The message of Jesus is not the message for my generation… it is, but more so, its the message for the next generation. It will always be a message primarily meant to reach the next generation. As you are coming out of childhood, it is your time to take hold of the meaning of life and seek your creator. He wants to teach you how to be a person of substance in this time of your life, so when you get older, its not so easy for you to slip back into your previous way of thinking/living. He wants to teach you how to walk close to Him, so when you are older, you’ll remember how to find your way back more easily. He wants to rescue you from a life of illusion, so he can reveal real life to you.
The hardest thing about this is that you have to be willing to cooperate – you have to be willing to walk with Him and let Him be God. Something within us wants to be in control and refuses to accept Him as trustworthy. Maybe it has something to do with having been “made in His image;” if we are like Him, then maybe it’s the way we’ve been socialized to think that we can be God and we can have everything if we want it bad enough… but we can’t have everything unless we can let go of our desire to be God. We have to trust Him as our King, that He knows what is best. What He deserves is full devotion, but He doesn’t even ask for that. He invites us to walk with Him, to “taste and see.” He wants us to go through a process (a taste test) and when we have tasted a little, He wants us to trust Him and walk further. I have learned that it is a continual taste test and that as I trust Him and call out to Him, he continually reveals more and more of Himself. So, in that way, the taste test goes on and on and I am continually tasting and seeing that God is good. He hasn’t set up our relationship with Him in such a way that blind devotion is every required. Over time we begin to realize that He deserves our blind devotion, but that He doesn’t want it. He doesn’t want mindless followers – He wants us to know how good He is and that He hears us and provides for us when we call out to Him.
God’s goodness is “new every morning.” Its not old; its meant to be life giving. One of the basic points of being a Christian is learning to live sacrificially; the goodness of God is not something that is meant for me to hold on to and keep to myself. The goodness of God is something that is intended to be shared. When something is really good, you don’t keep it to yourself, you have to speak about it. Its not that you have to, but that you want to and you find yourself wanting to, to the point that it becomes compulsive – you must. So, at this point, when you come to this stage in your relationship with God, the message of Jesus is for you, but primarily, it becomes something meant for the next generation.
In various denominations it is easy to get caught up in the way we do things. At one point the specific way of doing church in any given church was really effective and meaningful and we should celebrate that and intentionally seek to find what was meaningful for people at various times so we can learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have to ask, in that time and place, what did that mean and what was God saying to them and what can it mean for us in our place in history. In a similar way we can see how God spoke through Paul’s various letters to the churches and to individuals in a specific time and place. One difference between Paul’s letters and the traditions of various denominations is that Paul’s letters were divinely inspired and it may be that some of our traditions were not… or maybe some of them started off as being useful and inspired, but over time, like many things, they were corrupted. If salt loses its saltiness, what is it good for (Matt. 5:13-16)? I think a good number of the traditions of various denominations were divinely inspired and can be very useful to us, but digging through the past to resurrect or maintain traditions of various denominations is not the calling of the church. We might find ourselves doing this and learning from the past, but we should not get lost in the past.
Here, in the present, we are called to be relevant and to speak to the present and emerging generations. If what we do is not a blessing to the present and emerging generations, then we should either refurbish our traditions, or scrap them entirely. A pastor friend of mine was talking with me about change and said, “We can’t just let go of it so easily; We have to respect (or honour) our 150 years of heritage.” I don’t think we owe anything to the traditions of previous generations in the church so much as our attention should be on the generations of the church that have not yet come to be. We shouldn’t be concerned about maintaining a level of comfort for generations that are passing away; we should be consumed with sharing what we have with the next generation so they may find their voice and it can be their own. Me? Don’t worry about me and my preferences – I’ll be gone soon enough. What about generations that haven’t found their way yet? Be concerned for them, that they may find the richness, the vast, wonderful beauty that is in God. His beauty isn’t found in building silos and storing up grain for ourselves. His beauty is found in being like Him, being love in the world and letting His love pour out of us.
A healthy church is one that is continually forming, or becoming. A healthy Christ follower is one who is continually forming and being constantly redeemed. This has nothing to do with eternal salvation. This has to do with present/immediate salvation – in this moment, we need rescue from ourselves and losing our way. Imagine being slaves in Egypt. Moses emerges and warns Pharaoh to “let my people go.” They witnessed the plagues and Passover and the death of the first born of all those who did not put the blood of the lamb over their doorways. Finally they get let go and the waters part to open a way for them to escape – they saw God’s hand. How could they ever turn away from Him again? Not much further into the story they begin to worship a golden calf instead of the God that freed them from slavery in such dramatic fashion – we easily lose our way. If we are to be healthy, we have to be continually seeking Him and surrendering, both individually and as a church.
We need to be inspired with what God has done and let that passion fuel us to join Him in what He is doing. Our connection with the past should challenge us in the present and drive us into the future.
Scriptures used in writing this piece:
John 10:10-18 – v.10 – “…I have come so they may have life and have it to the full.”
Psalm 34:8, Psalm 119:103