Dallas Burdette is an excellent writer, and produces some devotionals that are challenging and very helpful. I am glad to share one of his recent articles.
Is Our Faith Real
The church of Jesus is a worldwide movement for the advancement of God’s kingdom. Unfortunately, divisions exist within the Christian community that tarnish the unity for which Jesus prayed (John 17). Many saints have not yet learned that the church is one. Christ’s body of believers needs to recapture the conviction of the early church. The Christian faith is devotion to the living God and is the ultimate ground for missionary activities. When we share our beliefs about God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, we are fulfilling the divine purpose for the company of the Resurrected One. We, as Christians, are to have a positive outlook in our outreach to the lost. On the one hand, we witness pessimistic, or gloomy, views from Hinduism and Buddhism. In the Islamic religion, we observe fatalism.
Yet, with Christianity, we detect an affirmative outlook among those who profess faith in the Christ. In our outreach to the world, we do not accept the philosophy of fatalism, that is to say, the belief that an impersonal force controls all that happens. This philosophy of religion, like Hinduism and Buddhism, is pessimistic. In contrast, the church of Jesus has brought the Good News from God about His Son dying for the redemption of the world. In Him there is hope. With the preaching and sharing of the Gospel of God, we see the redemptive power of Christianity in its influence to transform the lives of men and women into a positive force for good.
What is the mission of the church? One task of the Christian community is evangelism. Christ’s church has the responsibility of sharing of God’s Good News about the Atonement of Christ for the sins of lost humanity. Jesus is the very heart of the Gospel because in His Person He unites the human and the Divine. It is the Cross of Christ where the loving, forgiving, and merciful God is revealed in all of His holiness. In the Cross of Jesus, we observe an actual objective transaction, that is to say, God enters time and does something that is absolutely necessary for salvation. The Gospel of God is about God sending Him, about God giving Him, and about God giving Him up upon the Tree.
Because of what Christ did for the sins of humanity, we should endeavor to maintain unity. Many divisions exist within Christendom. The answer to these separations among the people of God is found in the essentials of Christianity, namely, Jesus the Messiah and His Crucifixion. When the Apostle Paul encountered schisms, or discords, within the body of Christ in Corinth, he reminded them of the bare essentials of Christian unity. Listen to Paul as he calls attention to his earlier preaching:
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)
His message was “the message of the cross” (1:18). No one group has exclusive possession of Jesus Christ. Divisions will continue to proliferate, or flourish, when Christians change the center of gravity from the Cross to the traditions of the church fathers. When the early missionaries preached Jesus, they formed local bodies of believers in order to give stability to the Christian movement. Without the fellowship of believers, we seem to accomplish little in our walk with God and our outreach to the lost.
Unless we follow up our commitment to the kingdom of God with consistent meetings with other Christians who gather to encourage and to strengthen one another and to participate in corporate worship, we will see little progress in the direction of reaching out to the lost and to the growth of souls for the work of God’s service. When we write about “corporate worship,” we are not advocating a ritualistic worship service with five prescribed rituals that have to be performed in a particular manner. Because we are worshipers of the One true God, we gather to encourage one another and to give praise to God for our redemption “in” and “through” Christ.
In the preaching of the message of grace and in the singing of praise to God’s glory, we behold a greater devotion to the things of God. Christianity is adoration, or worship, for God’s love individually and corporately. In order for us to be effective in evangelism, we must also Christianize our homes. Effective evangelism comes with a consciousness that a vital Christianity is necessarily a witnessing Christianity. If we do not exhibit Christ in our homes, how do we expect to win those who do not know Christ? If we have children at home, do they see Christ’s character in us in our family lifestyle? Worship is our way of life twenty-four hours each day, not just Sunday morning at 10 am. If we are not worshipers of the One God before we gather, we certainly cannot be after we assemble.
Have we made Christianity our own affair? If the church fails to witness to others about Jesus, the church will perish. Do we read the Bible? The church dies when we neglect Bible reading and Bible study. Is the Bible neglected or forgotten in our lives? Even though church attendance on Sunday is a vital part of our spiritual growth, nevertheless, we, as the Lord’s people, still need daily seasons of refreshing from the Lord. Are we taking advantages of the regular use of God’s grace? The inner life of any congregation depends on the spiritual depth of our lives in our homes and in our day-to-day walk with God.
When we fail to participate in private and diligent study of the Bible, we understand why the church service on Sunday morning is flat and unprofitable. What is the hidden spring that changes us into a vibrant and active worker in God’s kingdom? The answer lies in part in our prayers. The way of renewal is prayer. A renewal of essential Christianity in the world must begin with each individual within the fellowship of God’s people. Unless we are ambassadors for the faith, we are not holding the faith in its fullness. Fathers and mothers are to witness to their children. They are also to bear witness to other individuals. Do our children see Christ in us?
Remember, the Gospel is Good News about God’s Way of salvation by faith in His Son Jesus Christ. The Gospel is not about opinions or notions concerning creeds. We must not confuse the essentials with non-essentials. As stated earlier, a living church is always a missionary church. Every believer is necessarily a crusader for the advancement of God’s kingdom. Everyone must “go” and “tell.” Is our faith in Jesus real? If our faith in Jesus is genuine, we cannot keep this faith to ourselves. Religious individualism is a contradiction in terms.
Paul admonishes the Roman Christians to remember that worship is still applicable to every believer as his or her way of life: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). Have we lost our zeal, our passion, our enthusiasm, and our eagerness for God? Do we care about souls? One of the signs of our collapse of fervor is our disregard for church attendance. How long has it been since we met with God’s family? Do we attend the assembly more than eight times a year? Do we attend more than once a month? How often do we gather with the people of God to cheer them up and to build them up in the faith?
Do we study God’s written Revelation? We need to remember that one sign of our breakdown of keenness or devotion toward spiritual things is our neglect to read and study His Word. How often do we read the Bible? How often do we read books about God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit? Have we failed the test? Is God foremost in our lives? Is our faith real, genuine, or authentic? Listen to the words of Paul as he closes his Second Epistle to the Corinthians as he pleads with them to examine their standing with God:
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. (2 Corinthians 13:5-6)
For an in-depth study of preaching, see Dallas Burdette, “Preaching in the Early Church,” in Dallas Burdette, From Legalism to Freedom: A Spiritual Narrative of Liberation (Longwood, FL: Xulon Press, 2008), 344-382.
For a more in-depth study of biblical worship, see “True Worship,” in Dallas Burdette, Biblical Preaching and Teaching: Jesus and Our Privileges (Longwood, FL: Xulon Press, 2009), 358-376.