Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place, Osoyoos
Pulpit Series Volume 21, Issue 11 August 7, 2011
Look at yourself in a mirror....You are an expression of the glorified, eternal Christ who lives within you.
Begin to believe that about yourself and you will start to experience His life as a daily reality. We have to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that we have within us all the resources of the One who upholds the universe.
What is going on? After years of hearing messages, many of God’s children remain unchanged. They continually need to be instructed to love their brothers and sisters in Christ - let alone loving their neighbour.
We have funny thoughts about church growth.
We see numbers as the sign of growth….but to grow in numbers is not spiritual growth. Cemeteries also grow numerically. To have a 100 people without love, then 200 without love, is just to get fat.
We tell people:
- You should bear fruit for Jesus.
- You should be experiencing the virtues of God.
- You should have more love, more peace.
And when the people in the book of Hebrews ought to have been teachers, they needed to be taught the first principles over again. They could take only milk instead of solid food.
Here is a prayer that we could pray…..“Lord Jesus, we turn our eyes upon You, that we might know that we have Your life within us, and that we may live that life by faith.”
When we are spiritually alive, we grow…..
- in love and joy
- in peace and longsuffering
- in gentleness and in all the virtues of Christ
One of the main reasons for the lack of growth in the church is that we are centered in concepts instead of in life. We are spectators rather than partakers.
II Peter 1:4 “Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature.”
Here is an example of what I mean by being concept-centered:
Suppose you ask me, to give you a Bible study on joy. I take a concordance and look for the word “joy”. Wow, there is a lot! So I take out those that fit my message and leave the rest. Next I look in the Greek dictionary. What is joy in Greek? Wonderful! Now in the Hebrew. Oh, even better!
I also see what Spurgeon says about joy. Nice! I check Tozer and Havner and Shakespeare. So I have my study ready. I come and I say, “Brethren, we are going to speak about joy today. Joy in the Greek has a different meaning than in the English, because Greek is a richer language. But the Hebrew conveys even more meaning than the Greek. Abraham said this about joy...Jesus said this about joy...Paul said this about joy...and Spurgeon said this about joy.” And all of you say, “What a wonderful study on joy! Thank you, Pastor.”
We even give you the notes, but nobody really has the joy!
They have the concept of joy, but not the life of joy.
Salvation is coming from death into life. “But this we know that we have passed from death into life, that we love.” Love is the manifestation of life.
A friend of mine posted one word on Facebook “Love”. When I saw it I thought you bet - love is all we need. Love is the most overlooked evangelism method. However we have a problem in the church today - when someone doesn't believe as I believe, there's dislike, distrust, even hatred, not love.
When we have God in our hearts and when we walk in recognition of that fact, we start to grow spiritually. We become more like Him. His life within increasingly shows in the way we live.
As Paul says, “We are being changed from glory to glory into the same image, by the Spirit of the Lord”.
If you have a joy which you can lose when problems come, it has to grow until the joy overflows and nothing can take your joy away. You grow spiritually, in love, in joy, in peace, in longsuffering.
If you can love today more than you did yesterday, it means that you grew.
Growth comes naturally when we center our life in God, and we know that He lives within us. It is His life within producing the fruit.
My favourite grade in school was the third. However good it was, I had to mature into the 4th and 5th. Churches across Canada talk about the Samaritan woman, Zacchaeus, the ten lepers, the cursing of the fig tree, the calming of the Sea of Galilee, blind Bartimaeus, and the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. And then the Samaritan woman again, Zacchaeus, the ten lepers, the cursing of the fig tree; and the Samaritan woman, and Zacchaeus, and the ten lepers; and the Samaritan woman, and Zacchaeus…..as if Jesus had done nothing since He died.
Consider the fact that most sermons sound like funerals because at a funeral we speak about what the deceased person did when he was alive.
Lots of people don't go to church because they become bored or the services are bad, but because they're always the same. The same hymns, the same messages. You really have to be longsuffering to go to all those meetings. Even God has to be longsuffering!
One problem is that people are centered in the church's activities and not in Jesus Christ. We go to a meeting, then to a Bible study, and then to a prayer meeting. We are forever in meetings.
We even measure our spirituality by our attendance at meetings. A person who attends all the meetings is very spiritual. “Oh, he's a fine Christian. He goes to all the meetings.” Well, if that is true, then if we miss a meeting or two, are we backsliding?
I wonder what would happen to us today if all the churches were to be closed. What would happen to our religion?
Christ, not meetings, must be the center of our Christian life. Is it any wonder we don't see more growth in God's people when we are so centered in concepts instead of in the Living Christ?
But thank God, all around the world there are people today who are tired of trying to live like Jesus and constantly feeling like failures. They see their lack of love, their lack of joy, and they long for a revelation in the knowledge of Him, that they might be the Living Letters they were meant to be.
We need a new generation of Christians who know that the church is centered around a Person who lives within them.
Jesus didn't just leave us with a book saying, “I leave the Bible. Try to find out all you can from it by making concordances and commentaries. See ya!!!” NO…..He said, “Lo, I am with you always”. He promised, “Where two or three gather together in My name, I am in the midst of them.” He didn't leave us as orphans. He Himself is within us. “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you. I'm not leaving you with a book alone. I am there, in your hearts.”
We don't have to try to copy, in our own effort, what the book says about the way Christ lived. We don't have to fast and pray that He will give us more love, more joy and more peace. We just have to know that we have the Author of the book within us, and He is all of these things in us. When we know this, growth comes naturally. Change comes in our lives because more of Christ is seen. Only this revelation of Christ in us can bring about growth in spiritual fruits.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus”