The Importance of Having 3 Wheels In An Autorickshaw – Part 3 of 3

This is probably the last in the “three wheels of an autorickshaw” series. In the last two weeks we saw signs of what it looks like when the church does not live like it is God’s family and His missionaries.

This week, let us look at what happens when a local church forgets or worse, ignores living like God’s slaves.

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Image credit – by Sudhamshu Hebbar, Flickr.com. CC BY license

“The loving slave takes any colour and shade and does all things the Master commands.”

Question – How much did the identity of being God’s slave affect Jesus Christ’s life?

Of course, He is God’s one and only Son. And yet, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered..” (Heb 5:8,NIV). When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, He gave them and Christians for all time the command of serving with no care for stature and assumed norms. In the great commission, the resurrected Lord Jesus states his position of all authority for all time, thus implying & assigning the position of glad slavery for all children of God.

Now to some of us, that statement might come with considerable shock value, because we may have been raised on the popular “God is all love” notion and nothing more. But knowing our Lord, He is true love and also true, holy authority above everything and everyone who is not Jesus.

We also see the Spirit of God recording how the first church identified themselves as slaves. We also see the apostles Peter and Paul affirming their position of slaves in their letters. Then, do today’s church communities recognize and war against symptoms in their lives that show little to no inclination to live like God’s slaves?

Problem III. Our church is not living as God’s slaves.

Symptoms
1. We have not understood that living as God’s slaves can come only if we understand the gospel. As a Christian, if you feel you have been serving mostly yourself, you probably need to remind yourself deeply of the gospel. You see, once we are forgiven and given a new nature at the cross, you and I, really have no rights but we are expected to have a posture of glad acceptance of orders from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus. The orders might range from cleaning the dishes for your spouse, to spending time regularly with the retired, grumpy, lonely old uncle next door- all depends on what needs you see with your missional family helping you to see opportunities of service in better perspective.

Who is the Lord Jesus?
What has He done for me?
So what does that make me?
So then, how should I live now?
If we recall these questions often and note down what they imply – would we not behave like God’s slaves?

2. We have a low view of the Christian’s need to obey. Often after hearing a challenging sermon or missionary story, I have found myself and other fellow brothers sigh and say things like these –
“That is tough! I wonder how one could live that way.”
“Obeying that way today is almost impossible.”
“Wow.. I could have never done that.”

Such honest admittance is great, but the problem with these seemingly innocent statements is that we could be saying these to excuse ourselves subconsciously.
Like our Lord said- “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever..” (John 14:15-16, ESV).

3. We are content with “feeling love” toward others. But that is never equal to slaving in love.
The Bible says that all mankind will be judged based on our works, whether good or bad. The tree of love is only recognized when it’s fruit tastes of love. What tree can boast of virtuous love inside, while there is no good fruit in abundance outside?
In Matthew 21, Jesus tells the story of a man with two sons who are given the same task. One says he will do it, and doesn’t obey; the other son says he won’t do what his father commanded him, but he goes and does it anyway.
So really, the one who did the task is the one who obeyed. The thought really may not count in the kingdom, because like Paul said, “ For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power ” (1 Cor 4:20, NIV). When was the last time we prayed for power to serve? Slaving will come if true love is present.

4. We say we are serving. But really we just have been entertaining ourselves.
It is interesting how the same task can be sinful or holy, depending on our motives behind it. I could invite neighbours over for dinner, because I don’t want to leave my comfort zone. And if they don’t come, that is their fault, right? (Really now, satan!)
Or I could invite them, because I really want them at my home.

Do we ensure we are entertained and then see others are being served?

Do we think that we deserve some entertainment even if that doesn’t help anyone else?

When did Jesus think that way?

5. We have been busy being enslaved to this world’s ways.
And so, I might be serving a master who is not Christ.

My job, my wife, my leisure time, my collection of movies or my pastor did not pay for my sins and bear God’s wrath perfectly for me. Yet how often I live to serve them.
Where is the sense in that? Where is the gratitude in such a life pattern?

Would we be surprised if God brought discipline or judgement on such living?

But… one look at the cross of Christ and we know who we must serve- the beautiful, dying, sacrificial lamb of God. Thank you Jesus, for being a slave to your Father to the last drop, till the last breath. You are that crazy and worthwhile example for me to follow.

Are there any other points you see that are missing from this list? Do you disagree with any of these?

Feel free to respond, comment and share your experience of serving and slaving. May you and I serve just like Christ Jesus did!

The Importance of Having 3 Wheels In An Autorickshaw – Part 2 of 3

Last week we saw signs of what it looks like when our church is NOT living like it is God’s family. This is part of a series where I am comparing the “family of missionary slaves” model of being the church to an autorickshaw.

This week, let us look at how a local church looks like when it’s no longer living as missionaries. And I am assuming I am not the only one in all of God’s Kingdom who goes through times when I am no longer very eager to talk about Jesus before others who are not Christians.

 

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“This missionary is stationary and empty. Intriguing!”

When considering the three wheels of an autorickshaw, I am persuaded to think that the front wheel is the missionary wheel. The front wheel gives control & direction to the autorickshaw, just as the missionary aspect gives the church right direction. It is the main thing. The primary task of the church is to show the world Christ Jesus, it’s Savior and it’s Judge.
After all, it was Jesus’ own chief purpose in life. After all, God’s Holy Spirit is given to Christians, to proclaim the gospel in word and through our new lives.

In the midst of creating God’s community and serving with much grace, Jesus’ one purpose was to be a missionary by proclaiming the Good news that forgiveness is available to those who turn from their sins and put their trust in Him. He began with not just good deeds, as some might claim, but used audible gospel words.

So how can we know if His church is no longer keen to live like missionaries for their Lord Jesus?

Problem II. Our church is not living as God’s missionaries.

Symptoms
1. We don’t pray desperately for people we know to get saved- Neither do we pray for our zeal. When was the last time you and your church prayed regularly for someone’s conversion from sin to Christ? I mean – does it hurt you that someone doesn’t believe in our precious Lord Jesus? That they would perish on the final Day?

2. We don’t find time for evangelism, because we have our life-priorities wrong. We are called to seek first God’s kingdom, which implies there has to be repentance and re-orientation in how we live our personal life, career and recreation for the gospel and God’s mission. Like the disciples, we can find ourselves in a corner, trying to earn our own fish through our jobs to feed ourselves.

But this is NOT coastal Kerala lunch-time! This is the kingdom of God, if you indeed belong to Him!

3. We find our time spent mostly in places where only other Christians are found. Easy life?
When did Jesus say hanging out comes at the cost of initiating and developing relationships with non-Christians? But that is exactly what a lot of us end up doing, don’t we?
Remember how Jesus Christ pursued us while we were still sinners? Let’s go do likewise – consistently!

4. We are seldom invited by non-Christian friends to hang out with them.
As my church community elder recently reminded us in a sermon, Jesus was so often invited by ‘sinners’ for their parties. And He gladly went.
Are you invited by your lost friends? When invited, Do you let a couple of believers tag along and go?

Why not? Maybe it’s time to ask the Lord the reason?

5. We fear men and women above God- we are afraid of confrontational talk and discussions that can bring us trouble in any form.
A lot of times, being a servant of Christ could mean nothing but being the most loving spiritual whistle-blower in town.

6. We have been bad examples before non-Christians and that hinders the gospel.
Repent and asking forgiveness to the Lord AND to our non-Christian friends is a good starting point out of that mess. I have been there. God will come to our aid, even when we don’t deserve Him.

7. We don’t hear or read of others’ salvation stories and learn from the experience of veterans in sharing the gospel.

This should be self-explanatory.

8. We do evangelism, but we do not rely on Holy Spirit to give us Jesus-type of love for others.
When with non-believers, do you talk about their bad behaviour behind their backs, with little intention of addressing the problem with the person concerned? That’s sin- that’s gossip. 1st Corinthians 13 reminds us that without love, God counts this “evangelism” nonsense-noise.

Are there any other points you see that are missing from these symptoms? Please write in from your experience of sharing the gospel.

Next week : Signs that our church is not living as God’s slaves.

The Importance of Having 3 Wheels In An Autorickshaw – Part 1 of 3.

The “family of missionary slaves” model of being the church, reminds me of the wheels of an autorickshaw.

For those who do not know yet, the Marg community strives to be a “family of missionary slaves”. This is derived from principles found in the Bible – a local church is actually neither a building nor a 3-hour event on a Sunday. It is instead, people who are :
1. God’s family,
2. God’s missionaries and
3. Slaves to Jesus and to others,
Every day, each week.

Now the autorickshaw, that quintessential Indian vehicle, has three wheels. I like to think of each wheel representing each of the above three aspects, while God’s Holy Spirit could be represented by the vehicle’s engine. Without the engine, the ride ain’t going nowhere.

But if even one wheel goes missing, the church will only go round in circles, defeating it’s own purpose of taking the good news of Christ ahead.

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Because we Christians are still fighting it out with the sinful nature within, we could forget or ignore living out one or all three of these Biblical aspects. How can we know if we are lacking? What symptoms do we look for ?

Here are possible signs of a church not living as a family, as God always intended it to. We will look at the other two problems in the coming two weeks.

Problem I. Our church is not living as God’s family.

Symptoms
1. We don’t pray regularly for each others’ specific needs. In fact, we don’t even know what to pray for, because we have been just meeting, greeting, studying, laughing and leaving. But is that how a family operates?
If Jesus were here with us physically today, would he be happy to just smile, ask convenient questions for 5 minutes, discuss the latest movie, study the Bible with us and leave and not be involved deeply with our lives? Would He not pray for his people? In fact, He still does. (Heb 7:24-25)
But do we care enough to pray? Or have we been delegating that task to Jesus Christ with a quick “God bless them please”?

2. We don’t meet up or eat with each other as a family does, regularly. If the church is family to us, do we hang out with others in the church? And by hanging out, let’s for once, look beyond youth chilling out with other youth, or old people sit around with other old people.
When was the last time the youth in your church dined with the veterans? Or do we just prefer to form little groups of our preference? Then how are we different from the world? Then how are we like Jesus?

