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Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Ground Is Level at the Foot of the Cross

People have made this statement to represent the need for Christ. Everyone who comes to Christ does so humbly with confession, repentance and gratefulness for the Lord's sacrifice for his sins. No one is better than anyone else. No one gets to heaven easier or harder. No one is worthy of salvation. No one is loved more or less to come to Christ. Salavtion is the great equalizer.

We remain in this condition all the rest of our lives even if people tell us differently. In other words, the pastor is not greater than any member of the congregation. The mega-church pastor is not greater than any other pastor. The missionary is not greater than the Sunday School teacher. Greatness is found in becoming a slave to everyone, not in the calling or the gifts God has given.

My life changed in college when I gave my life to Christ. The Baptists seemed to say that there were ranks of Christians. Sunday School teachers were above the ordinary church member,  Deacons were above Sunday School teachers. Pastors were above Deacons and Missionaries were above everyone else. Of course, there were ranks within each of these categories too. But is this how God ranks us?

No, our importance to the Kingdom of God is dependent upon our obedience to God's calling not the calling itself. We are all equal in importance when we are fully obedient to becoming and doing as God desires. No one, and I mean no one, is greater than any other. Thus we are called by no merit of our own, gifted by no merit of our own and talented by no merit of our own to be integral but not indispensible to God's will. We are to be the body of Christ which gives God glory together. Each one needs every other one. There should be no famous celebrities who have greater value than any other. We are simply those who comply to His divine providence.

Of course that means that I must also hold all other believers in high esteem. The only greatness I can ever achieve is being the servant of everyone.

In some ways this is a relief. I want my life to count. The measure used by the world is often the measure used by the church. The organization must expand exponentially, show a profit and build magnificent facilities if I follow the world's and often the Church's criteria for importance. But simple obedience is God's measure. It makes us all equal. It makes the ground level at the foot of the cross.

1 Corinthians 12:14-20 (NIV) 14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.


Anthony Chia said...

I like that, "Salvation is the great equalizer"

Indeed, by the Cross, we have access to the One who equalizes for us, but we have to agree with God on His concept of what is important in our lives, while we lived. You see, if you are handicapped on one leg, it does NOT mean that on entry into salvation, you necessarily will be made whole for that handicap. God's idea of equalizing is NOT like that. We must "unstuck" ourselves with THAT idea of equality.

Bible has the imagery of God as the Potter and we, the clay; and it spoke of a marred piece could be reworked by God into another; and by that it means if you are that piece, please do NOT insist that you stay as the same piece of vase or plaque (for e.g.). It is alright that you cannot be a vase or a plaque; God does NOT intend you to be useless, and He will remake you into some other thing useful, if you allow Him. The point is that God makes a pottery piece to serve a purpose; it is whether or NOT we are serving that role we are supposed to serve, that is important, NOT whether we are a vase or a dinning plate.

If you are vase, do your job well and faithfully, and if you are a dinning plate, do your job well and faithfully. The vase cannot refused to be in the light, and wants to be kept in the dark, and at the end of the day be told, "Good and faithful servant!", for a vase is meant to be in the light, a display or ornamental piece. As a dinning plate, if you humbly do your job well and faithfully, day in and day out, holding the dishes in you, you can be called, in the end, as a "Good and faithful servant!"

One of the most important points about the Potter and the clay imagery is that it was teaching us that sovereignty belongs to God, and we must accept that; we are to accept and work with God; we cannot demand of God what He should turn us into. So, if you are vase, do NOT accuse God of being unfair or unjust when you see the jug has a jug-handle and you are without. When He decides to turn you into a jug, you will get your handle; meanwhile, do your job well and faithfully, as a vase. This is part of godliness with contentment.

But if I am a dinning plate I won't score points, the vase will always be ahead of me! No, this is the world's way of looking at scoring; it is NOT God's way. God's way is more like this: The widow with 2 copper coins (Luke 21:1-4) - "1 As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.[a] 3 “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” " So what he is a vase, and you are a dinning plate, or he is rich and you are not, financially! It is NOT unequal just because one is a vase and another is a dinning plate; or one is rich and another is not!

