Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Is It Really All About Jesus?
THE BLOGALOGUE SERIES: "Encountering Jesus: Inside and Outside the Meeting"
Is It Really All About Jesus?
For me, the essence of an Organic Church is centered around Jesus. Everything we do should be designed to help us hear Him, experience Him, worship Him, love Him, serve Him, and draw nearer to Him. Anything that prevents that from happening should be eliminated from our lives, and from our time together as a Body.
If I could re-name the movement, I’d call it “Jesus Ekklesia” because, for me, that’s closer to what it’s all about: It’s for Jesus, by Jesus and of Jesus. With Jesus at the Center, Jesus at the top, and Jesus surrounding us, the Ekklesia is a Jesus-centric organism that won’t operate properly apart from Jesus.
In fact, the Church itself is nothing apart from Christ. The Apostle Paul calls it a Profound Mystery. Christ and the Church are One – like a living person who has a head and a body and organs that all work together to sustain life. We are in Christ and He is in us, and we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit where Christ lives, and He is the One in whom we live and move and have our being. So, we are in Christ and He is in us, and we are in the Father.
Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. Yet, if we remain in Him and He remains in us then we will bear much fruit.
Is it possible to have a meeting without Jesus? Unfortunately, yes. It’s also possible to have a wonderful meeting “about Jesus” where people get together to sing about Him, talk about Him and study Him – much in the same way a group of people might study any other topic of discussion.
But rather than have a meeting “about Jesus”, or a meeting “without Jesus”, our aim and purpose should always be to have a meeting “WITH Jesus.” He is the One we want to hear from. He is the One we want to touch, and to see and to experience.
Keep in mind, it’s possible to know stuff about someone without actually knowing the person. For example, I could know all sorts of trivia about Kobe Bryant, but if he walked in the room he wouldn’t say, “Hello Keith!” because I don’t actually know Kobe Bryant. I only know stuff about him.
The same is true for Christianity. We can know lots of stuff about Jesus, but that does not mean that we actually know Jesus in an intimate, relational way.
But how do we do that? How do we take hold of Christ – or allow Him to take hold of us?
I mean, if I’m not connecting with the actual Jesus in my private life, then I’m certainly not going to be able to connect with Him in a room full of people.
And, of course, if I’m in a room full of people who are also not in connection with the actual person of Jesus, then even if I am connected to Him, their limited connection to Him will probably make it impossible for all of us to encounter Him together.
How do we connect with Jesus as individuals? How do individual Christians encounter Jesus when they come together as a Church?
Those are the big questions, aren’t they?
I’ll do my best to answer both of those questions.
INDIVIDUAL CONNECTIONS TO CHRIST.
One of the most important things Jesus ever said about the Christian life was this: “Abide in me and I will abide in you. Apart from me you can do nothing.”
So, our individual connection to Jesus begins with living in Him. Not just placing our faith in Him, or trusting in Him for salvation, but actually living and breathing in Christ daily.
Or, to put it another way, the Christian life is about allowing Jesus to come and live and breathe in you every moment of every day.
Does that sound like a paradox? Good.
Imagine an empty water bottle with the lid screwed on tight. It’s full of air. Now throw it into the ocean. It’s surrounded by water, but on the inside it’s still empty and dry. That’s sort of like what it can be like for Christians who find themselves surrounded by Christian “things” and ideas, or even in a gathering of other Christians, but on the inside they are still empty and dry.
Even if you were to submerge that bottle deep into the center of the ocean, it would be wet on the outside, but dry on the inside. What needs to happen is for the bottle to be opened up so that the ocean can come flooding inside.
Jesus is the Ocean. We are the bottle. We can get close to Him and still not let Him inside. Total surrender is required for transformation to begin.
And I say, “to begin” because this is a process not a onetime event.
We allow the process to begin when we surrender our lives to Jesus, die to everything that is our self, and open our hearts up to receive His life, and His heart, and His presence.
We do not ask Jesus into our life, which is empty and dry and weak, but instead we respond to Jesus as He invites us into His life which is pure and eternal and abundant.
The Christian life is cultivated and nurtured and celebrated daily. We spend time with Jesus. We talk to Him the way we talk to our closest friend. We ask Him daily for help as we put His words into practice. We lean on Him for wisdom. We turn to Him for comfort. We look to Him for everything.
Keep in mind that practicing the presence of God like this will likely impact your behavior. It will facilitate the transformational power of the Holy Spirit as you open yourself up more and more to His command and control.
