Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? – Philippians 2
We’ve had a couple of meetings recently, both in stark contrast to each other. A week ago we were invited to a dinner with some people we knew. There was a small group of us who turned up, and we were anticipatory about sharing an evening with a group of fellow believers over food, to us it seemed so ‘church’ and it is something we love to do.
Let me put this into context, these were mature believers some of whom had been Christians all their lives, and one was a pastor. As we gathered around the table, and then while sitting around afterwards, we were slightly stunned that the person of Jesus Christ was never mentioned throughout. A couple of times we tried to bring the conversation around, but it never really stayed there. Soon, we drifted back into work issues, hobbies, family, children, schools – and on it went. Jesus was absent from the conversation and dare I suggest, absent from the lives of those gathered together. Church it certainly wasn’t, yet it had every opportunity to be so. We left early, walking home in silent disbelief.
A couple of days later I had a business lunch with a local young man, whom I had heard was also a passionate believer. Our meeting was to be about business, but the contrast couldn’t have been more extreme. Most of the lunch was spent discussing how business could be used most effectively to serve the Lord. Jesus was front and centre of the entire conversation, and it was not what I had expected at all. Two meetings, both with believers, yet so very different.
And the point being?
Open the book of Philippians, and count how many times the name of Jesus is mentioned throughout. Cover to cover, the letter is all about Jesus. Jesus was everything to Paul, is he to you and me?
Recently I had a discussion with someone about my views on church, and I expressed the concern that many sitting in the pew – far too many in fact, were perhaps in more grave danger than they thought, because they had never grasped what a relationship with Jesus was really about. That attending a church service, while the rest of our lives went largely unchanged, was a fairly clear sign that something was amiss in both their understanding of and practice of a relationship with God. The conversation by then too uncomfortable for him, descended into the dangers of errant theology in non-conventional church. While I didn’t agree with the theology of the young man I had lunch with, I couldn’t fault his devotion. Let me ask you, which do you think is more important to Christ?
A very wise woman once said, you can tell a person’s real faith by how much Jesus comes into their everyday conversation. They find it hard to leave him out. Is that the case with you, or me? Certainly for Paul it seems, Christ was never far from his lips. Surely the converse is true, that though we might go to church or wear any other religious facade, if we don’t know Jesus well, we are unlikely to ever speak of him.
As a simple example, this week while out to (yet another) dinner, this time to celebrate my son’s birthday, I managed to share the gospel in its entirety with a young girl sitting next to me. She was an agnostic or atheist, she wasn’t sure. A Gospel exposition is centred entirely on the person of Jesus, and it his power and his magic that is enough to draw the hard or confused of heart. All we need do is tell the story, he will do the rest. I am convinced that the seed has been sown, and change will come, and we pray expectantly.
Friends, the litmus test of all our faith is quite simply how much we talk of that which is important to us. If church, or religion, or whatever you want to call it, is little more than an opportunity to discuss politics, share business cards or even just assuage your own conscience, then I would suggest not only are you missing out, but you are also in danger.
If Jesus is missing from your conversation, he is likely missing from your life. Incidentally, if you have never shared him with someone else, I promise you it is the most fulfilling thing in the world, ever.