SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/An Exciting New Frontier
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 12:00 AM
"until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ." (Ephesians 4:13)
Are you a closet 'Trekkie'? Perhaps you grew up watching Captain Kirk and the adventures of the Starship Enterprise as it powered its way, via warp speed, throughout the vastness of space. I know I did and perhaps those shows had something to do with my present love for all things adventurous. Even now a large portion of my leisurely reading these days has to do with someone's travels, or conquest, or search. I love to read about real people who did real things in real places. It's a fascination to me whenever I see someone pushing into a frontier - daring to explore further than all predecessors - seeking to uncover what has long been held in obscurity.
But you know what? I don't believe for a moment that space is the final frontier for us, especially as Christians. Nor is it the ocean bottom or the Brazilian Rainforest. No, I believe it is much closer to home - more accessible to us all, but infinitely more challenging and filled with adventures almost beyond comprehension. I'm referring to the relatively unexplored frontier of Christian maturity in Christ Jesus -- at least, for many believers it remains so. I have in mind individuals who have come to think of the Church as a dust-encrusted institution that has outlived its relevancy in their lives - or those who have reached a point where they imagine the gospel as a story so fully known as to border on the boring. Therefore, for these individuals, no glimmer of adventure seems to remain -- no passion for a further taste of God and the discovery of something that is not only precious but has never yet been encountered - or to look at Christ to behold a beauty that can only provoke within us a response of shocked awe even after all these years.
The Apostle Paul, I believe, possessed this adventurous perception of the Christian faith. For him, salvation certainly involved a 'past tense' - an understanding of the richness of God's mercy already displayed in Christ Jesus (Eph 1) - but it also contained much for which he looked ahead to receive (Phil 3:14). Therefore, he pressed forward to a glorious and mystical future filled with unimaginable new discoveries as the Spirit of God led him deeper and deeper into his own walk with Christ. It is this very adventure which he holds up before us here in these verses - the wonder of Christian maturity - of being fully grown up in the Lord - of attaining to the full measure of the stature of Christ Himself. Wow! Now, you want to talk about an unexplored frontier?
I was reading in Eden and Well's book on the Gospel in the Modern World and came across the following quote by Reinhold Niebuhr: "The Church does not seem to realize how unethical a conventionally respectable life may be. Rather, the daily decisions of life are more likely to be those of the advertising industry and of the secular mind-set around us. Biblical faith is not married to a way of life that expresses the central message of the gospel. Indeed, one of the great weaknesses of many evangelicals is the easy assumption that the whole content of the gospel is already known, so the main focus is therefore communication of it to others. This arises out of an emphasis upon a once-for-all-conversion that is now behind the convert, so henceforth it is simply a matter of its promotion to others." No! No! No! No! That's not all there is to the gospel!
For sure we have a responsibility to spread the gospel of grace to all with whom we come into contact for truly it is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16) -- but what about the daily implications of the gospel for us? - for each and every believer? What about our continued spiritual growth as we come to explore and discover new facets of God's grace, new applications of the blood of Christ to our redeemed lives and new victories in the midst of life's trials? Personally, I like the manner in which Niebuhr made use of the image of a marriage - the marriage of our Biblical Faith and our daily existence. It speaks to me of adventure. My wife and I have been married 38 years to date and I can tell you truthfully that it has been a grand adventure. I'm still discovering things about my bride and, although she says she knows me like an open book, I think I still manage to surprise her now and again. Isn't it to be that way with our walk with Christ? -- where the frontier of our intimate knowledge of Him and our understanding of the victory He purchased for us continues to expand and grow? I think so!
I'm convinced that this adventurous pushing forward in the application of the gospel to our daily walk is absolutely key to a revolutionary infusion of fresh excitement into our Christian lives - the remedy for a shallowness of worship which permeates much of the Church and the ineffectualness of prayers among those who have all but given up expecting God to do something amazing in their lives or community.
What if you were to refuse to live even one more day as if the guiding word were "precaution" - as if in the Christian life you had nothing to gain but everything to lose, and therefore, you risk nothing and gain nothing? What if, instead, you sought to push forward to discover the full implications of how the gospel of grace might change and alter the circumstances of your life if you, in faith, truly were to attempt great things for God while expecting great things from God? Think about it! The possibilities seem to be endless!