Marg churches travelled to YMCA Lakeside, Nilshi on Friday, 18th December 2015 for our annual church camp. Our trip began slightly delayed, but finally all the saints from sundry workplaces arrived, all the children piled up into the LUV machine and all the adults stopped having pseudo-lunch. Soon, a convoy of cars was speeding towards Talegaon under the winter sun.
After a detour from the closed railway crossing near Kamshet (why do they have to repair the track when WE go to Nilshi, why? Last year, same drama!), we found ourselves sharing a badly maintained road with other vehicles and herds of buffalo. The road soon became better as it meandered splendidly between some hills and the Andhra lake.
We arrived at YMCA Lakeside before sundown and settled down in our rooms that were surrounded by nature all around – literally. The rooms are underground and surrounded, even on their top, by grass and shrubs, making the campsite a natural green spectacle.
Over the next two days, we had three sessions based on the theme Gospel Fluency. You can read about the session details below. We also had enough time to go swimming and kayaking in the lake and to play some nail-biting and yet hilarious cricket matches. Some of us managed to play board games right into the night and sit in front of a bonfire under the constellation-studded, deep blue night sky. Nothing beats family time with one another in the church!
One of the best things church camps can facilitate is the Biblical quality of reflection. We get to relax and take a break from the usual rhythms of daily life and ponder on Christian life and, to get more specific, this year we got a chance to consider the importance of gospel fluency and evaluate in a community setting, our own life-direction. Here’s a look at each of the sessions-
Session 1 –The Gospel
“Why do you do what you do?”.
The question from this session’s speaker grabbed our attention. In the interactions that followed, we were reminded of the fact that most of us Christians live routines not because we are mindful of our new nature in Christ, but because we are supposed to live up to a certain set of expectations.
Why do you serve the needy? Oh, because that’s the right thing to do.
Why do you not watch porn? Oh, because I’m married.
Why do you not cheat in exams? Oh, because the teacher could catch me.
Such answers reveal misplaced trusts and ungodly motivations. Sadly, we Christians are very good at letting actions define our identity. But the gospel is Good News precisely because Jesus died to not just rescue us from our sins’ penalty but to also change our very identity. He died so that I could be given a new nature, which results in good deeds! How precious is this Jesus to us then!
If we don’t remember this, we run the danger of defining ourselves by human standards and not by God’s.
The world today lets Actions precede Identity. Think about it, only if you study 4 years of engineering can you become an engineer. The Bible though, as seen in almost every New Testament letter, reminds Christians of their Identity in Jesus which then becomes the engine for godly Actions.
And this truth is universal. God is not a Creator because He creates. God is Creator, so He creates! This session also reminded us how much we Christians need the gospel. Just like no computer can fix itself, Christians cannot change themselves. We need external help, we need the pure work of Jesus to justify us and His very life to empower us to live like He did.
Session 2 – Gospel Fluency & Tools
A few weeks ago, this blog had established why every disciple of Jesus ought to be fluent in the gospel and the dangers we can run into if we don’t. This session delved into why being gospel-fluent is not just important, it’s what the Bible tell us to be to help us one another become mature (Eph 4:13-15).
Speaking the truth in love is one crucial way God wants His people, the church, to reach the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:15). But interestingly, the truth is not merely concepts we access in a book. It’s Jesus who’s the very embodiment of truth!
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6
We may have learnt for years that certain teachings and concepts in the Bible lead us into maturity. But no- it is Jesus himself presented as the truth that will make every Christian Christ-like. Presenting anything or anyone else as the truth will make us like something else, but not like Jesus.
Apart from the Truth being addressed into every area of life with much love, we run every risk of going into the horrible descent of unbelief (Rom 1:18-32). False identities are based on false gods even in the Christian life. God can mercifully give us over to our own selfish passions so we can see the misery we have fooled ourselves into.
As part of tools that can help us become more gospel-fluent, we looked at aspects of salvation that affect our daily life.
If I forget what I have been saved from – the wrath of God – my life can be characterized by insecurity, lack of love, lack of joy, worry & guilt.
If I don’t see that I am being saved – then I will have a problem submitting to God’s Spirit and in living a life victorious over sin.
If I don’t realise I will be saved – I have probably not set my eyes on the very real & substantial hope of eternity with Jesus, the real joy-giver. This can lead to setting my hopes on things of the earth like say a spouse, job, children or other temporary & secondary investments.
Fruit to Root
The next tool consisted of sets of questions that let us easily see the identities we live and the false gods behind them:
What actions am I doing? What thoughts am I entertaining?
What am I believing right now about myself?
What do I believe about ‘god’ that makes me think this about myself?
What do I believe about that ‘god’?
What instead do you believe about the true God, Jesus?
How do you know God is what you described in the previous answer above? (the answer to this should point us to God’s work, which is Christ’s death and resurrection for us).
Who are you now in Christ?
These questions will point us to actions that befit our true identity! After this, we went through a case study in small groups that was really useful in putting these tools to practical use.
Session 3- Community Bible Reading (CBR)
Sunday morning we went through a Bible study method that would help us become more gospel-fluent. Community Bible Reading (CBR) has no affiliations to the Honda bike of the same name. Instead, it is a great way to see Jesus in Scripture and display Jesus in our lives.
Bible study and discussion that does not lead us to see the main point of the Word of God, Jesus, is really of no use because it does not glorify God as He desires, neither does it build up one another into Christ-likeness.
The session explained how CBR is not just Bible study in isolation but one practically lets disciples build up one another by showing Jesus in the Bible, who alone can transform us. CBR is not just Bible study, it’s really a prayer journal that helps us confess sin in the context of the Scripture passage we’re studying, thank Jesus for his work on our behalf and lets us ask Jesus to transform us in the same context. We had a beautiful time studying Psalm 16 using CBR.
For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. – Col. 2:5-8
Dear Marg, we are always in danger of being taken captive by the empty trends & philosophies of this world instead of being captivated by our Lord Jesus himself.
Gospel-fluency means we learn to distinguish human trends and lies that this world lives by and learn by the Holy Spirit to repent of them. Because repentance is not just change in behaviour. It is first a change of gods, without which behaviour change is futile and unacceptable to the living God.
I wind up this blog here. If you have further questions or comments about our camp trip or session, please write in! If you think I did not address any important point, please let me know.