3. We seldom ask each other in the church for ‘real’ help. When I am in real trouble, I call up my dad. But if we call ourselves “Family” and if we are in need of spiritual counsel or even material help, do we call up a brother or sister who could help?
But the first thoughts that rush in –
“I should not disturb them”.
“They will think I have no shame to ask for help”.
“They must be busy”.

Would a mother think these thoughts when, say her son offers to help with doing the laundry? Does a girl hesitate to ask for support from her big sister when she is down and out?

But many churches sadly foster individualistic lifestyles, when we forget or ignore that church was always meant to be family. Remember and repent -Christ made us His people, one family at the foot of the cross.

4. Our sharing of the gospel with non-believers is mostly an individualistic affair.
Most of us want to tell our friends and neighbours about our awesome Lord Jesus and His love for them. But we find it difficult.
And if you are anything like me, you too would like some help with this.

But here we are, stuck between gears in our efforts to reach out, because we are SO used to doing this all by ourselves. Why not ask our brothers or sisters for help in making plans and inviting friends for the sake of God’s glory?
Or is that too close for comfort? Do we fear exposure? From our God’s family, from our very own?

5. We don’t discuss God’s word in an open, vulnerable & personal fashion as family members ought to.
When was the last time we visited a church friend just because we wanted to understand something we could not understand in 1st Corinthian chapter 12? Or is that too out-dated and not cool?

Many Christian parents take utmost care to build up their children with Godly instruction and in teaching God’s love for them at the cross. When was the last time we showed such care and devotion to help another church member’s spiritual life?
Is a lack of concern for discussing God’s Word, the example Jesus left with us? If not, what are we doing to change this attitude?

These points are here only to help us check our own lives and bring them before Jesus in prayer- and hopefully before God’s family for discussion & encouragement!

These are just some signs of what a church could look like when it is not living as God’s family. Do you know any other signs that may have been missed out here?

Next week : Signs that our church is not living as God’s missionaries.

Enslaved to hope.

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Image from – Photobucket, Air_Gear_Yaoi_Lover

If you have wanted to love the Lord your God with all your heart and have wanted to love your neighbour as yourself..
If you have heard inspiring sermons about Jesus Christ, and have resolved each week to start doing what is right..

And if you have failed miserably at all this – read on.

I write this because more than anyone else reading this, I know that I have failed in following my Father God as His beloved child and as His slave- miserably so.

How often has that slow, sinking feeling enveloped my being after I sin against Jesus and lose hope of ever winning over my sin-battles! It is like I am gazing at something so beautiful and suddenly everything starts fading into black. Someone makes it all dark around me and I go blind- and it seldom seems like a matter of choice. Sadly, it is always I who choose wrong or right, isn’t it?

Why am I so weak? Why do I desire wrong sinful stuff that Jesus hates, over and over?

At such times, it is Satan’s standard operating procedure to make me question my being a child of God in the first place. And, that is a good question to ask oneself if indeed one’s everyday life is characterized by no attraction to Jesus Christ and to obey His words and a tendency to keep going from sin to sin, with no remorse.

But the very fact that God’s Spirit is helping me write about my sins and thus come before God, gives me assurance that I have been purchased by the death of Jesus- and that I belong to Him. It is purely mercy that God loves me this way due to His Son, Jesus.

But what helps me find hope to change my life? How do I know my God is not done with me yet? If you are in any position similar to me, I hope these three reminders would be of help to you:

1. Hope for change is sustained by God-given patience. Please ask for it.
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Rom 8:23-25 ESV

These lines from Romans show how Christ-followers have hope to be fully adopted as God’s sons. Why should that thrill us? The answer lies in the second reminder below-

2. God our Father has promised He will make His people exactly like His Son, Jesus.
And our Father has always done what He has promised.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Rom 8:29 ESV
If you are one of God’s children, it is your destiny to be “more than conquering” (Rom 8:37) against everything the evil one has to throw at you. Yeah, you are pre-destined to be made just like Jesus. This is God’s work and he will do it! But this new life shall come through death to our old ways of living life. And that shall come only as you pin the eyesight of your soul to Christ crucified. As it is written,
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24).

3. Talk and remind yourself about your hope in Christ- He will give you change .
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
My Saviour and my God. Ps 42:11, NIV
The psalm above is just one of the many Biblical examples where the writer is talking to himself, reminding his own soul to hope in the Lord God. This is a very beneficial thing to do. The few times I have talked to myself with encouraging gospel-words, depending on God, it has built up my soul like nothing else and has helped me turn away from sin.

You might stumble and you might return to sin, yet again. In fact there is no one who can claim to be without sin. But you are to never give up on hope. And I hope the Lord will lead you and me to look not to our sins, but to Him.

Stay enslaved to the hope of new life held out by the man on that deadly cross, Jesus Christ.

If you have been in times of despair, did the good news about Jesus encourage you and help you fight your sins? What or who helped you have lasting change in times of hopelessness?