The son of the living god
The Son of the living God
Today's church is becoming more like the church as described in Acts. A movement, not to reform but to restore is in full effect. The message is that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God." To require no other creed, because He alone is Lord and Savior. The church belongs to Him. We have no authority to change the teachings, rewrite the rules, alter membership requirements, or usurp His place. The church is not a democracy, it is a theocracy. Early pioneers of the Restoration Movement seek to be one in Christ with all others He calls His own. As much as possible, we imitate the New Testament precedents. That is why our baptism is by immersion, our Communion is every Lord's Day, our leaders are called elders, our preaching is about Christ, and our prayers are in Christ's name. Even our church name is rooted in the earliest days, when disciples were called Christians and their congregations were often addressed as "churches of Christ." The church, Ephesians 2:20 states, is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." Whatever we know about Christ and the church we learned from Jesus' closest companions, the apostles. In the same Ephesian letter, Paul prays that God will give a "Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. . . ." (Eph 1:17) Christian faith demands the best our minds can give, so we are a studying church, seeking to apply biblical truth intelligently.
Ours is not a dry intellectual approach to God, however. We rejoice and praise and pray and love and serve from the heart. We are unashamed of the gospel and not embarrassed to let our excitement be seen. We share our faith and love with as many as we can reach and our possessions as persons who know that everything we have belongs to God to be used for His purposes. We have no bishops or superintendents or national headquarters to determine local church policies. We elect our own leaders, call and support our own ministers, and decide where our mission money will go. We are not isolationists, though. Our congregations freely associate with one another to accomplish tasks too big for one church alone. We want to grow, because we are under Christ's commission to disciple the world. We haven't completed the task yet, so Christian churches and churches of Christ are renewing our commitment to go unto the ends of the earth, preaching and baptizing and teaching, until the whole world knows the one Lord of all.
There are some laws which should be followed by Christians today. Those laws cover the moral behavior such as murder or stealing. There are also laws that were probably more specific to the times. Examples would be Deuteronomy 22:11 "Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together." Deuteronomy 22:9 "Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled"
How the Way I Live Every Day Reflects My Christian Faith to Others
The Foundation of my faith is love. A phrase most deeply engraved upon my Sunday School memory is the line "We love because God first loved us." What does this mean? Such a simple phrase carries so much meaning, the profundity of which I have only begun to grasp in the past few years. As these words indicate, we are able to love others, love ourselves, and love God because of God's pre-existing love for us. God loved even before God made, and thus all of creation is imbued with this love. Because of God's fundamental, unbounded, and transcendent love for us, we are able to experience God's love among others, within ourselves, and back towards God. Three aspects of this love guide my life and how it reflects my faith to others: agape's unity, Jesus' selflessness, and God's salvation.
Agape is a Greek word that expresses the presence of God's transcendent love of creation in the world. In the process of agape, we see the presence of God in everything and everyone. God's love lives inside each of us, and unifies us in the universality of its presence; we all love because God loves all of us. To use a familiar phrase, we are all "children of God." As part of my experience of agape, I try to recognize the good that exists in everyone, though it is often difficult, and focus on that good when interacting with them. We are conditioned to see faults in ourselves and in others, but the presence of love in which we all participate calls us to something higher: to see God in everyone. Agape is a somewhat abstract concept, the implications of which are manifest in a mindset that is fundamental to the reflection of my faith to others. An aspect of God's love that more concretely reflects my faith is that of Jesus' selflessness.
Underlying the Ten Commandments is Jesus' "Greatest Commandment" to love others as we love ourselves. Part of loving God is loving all that God has made, including those people with whom we vehemently disagree. We must accept love from God, recognize God's presence in others, and act towards others in accordance with that presence. Jesus selflessly expressed his love for others not only in his life, but more importantly in his death. The crucifixion expresses God's infinite love through Jesus' selfless sacrifice. Every day, I try to treat others with the same love with which I want to be treated. When I hold a locked door open for the person behind me, when I ask how someone is doing and actually mean it, and when I listen to, not just hear, every word about a friend's rough day, I am expressing the selfless love of Jesus. When I say hello to someone whom I do not know as we pass on the sidewalk, I am sharing that love with another child of God. And as I smile at someone who quietly spends her days being invisible, my life is reflecting my faith. Love also involves forgiveness, which is powerfully expressed in our salvation through the love of God. Forgiveness is more often than not the most difficult part of interpersonal relationships. When another person offends us, hurts us, or lives in a way contrary to our own, we tend to react with similar enmity and disdain. To forgive is to recognize the finitude of the wrong in relation to the infinitude of love. Love is infinite because it comes from the presence of God in the very air we breathe, and from God's extraordinary grace that heals our brokenness and inspires salvation. Through God's grace, we are awakened out of our separation from ourselves, from each other, and from God, and experience the reunification of God and creation. Salvation exemplifies what we know as forgiveness: God's love for us transcends the perpetual condition of sin within us and carries us to life in God. Because God's love contains nearly incomprehensible forgiveness, our love does also. This means that we must strive to forgive instead of hate, to embrace instead of separate. When a door locks behind someone who could have held it open for me, when someone asks how I am doing out of social routine and not genuine interest, and when a friend only hears my voice instead of listening to my words, I try to forgive. When I pass someone on the sidewalk who returns my smile with a scowl, I try to forgive. And when someone's impression of their own value makes my mine invisible, I try to forgive. And, in turn, I try to recognize God's presence within me and forgive myself for these very same wrongs.
My everyday life reflects my faith to others by expressing the incalculable love God has in all of us. Recognizing that every single person I encounter, even those whom I am not particularly fond of, possesses and participates in the presence of God is fundamental in shaping how I act towards others. From this mindset come specific behaviors and actions that demonstrate God's love. These actions lie along a continuum of depth, from lightening someone's day with a smile, to listening respectfully to a person's contradicting view, to being a supportive presence for a friend while his mother battles ovarian cancer. Every day, we wake to the challenge of expressing the love of God to others. In the midst of this call, it is important that we remember that surprisingly profound Sunday School line: We love because God first loved us.
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