Sunday, April 28, 2013

One Purpose

Philippians 2:2 speaks of “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” This verse seems fairly simple to understand, because all of it is understood by applying Christ. The “same mind” is the mind of Christ. The “same love” is the love of Christ. We are “united” by Christ's Spirit. Therefore, our “one purpose” also has to do with Christ.

It would be easy to say – as many ministers teach – that our purpose is Christ's purpose, to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17). Because of such verses – and because of the commission accounts that Jesus spoke to His apostles – it is thought that our “one purpose” is salvation … soul-winning … evangelism. But is that true? Salvation was God's reason for sending His Son to this earth, but Jesus declared as He drew near to death on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

While I am not belittling the importance of evangelism, I do not believe it is our “one purpose.” Soul-winning is a byproduct of our purpose, but not the purpose itself. It is this misunderstanding which has led the modern church astray in it's thrust to do whatever is necessary to bring people in.

Salvation was Christ's work, completed on the cross. But concerning us, He said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). This was the work that was intended to remain, even after He ascended back into heaven … the building of the church.

“That's what we do!” some say. “We build churches!” And indeed there are many church planting bodies which secure buildings, provide leaders and people, establish services, and begin new congregations. Is that what Jesus meant though? Is our purpose just to flood the streets with more and more congregations?

How about first examining what is NOT our job? It is not our job (elders) to make decisions for the body. “Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:22). Jesus is the One with “all authority” (Matthew 28:18), therefore church leaders need to stop acting as if they have some power base.

Second, it is not our job to lay a foundation for the church, because it's already been done. God's household has been “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20). Yet when churches proceed to write THEIR books … the cathechisms, the books of discipline, the bylaws, the organizational charts, the vision plans, etc. … they are saying in effect that the Bible is NOT sufficient to meet those tasks.

So what is our “one purpose”? Ephesians 5:25-27 says that Jesus “loved the church and gave Himself up for her, [26] so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [27] that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” Jesus sacrificed Himself for us. Jesus cleansed us. What was His goal? To prepare His bride for heaven.

Today's services see lots of people shaking hands and making friends. We see people clapping their hands and singing their praise songs. We see them all bow their heads while someone prays for Aunt Suzie's cancer treatments. We hear the preacher preach about the good works we can do in our community. We take up an offering to pay for all our ministers, secretaries and missionaries. We take up a special collection to send our youth group to Six Flags. We gather midweek for a Bible study and some cheesecake. There are even a few people left over who drop by the church on Saturday for the work day.

What do any of these things have to do with preparing the bride of Christ for heaven? Which of those things make us more holy or more blameless? Which of these things prove to the world that we have been sanctified – set apart – for a special and unique purpose? I believe those things serve the opposite purpose. They do nothing but make us more like the world, and less like Christ. If our mind is on our favorite style of music, or our friends, or our stomachs, or our kids' fun time … then it is not on how to please Christ our husband.

If there is soul-winning to be accomplished, it will be done because we are salt and light in our communities. Our “bait and switch” techniques and the “carnival barker” atmosphere we have created within our congregations will never produce real growth. The answer to bringing people into the church (not a building) is not to be like them, but to be like Christ. They will not join us because they see that we are just like everyone else, but because we stand out from everyone else.

“We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. [29] For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28-29). Are we becoming “conformed to the image of His Son”? There are churches declaring themselves as “imperfect people” and “sinners,” yet the word of the Lord says, “God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:7).

“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7), says the apostle. “... in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12). I have heard within the church the profanity and coarse jesting of elders and members alike. I have seen within the church adultery and immorality, gossip and slander. I have witnessed arguments, divisiveness, hatred and the literal gnashing of teeth. I have seen those who call themselves Christians fall away from Christ at the slightest sign of trouble. I have watched as people turned their ears away from the truth of God to listen to the whisperings of mere men. I have seen countless lives on display, but none that can be described with the word “purity.” And these are the “examples” for a community that needs to know Christ?

One purpose. Just one … and we can't even get that right. Just be the bride. Act every day as if you are wearing white robes (Revelation 7:9, 13) and you must not get them dirty! Your husband, Christ, is coming back. Be ready when He gets here. That's our one purpose … to prepare for the return of Christ.

“But what about soul-winning?” ask those who have been brainwashed by the Bible colleges. What do you think will happen if we start acting like Christ? What will happen if start living what we preach? Do you really think the sheep in the pasture has to be told how to procreate? Does the shepherd gather them together to give them a seminar on the subject? #sigh #readthebiblepeople

“I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. [11] For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations” (Isaiah 61:10-11).

One purpose, people. Be the bride.

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