In our last study, we looked at how the universal church is made up of individuals converted to Christ rather than made up of individual congregations. We are not converted to the church. We are converted to Christ. How does this apply to membership retention? Again, if we have individuals converted to the church rather than to Christ, the commitment is not as large.
If I am truly converted to Christ, what does that demand of me? How much of a Christian do I have to be if I am of the Lord’s? Far too many times, we have members converted to concepts and ideas but not truly committed to following Christ.
Followers of Christ
Jesus & Social Standing. In John 8:31, Jesus was speaking to Jews that believed in Him, but they question Him in regards to their ties to Abraham and the application to freedom. They identified with the group and had a hard time leaving that group mentality. This is illustrated in John 12:42 where many were hesitant to confess Christ because of the social implications involved. When the demands of Jesus call for a change, a stand, or true commitment, do we resist the temptation to shrink due to social pressures?
Jesus & Our Comfort. Mark 10:17 records an encounter between Jesus and a young wealthy individual. This young man was proactive in wanting to find answers, and he knew where to go. However, one item proved difficult – putting material possessions behind him. What are we willing to leave behind for our Lord? Do we truly put Him before our job, before our recreation, before all things of this life?
Jesus & Difficulties. In Matthew 26:34, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial, but Peter vehemently denies he would do so, but we know that, not only Peter, but all of the apostles flee and hide from the Jews. With Jesus, they could stand strong, but once they felt Jesus had left them, the fell apart. Do we feel that following Christ will be free of difficulties? Do we want to run away when things don’t go the way we envisioned?
All of these individuals showed an interest in Christ, but (in these examples) they fell short of truly following Christ. Jesus has promised us a home in Heaven in Mark 10:28-31, in spite of the difficulties we may face in this world, despite the sacrifices we may be required to make in this life. Christ makes it clear that following Him is not a casual endeavor, but it is not without reward.
Additionally, Jesus, in Matthew 16:24-26, asks us to take up our crosses to follow Him. This is a commitment of self-sacrifice and labor. How much of a Christian do I have to be? The answer is another question: How much did our Savior do for us?
lesson by Tim Smelser