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We Need Real Christians; We Need Real Leaders!Malcolm Webber
We do new Christians the gravest of injustices when we teach them how to “play the part” of a Christian without giving them the inward reality of experience of Jesus Christ. We teach them how to act “holy”, how to live “righteously”, and how to talk “faith”, and then require it all of them. But unless we have in truth actually led them to Jesus Christ who will be the only true inward Source of all these fruits, we have only succeeded in teaching them how to imitate the Christian life, and have not at all helped them to become real Christians. We have taught them how to display the outward forms of godliness all the while neglecting the inward power thereof. We have done little more than to bring them into religious captivity.
This produces several classes of Christians. On the one hand are those who play along with the game, mouthing all the right things and learning how to climb the religious ladder of church acceptance and respectability – “professional Christians”. They become expert at making the right moves, and all their spiritual exercise is stereotyped and based on approved convention rather than simply being the outgushing of a genuine fellowship with God. They profess spirituality, but possess very little. Others will see and hear their Christian lives but no-one will feel them. As one brother said, “You can’t get warm by a painted fire!” Their hearts are empty, and their lives barren, while outwardly they smile and play the part. Unfortunately, these self-motivated souls are often the ones who end up as leaders in the world of organized religion.
On the other hand, those who are not satisfied with imitation, and who are honest enough to admit to themselves that in their own strength they are unable to live the life anyway, eventually become discouraged and disheartened. Some of these will consign themselves to accept a miserable life of mediocrity and substandard Christian experience. They know in their heart there is more, but do not know quite what it is nor how to rise above defeat to obtain it.
A lesser number, who cannot stomach such a life of lukewarmness, and over whom the temptations of the world have a greater pull, will tragically fall away to their eternal destruction.
A final group is really only a part of this last group. However for them dissatisfaction with the burdens of “playing Christian” and “playing church” leads them not to accept defeat nor to fall away, but out of disillusionment there dawns a need to press on to know God and to find what their heart tells them is lacking. According to the degree of their frustration will be the intensity of their agony, and the depth and sincerity of their search for God.
If the Christian life primarily consists in the restoration of man to inward fellowship with God and union with His life, then should not our principal concern for new converts be that they come into this experience? Furthermore, we will then find that every aspect of the Christian life that we want to see them come into will be taken care of naturally and in due course. Our greatest passion for young Christians must be to bring them to Jesus!
Please understand, we are not implying that we should not teach new Christians or encourage them towards holiness and faith. The teaching of the Scriptures, and godly exhortation, are of great importance to their growth (Matt. 4:4; John 6:63; Acts 20:28; Rom. 15:14; 2 Cor. 7:1; Col. 1:28; 1 Thess. 4:1; 1 Tim. 4:13, 16; 2 Tim. 2:2, 19; 3:14-17; 4:1-4; Tit. 1:9). But what we are emphasizing is that due to the inadequacies of our own walk with Jesus what we impart to babes in the faith, too often, is little more than a “head knowledge” of doctrine and historical facts, and a set of beliefs and ethics that they know they should agree with and adhere to.
Unfortunately, teaching – which, in itself, is right and good – if it is not accompanied by an experiential leading of the people to Jesus, can become a distraction from what is pre-eminently important: namely, that the saints come to know personal fellowship with Him.
However, if we expect them to truly grow and bear fruit, we must give them Jesus. This will not only be accomplished through teaching and exhortation, but our lives themselves must become the epistles of Christ, written by the Spirit of the living God; so proclaiming and revealing the crucified Christ that others will see Him and be drawn to Him. It will not be a mere telling of others about Jesus – He will be revealed in His people (2 Cor. 2:14-15).
This is the function of the true church of God. Jesus’ church is not a religious meeting once or twice a week in a certain building that a group of individuals attend, but it is a living united fellowship that one is birthed into by the Holy Spirit. It is the twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, life and fellowship of the saints one with another – in Him – in His life and fellowship. This is the true church and in it is the true revelation of the Lord of the church. This is how Jesus will be manifested to men: living and abiding in His church. And when they see Him they will be drawn to Him – not to a denomination, nor to a creed nor doctrine, nor to a set of morals and ethics, but to Him. We must give them Jesus.
If we will love Jesus Christ with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; if we will trust Jesus for everything; if we will eat, drink, work, play, worship, pray, sing, teach, sleep, breathe Jesus; and if we will get down in the dust beside new converts and pray them through into a real personal encounter with Jesus (Gal. 4:19; Col. 1:29-3:3; 4:12-13); then they will be changed by Him, and they will come to know Him, and they will come to love Him, and they will come to trust Him, and they will come to obey Him, and their lives will bear fruit remaining unto eternity.
If we can bring them to Jesus Christ, then they will come to a true knowledge of holiness. If we can bring them to Jesus, then they will believe Him whom they come to know to be faithful. If we can help them to experience a relationship of love with God who is Love, then they will come to have a true burden for a lost and dying world, as well as a deep capacity of love and forbearance toward the saints. This is our calling to the world: we are to help men to BE reconciled to God, not just to teach them how to act like it.
The true fruits of the Spirit are not just mechanical “learned” responses that a Christian knows he should provide at certain times, but they are the unfeigned spontaneous outgrowths of union and communion with God. They are not “taught” conditions of the mind, but rather Divinely-imparted graces of the heart.
We must stop teaching unholy people how to act holy, and instead take them by the hand and lead them by way of the altars of abandonment and surrender into the Holiest of All – into the very Presence of the Almighty around whose throne seraphs eternally cry “Holy, Holy, Holy”. This personal confrontation with He who IS holy will implant a holy seed within them, which of itself will bud and grow into holy works and a fruitful life that is pleasing to God.
Simply to mouth holiness and to act holiness when our hearts are filled with rebellion and self-will is not at all pleasing to God. He wants Truth in the inward parts – and the inward parts will only be changed by encounter with God and the impartation of His life.