tim keller is so smart it makes me want to puke. on twitter yesterday, he said:
There is no way you will be able to grow spiritually apart from a deep involvement in a community of other believers.
profound, yet painfully obvious.
for church veterans, keller’s tweet conveys a sentiment that we read/hear all the time and really don’t take time to process. check out luke’s description of what he saw in the very first church gatherings:
“And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.” (Acts 2:44-47)
let’s be honest: for most of us that passage is a foreign concept. our church experience lies in stark contrast to the church of acts. don’t feel bad though…look at what paul wrote to the corinthian christians just a few years later:
“Regarding this next item, I’m not at all pleased. I am getting the picture that when you meet together it brings out your worst side instead of your best! First, I get this report on your divisiveness, competing with and criticizing each other. I’m reluctant to believe it, but there it is…And then I find that you bring your divisions to worship—you come together, and instead of eating the Lord’s Supper, you bring in a lot of food from the outside and make pigs of yourselves. Some are left out, and go home hungry. Others have to be carried out, too drunk to walk. I can’t believe it! Don’t you have your own homes to eat and drink in? Why would you stoop to desecrating God’s church? Why would you actually shame God’s poor? I never would have believed you would stoop to this.” (1 Corinthians 11:17-22)
the problem seems obvious (at least, it does to me): spiritual regeneration forgives, but does not eradicate selfishness. even after i became a christian, there remained lethal levels of “me” in my spiritual system. without concerted diligence and submitted brokenness before the lord, i am prone to be self-centered and demanding. i love jesus, but i still want my way.
in a recent blog, dave burchett (quoting another source who, i’m sure, quoted yet another source) shared a tasty definition of the abundant life…
“The abundant life is comparing God’s character, faithfulness and ability with my particular circumstances and believing that God’s character trumps my circumstance.”
i really like that definition. but if all the god in me truly “trumps my circumstance,” then why do i struggle so? why do i get caught up in comparing my circumstances with others? am i really that prideful?
i have a pastor friend who recently attended my fellowship while between ministry assignments. he is always a tremendous source of encouragement to me (he has sat where i sit) and would regularly call/write to build me up. out of the blue one day, he sent me the following email:
“Just wanted to drop you a line to tell you how much I appreciate your leadership and your spirit. I don’t want to sound too religious, so I guess I’ll just tell you that you are restoring the fun of being a Jesus guy. To be real honest, it hasn’t been fun for a long time. I remember last year distinctly praying, “Lord, if this is the abundant life I’m supposed to have, I don’t want it.” I never wavered or lost my zeal for Christ, but I wasn’t very happy with His wife. Thank you for just loving us and shepherding us.”
i gotta’ tell you, i’ve heard way too many stories like that and i’m beginning to get sick of it. would i be out of line if i asked suggested begged christians who might be reading this post to start looking outward? at least a little? we are designed to live this life in community and, like it or not, you are responsible for my spiritual fulfillment. but if you are only looking to your own interests (like i am most of the time) then how will you ever really care about me? can you imagine what this life would be like if we ruthlessly acknowledged our pride, took a vow of self-abasement, and simply loved each other (like the bible commands)?
abundant life…hey, it’s worth a shot.