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Anthony Chia said...

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If administered correctly, as far as authority and delegation are concerned, they are part of ways of God. The ultimate authority is in God, and we do have to respect proper delegated authority; it is a way of orderliness. Even in the spiritual realm there is hierarchy; Scripture recorded for us, a couple of arch-angels or chief angels, presumably they ranked above the ordinary angels.

Yah, I want to be the head, NOT the tail! I am no expert, and this short comment space here, is NOT the place to expound on this, but I give us 4 words to meditate upon: obedience (yours), faithfulness (yours), servant-leadership and sovereignty (God's).

The other thing to note is that responsibility and accountability go with authority. In other words, you don't get authority without having to bear the responsibility that goes with it, and you will be held accountable.

Concerning teachers, Scripture did talk about it being assigned double honors. Double honors demanded double responsibility, and therefore, its corresponding authority. Why double? Double because what a teacher dishes out can stumble a person. As a missionary, if you do NOT do your work, a soul is missed out, one is not added into the believers' pool, but you have NOT drawn him further away; he got nothing from you, that’s all. But as a teacher, if you instruct wrongly, a non-believing soul, NOT only he may NOT enter into salvation, he may be misled by your teaching if it is misleading, heretic or apostate; in other words, he comes off in a more worse condition. Or if the person is a believer, wrong teaching may even cause him to fall away from the faith. NOT only that, one's teaching is then transmitted, and it can likewise impact negatively others, geometrically or exponentially (to use Ps Prentis' word). That is why teaching carries very high responsibility and those who made all the effort to instruct correctly are worthy of double honors.

I believe, in the dynamics of God there is both the dimension of individual responsibility and accountability, and his (individual) well-being, as well as the group dynamics, with perhaps, the overall wealth of the group being more important. And so, there is the dynamics of an individual believer, and the dynamics of the church or the body of Christ. We, individually, must own up to our sins and that we fall short of the glory of God, and come into salvation, individually and personally. A pastor’s son cannot, just by virtue that his father is a pastor, claims salvation by virtue of his father’s faith. Then, we are also to be clear that we do NOT enter into salvation to live life alone; we are adopted into a family or grafted into a body of believers. This body is said, in Scripture, to be the Bride of Christ. We are NOT individually, the brides of Christ, it is we, collectively, is the Bride of Christ, and so, the overall well-being of the Bride does take precedence over individual’s well being. This is NOT to say that individual well-being is NOT important to God or God does NOT care about the individual you. In fact, the whole is any good due to the parts it comprises; but the well-being of the whole should NOT be allowed to be jeopardized by the selfishness of an individual.

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Anthony Chia said...

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The church is also portrayed like the body of a man. Are the hands more important than the legs? Are the eyes more important than the limbs? Is the anus less important than the mouth? Can one say to the other, “You are NOT needed?” Rather, it is every part is to work for the overall well-being of the body.

Is one of the will of God, to grow the church? Yes, but it is NOT necessarily as simple as every local church pastor must enlarge his church! For example, we cannot, unless being told by God, accuse a Senior Pastor of NOT doing his job well and faithfully if the local church he is pastoring is NOT growing, when he has contributed to the expansion of God’s Church through efforts in missionary works. Having said that, still at some point in time, the local church, even if it is NOT growing in size, must experience renewal, NOT just renewal of the minds of old (physically old) members, but also the renewal of members with new younger believers joining. In all cases, this is necessary, if the church is to continue to function in the role that God has intended for it, unless God wants to close off that particular local church. In my country, and I believe it is also so, in many other countries, smaller churches, because of the failure to give attention to this point, have now hit the point of “dying of greying” – members are all old, without energetic members. At the appropriate time, attention must be paid to renewal of a local church if it is to survive. Ps Prentis said it rightly, that it is obedience to the Lord that counts, and so, there is equality here; it got nothing to do with the size of your church or whether or NOT your local church is growing. If God has wanted you to concentrate on mission works and not grow your local church, if you have done that well, you have been a good and faithful servant, despite the world seeing your church has not been growing.