Any Christian who is consumed by this sort of attitude and activity can’t help but experience more of Jesus in their daily life. Now just imagine what would happen if a dozen or so other Christians who were also practicing this sort of faith were to get together for a meeting with Jesus as their functional head?
That’s what Organic Church is all about.
CORPORATE CONNECTIONS TO CHRIST.
When followers of Jesus are accustomed to encountering Jesus like this seven days a week, it’s nothing out of the ordinary to put something very similar into practice when they gather with others who are familiar with the concept.
The New Testament describes for us in some detail what a gathering of the Body of Christ should look like. In 1 Corinthians 12 through 14, Paul talks about the Church using the metaphor of a body where the head (which is Christ) controls every member of his body (the members of the church) as they operate together in ways that are various but necessary to the overall health of the entire organism.
This means that a church is really only “the Body of Christ” if it is submitted fully to the Head. If any church is not operating so that Christ alone is the functional leader – and everyone in the church is operating in their gifting as directed by the Holy Spirit – then that church is not actually behaving like a Body. It might be acting like a corporate entity, a 501(c)3, a business, or a bible study, but it’s not a Body.
When a group of practicing Christian disciples gather together under Christ in order to see Him and hear Him and encounter Him, the chances of doing so increase exponentially.
Obviously, if Christians are not practicing a daily surrender to Christ in their personal lives, and if they are not gathering with other Christians who are encountering Jesus in this way, and if when they gather together they don’t all work together to experience Jesus in their midst as their functional head…then there’s a very, very good chance that they won’t.
Having said that, let me admit something here: It doesn’t always come together for us either.
Sometimes we realize that we’ve not been walking as close to Jesus as we should. Sometimes we get together and we discover that most of us have neglected to seek His face during the week – hey, it happens. We’re all human. We get distracted. We get busy. We fall back into old habits and formulas.
At other times we find that one person in the group isn’t as focused on seeking Him as the rest of us are. In those cases we have grace. We wait for them. We ask how they’re doing. We minister to them in love.
We don’t compare ourselves to them as if we are more holy than they are. Mostly because we remember that we ourselves are prone to the same failures and weaknesses.
Still at other times we can all be in the right place at the right time and with the same intention and yet we don’t experience the power and presence of Jesus the way we hoped we might.
Again, that’s ok. Our faith isn’t in an experience. Our faith and our hope is in a person. We trust Him and we wait for Him. If He decides to move among us, then we rejoice and we receive. If He decides to remain silent, then we continue to wait on Him.
I think sometimes Jesus changes things up simply to keep us from relying on formulas. People love formulas. But when we have a formula we don’t need God.
Church isn’t about a formula, it is (once again) about a person. Jesus is a person and so we learn to accommodate Him and to defer to Him and to relate to Him as a person, not as a formula.
A PRACTICAL EXAMPLE
A few weeks ago our little group experienced the Headship of Christ and it was really wonderful.
After our singing time, one of our sisters shared about a message she had seen on someone’s t-shirt at the grocery store the previous week. It said “Live what you love” and that little phrase stuck with her all week. She began to meditate on how we should live our lives for Jesus and follow Him because He is the One we love.
After that, another sister shared two verses from the New Testament about love and talked about how the Lord had revealed more of His love to her that week.
Then I jumped in because that morning I had been reading through 1 John which is all about love and I read a few specific verses from that book and shared my perspective on how important it is that we learn to love one another.
Then one of our brothers shared what God had been showing him last week as he read through the book of Hosea. After that another brother shared what God had been showing him as he was reading a book about the prophet Hosea, which dove-tailed beautifully into what everyone else was already sharing.
We ended by praying for one of our other sisters who shared a little from her heart about needing to be reminded of the love of God for her – which is what we had all been talking about all morning long anyway!
As we laid hands on her, and read scriptures over her, and even sang songs over her of God’s amazing and astounding love for her, everyone was edified and blessed and touched by the Lord’s tender presence with us.
That was an incredible morning with the saints! And I wish I could tell you that it happens like that every single week, but it doesn’t.
The good news is that it’s starting to happen more and more often as we all begin to catch a vision for what the Lord intends for us as individuals and as a corporate Body of believers.
NOTE: This blog is part of a Blogalogue Series of posts from Neil Cole, Richard Jacobson, Dan Herford, Jon Zens and myself.
The Topic: Encountering Jesus: Inside and Outside the Church