Thursday, August 19, 2004

Christianity - like learning a language?

John Stoll, for Leadership U, writes about Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity. It contains some pretty good insight. And I like the following, but only to a point...

To further enlighten the reader as to what I believe the Bible refers to as the maturation process of the Christian, let me illustrate by analogy. When one begins to learn a foreign language, he memorizes elements of that language, then he begins to formulate sentences, etc., but when he "crosses over" and begins to think in that language, he enjoys a fullness of understanding never afforded to him before. It opens up a whole new concept of understanding. So likewise, God not only wants us to know the facts of God's Word, but He desires that we know the concepts and principles primarily, so that we can put them all together and think Biblically, as God thinks.

Now, I don't think the contemporary American church could be accused of much maturity, or much deep thinking. But while I like the language analogy I think if conceptually left standing alone it becomes problematic. To know "concepts and principles primarily" might be the best way to learn language (and I think that could be disputed...I, for instance, know all kinds of English speakers that don't know the concepts and principles primarily but who learned the language as their second, or third).

Jesus, it seems to me, taught his disciples the Kingdom of God by concepts and principles while they were doing. Take the calling of the disciples in Matthew 4:

19"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 20At once they left their nets and followed him. 21Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Jesus Heals the Sick 23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.

Then, in the narrative, comes the Sermon on the Mount and the great parables and the amazing words. But the concepts and principles came while engaging the culture at the point of their deepest need.

The Church wants to sit and think and, in their thinking, suggest to themselves they are doing something special. Sadly, they too often don't get off of their thinking pews and launch forth from their Sunday School rooms to follow Jesus to the unevangelized, the poor, the sick.

As an old discus thrower, I like sports analogies better than language ones. There are only so much concepts and principles you can learn about the discus, or tackling, or swimming, or jumping before you have to go and do it. And, in the doing, you can correct the flaws for greater excellence.

And that, my friends, is the gist of Christianity. It is in the doing that holy character is truly formed. That is at least as true for evangelism (and maybe especially so) as it is for the other critical dynamics of the faith.

William Booth:

You must do it! You cannot hold back. You have enjoyed yourself in Christianity long enough. You have had pleasant feelings, pleasant songs, pleasant meetings, pleasant prospects. There has been much of human happiness, much clapping of hands and shouting of praises- very much of heaven on earth.

Now then, go to God and tell Him you are prepared as much as necessary to turn your back upon it all, and that you are willing to spend the rest of your days struggling in the midst of these perishing multitudes, whatever it may cost you.You must do it. With the light that is now broken in upon your mind and the call that is now sounding in your ears, and the beckoning hands that are now before your eyes, you have no alternative.

To go down among the perishing crowds is your duty. Your happiness from now on will consist in sharing their misery, your ease in sharing their pain, your crown in helping them to bear their cross, and your heaven in going into the very jaws of hell to rescue them.

Now what will you do?


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