In this tailspin of craziness our society is experiencing right now, can I encourage you to not forget what Christianity is about: loving God and loving people.
Both of these priorities are sacrificial in nature. They don’t put self first. These pandemic years have put a lot of focus on ourselves. When the squeeze has been on, it’s really revealed what matters to us. The consumer Christian has found themselves asking, “What do I want?”, “What makes me comfortable?”, “What contributes to my happiness?”. A lot of Christians have reevaluated their convictions.
As believers in Jesus, our priorities are set by God, and they are not changed by shifting seasons. When the times changed for Jesus’s New Testament disciples, they didn’t withdraw from the priorities God set before them. They grew deeper sacrificially in loving God and loving people. It didn’t merely cost them a sleep in on a Sunday morning or a commitment to serve on a roster every few weeks. It often cost them their very lives. When loving God and people becomes a church service we merely attend and not a sacrificial life we live, then we have forgotten the very core of Christianity.
3 perilous priority shifts that can cause our lives to miss the mark:
Loving Church without loving Jesus
If God isn’t first, then everything else won’t work. We shouldn’t make our churches or routines ‘God’. When we do that, we start to operate with dead religion, not life sustaining relationship with God. Our good works are a great service to the church, but they make a lousy ‘God’.
For the person who loves church but not Jesus, church becomes little more than a social group focused on fulfilling his or her own entertainment needs. And when they no longer feel that their needs are being met then they find it easy to place the blame on others without taking any responsibility. “I don’t fit here”, “I don’t feel loved”, “I’m not getting fed” are the mantra of the ‘I-anity’ crowd that once were a part of the Christianity core. Selfish faith eats itself, selfless faith feeds others.
If we forget that our relationship with God is what matters most, it won’t take long before our spiritual desire decays, albeit around the window dressing of church community. It’s a hollow feeling to find yourself at the centre of your own existence. We are created to fill our lives by loving God and loving people. When we love the church without loving Jesus, it’s like sitting in a car that has no engine. It can’t move you forward and eventually you’ll find yourself frustrated and getting out of the car.
Loving Jesus without loving His Church
Jesus calls the church His ‘bride’ which communicates the importance of it to Him. To love Jesus wholeheartedly is to love His church passionately also. The church is God's army, His people, the Body of Christ and the Family of God. When we find our place in God’s church, we position our lives to grow spiritually and contribute to the expansion of the Kingdom of God on Earth. To be planted in the house of the Lord means to sow your life into God-purposed community.
I’ve seen too many Christians ‘go it alone’, only to find their faith shipwrecked years later because they have lacked a church community to help them chart the seasons of life. We must never forget God’s plan was that our spiritual maturity be formed and strengthened in community. Scripture warns us, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together as some are in the habit of doing”.
Yes, you can be a Christian and not be part of a church, but you will certainly be stunted in your spiritual growth because spiritual theory can be worked out alone, but spiritual practice is worked out in community. I encourage you today to renew your love for what Jesus so passionately told us He will build in partnership with us, His church.
Loving Jesus and His church without loving the unbeliever
When the church forgets our call to “make disciples”, we start maintaining and stop advancing. Unbelievers are a priority to Jesus and His church. When God's people forget that, we become insular and complacent.
How easily the church could miss the opportunities in front of us to reach people in this season because we are merely focused upon ourselves! We are not “holding on through COVID”, we are advancing through every season. God has not instructed the church to place a pause on the Great Commission through this time. He’s asked us to boldly declare the message of grace that has so radically changed each of our lives. As Scripture says, “the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few”.
More than ever a scared world needs a fearless church to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, we must not bow to the spirit of selfishness that wants to shrink our sacrificial love for Jesus, His church and the lost. It’s time to remember the selfless nature of our Christian faith and the call to lay down our lives for the cause of Christ. Crowds are fickle but Christ-following disciples are focused on what matters most.