Friday, August 20, 2010

How do we grow up in Christian faith?

"How do we grow beyond being just spiritual babes?" is a question asked in this wonderful piece from Our Daily Bread.

The answer given by Bill Crowder, the piece's author, is to regularly meditate on God's Word and to devote ourselves to prayer.

I would add one more element to that answer, something which is indispensable to the growth of our relationship with Christ and which is pure gift. It's regularly receiving the body and blood of Jesus in Holy Communion.

In Holy Communion, Christ both bodily and spiritually imparts Himself to us and in God's mysterious way, works within us, making us over into His image.

One must be careful, though. None of these three things--meditating on God's Word, prayer, or Holy Communion--are works that we human beings undertake.

A good way to picture them might be as roaring fires blazing on cold nights that we, racked by exposure to wind, snow, and ice, happen upon. We can walk away from the fires. Or, we can move toward them and allow them to warm us. We warm ourselves--literally come alive and grow in life--when we move to God's Word, prayer in Jesus' Name, and taking the body and blood of Christ when offered to us.

But we don't start those fires and we are incapable of stoking them. Growth in faith is not the equivalent of a weekend spent in retreat with a motivational guru, irrespective of the impression one might get from some preachers these days. You could do motivational self-talk until you were blue in the face, telling yourself, "I will be a better Christian," and you won't have faith, let alone a growing faith.

Christian growth is dependent on the same thing that faith in Christ is dependent on in the first place: The action of God in Christ and our surrender to Christ. Nothing less. 

Last week, in an ecumenical service at a local senior activities center here in Logan, I spoke of the importance of growing up in Christ. I haven't yet posted it, but hope to do so soon.

This is a really important topic. Most contemporary Christians are as some first-century Christians in addressed by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:1-17.

Growing up in faith is one of the greatest challenges for Christians and the Church today. The Church is bedeviled by an alarming degree of spiritual immaturity--causing many churchgoers to accept teaching and practice that run directly contrary to Scripture. And that, in turn, means that the Church ceases to play the role that it, and it alone, was called, commissioned, and commanded by Jesus Christ to play. If we don't play that role, millions of people risk losing out on the eternal salvation that comes through faith in Christ alone. But, if the love of Christ even flickers within us, that is just too horrible a prospect to consider!

Martin Luther and the 16th-century reformers led a movement that insisted that every Christian, lay and clergy, is part of the priesthood of all believers, each of us in direct relationship with Christ, each of us participants in Christ's Church, each of us commissioned to make disciples, and each of us given the privilege and the responsibility of being God's spokespeople in the world and humanity's advocates before God.

When we meditate on God's Word, when we devote ourselves to prayer in Jesus' Name (including the confession of sin, praying for others, and asking that God's kingdom will come to us and all the world), and when we regularly receive the body and blood of Jesus, we dance by the life-giving fire of the Holy Spirit, we let God call the tune and animate our every moment, the Holy Spirit brings growth and maturity to us, and God empowers us to play the role Christ has given to us.

By these means, God puts our wills in sync with God's will. By these means, we bear witness to the new life that can come to all through Christ. By these means, we grow as Christians, come what may. Come what may.

1 comment:

Bob said...

How often would you say believers receive communion. I can't remember how often my church had communion when I was growing up but it wasn't very often. Maybe once a quarter?