From the Pastor's Pen
I remember attending my 20th year high school reunion. Most of us had not seen each other since graduation. I didn't know what most of the other people were doing or where they lived. Twenty years is a long time to never see or speak to the people who were so close during high school. I didn't recognize some of my high school friends because they had gained too much weight or looked much older than I remembered them.
We were sadden when a list of names was read of those who had died unexpectedly. Reflecting back on that reunion, I have another kind of sadness. They were stuck where they had always been. The ones who used to get drunk in high school were still getting drunk that night. The ones who loved to play fast and loose with sex in high school were into their second and third marriages, and still flirting. Some of those whose futures had seemed so promising had gone on to failure. But the greatest sadness was not so much what had happened to these high school friends as in what did not happen. Many of them had never really changed.
We might ask ourselves, "If we were having a spiritual reunion with Christ, what would he see following our graduation into a personal, saving relationship with Himself? Would he see growth and maturity or someone stuck in a spiritual rut from the time they became a Christian?"
The story is told of a man, who after 25 years with one company, was still doing the same old job and drawing the same salary. Finally he went to his boss and told him he felt he had been neglected. "After all," he said, "I've had a quarter of a century of experience." "My dear fellow," sighed the boss, "you haven't had a quarter of a century of experience, you've had one experience for a quarter of a century."
Jesus left no doubt that he expected every person to enter a spiritual birth experience that would bring spiritual change and growth among his disciples. He spoke of it as being born again. What he meant is that we need supernatural help to be changed at the core of our being. We need Christ to deal with our sin so we can rightly relate to God. Once we enter the relationship, spiritual growth should be the normal experience of every Christian, not the exception. Like wheat in the field, we are either growing or dying. We are either bearing fruit or occupying space. We are either becoming more Christlike or we are dying spiritually. We are either making movement down the path of life toward heaven or we are moving away from God.
Jesus expected each believer to be a growing disciple. At its simplest level, a disciple is one who follows Jesus in order to learn to live as he lived, in dependence upon His Heavenly Father.
Jesus is our best biblical example of growing and developing disciples. How did he do it? What was his strategy? Jesus poured his life into those who gathered around him. While Jesus preached to the masses and healed the sick, he poured his life into those highly committed to him. He called for them to "be with him" in a relationship. It was a group experience.
Rapunzel was a beautiful princess but she didn't know it. Rapunzel was locked up in a tower by a witch who visited her on a daily basis to bring her food. The reason Rapunzel did not know she was beautiful was because of two reasons.
1. She had no mirrors with which to see herself.
2. The only other person she saw was the ugly witch.
The exciting thing about the Christian life is that as we gather in the community of faith, the body of Christ called the church, other people become a mirror to us. Yes, we are all imperfect. Each of us has things in our lives that are wrong, and sinful, and ugly. But mirror of loving Christians who hold us accountable by lovingly and responsibly helping us in spite of that ugliness can make an eternal difference. Our brothers and sisters are to lovingly confront us to do better. Some call this judging, but Jesus called it growing into a mature faith. But the mirror of God's Word holds us to an eternal standard of values and ethics that if followed, will begin to reflect the potential beauty that God sees in each of us. We need the closeness of one another to grow and stretch and mature into the kind of disciple Christ died to save.
Clarence E. Byerly, Pastor
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Updated January 17, 2002