never intended. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are those “Like Jesus” who were intentionally led to the wilderness for testing, placement, and preparation, which had nothing to do with punishment for sin.
With that being said, one area in which we may make the same mistake in today’s society is through our consumption versus function or our speech versus reach. In the days of Jesus, the Pharisees too knew much of the written law and enjoyed conveying their opinions, ever so eloquently, about it to those under their influence. But they were found gravely lacking in truly understanding and applying the heart of scripture. So much so that they were the ones who missed, despised, and killed the very God-man their own Holy scriptures spoke about, as Stephen amazingly noted in Acts Chapter 7.
In a similar way, today there is a potential for us to fall into a similar trap: waxing eloquent on various topics in culture and life via social media and other platforms while ignoring or missing God’s real call to action, both in general and in our personal lives, to reach out to those whom God desires most (Speech vs Reach). There is also great potential for us to be so focused on consuming all sorts of self-help resources, as well as going to various church events and conferences, that we can miss God’s will and way for us to be Jesus’s hands and feet in our communities from a simple, yet powerful perspective (Consumption vs Function).
These are often the very opportunities that God uses to bring about healing, peace, power, and purpose in our own lives.
We don’t have a lack of church buildings on each corner, but we do have a lack of the church being present on the corners of our communities that need it the most. Church titles and platform speaking are often envied and deeply desired by many, though those functions are very necessary, but few are inspired to be the hands and feet of Jesus in action within our community. We are all called to this to some capacity. It’s great to attend church and be present at many events, but if we are merely consuming God’s word, we will eventually become fat and die. We must consume and burn that energy off through the exercising of our faith in action. This is how we mature our spiritual muscles and accomplish kingdom feats. We were created for function, faith, and works (James 2:18). We should become equipped at the church to then go, not just to skip over our neighborhoods, cities, and needy communities to hop on a plane across various time zones, which is important too, but to start right in our own backyards. Especially the Samarians of our community that most often intentionally avoid. This is one of the very reasons many communities despise the church. “The church talked a good game at their building but never came to help me in the hood, see me in prison, at the hospital, on the street, mention God to me at work, or see me in the convalescent home.” Jesus referred to these people as the least of these (Matthew 28:19-20). These people may not bring in the financial support, but they are the very people Jesus equipped the disciples to fish for and build their lives around.
The new age church often builds their lives around themselves, their various forms of comfort, their itching ear theology of prosperity, their new cultural pressured interpretation of scripture, and various forms of entertainment. Let it not be said of us.
Friends, even Satan knows Scripture, but what sets us apart from him is that we commit our lives to the one true God through Jesus and obey Him in tending to the Great Commission and obeying Him as the Holy Spirit leads us individually (Matthew 28:19-20). The Church is not merely a hospital, though it cares for those wounded and nurses them to health. The Church is not a place we simply go to recharge our batteries to get through the week. However, the Church is the place we go to join with like-minded believers, encourage one another, become equipped, help equip, and unitedly engage the dying world around us according to our giftings and callings starting in our own backyards and on our present jobs that we often think are purposeless.
Let’s not just talk and be philosophical about it. Let’s not just consume and be made fat with knowledge, which can puff oneself up (1 Corinthians 8:1). Let’s go and be the Church as we pursue those outside the church; preaching and making disciples.