Every local church really should be sort of a spiritual "boot camp" where Christians can get their basic training, where they can be equipped and maintained in a state of combat readiness for the spiritual battles of life.
"Always being led in triumph in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:14) are words which validate the use of this figure, for here Christ is pictured for us as the conquering general in triumphal parade with his army. He has won the battle, and we who are his share in his victory. But though the enemy has been defeated, he still fights a last-ditch, harassing guerrilla action until the day of final Consummation of the war (see Col. 2:1-15). Thus spiritual boot camps are needed.
Let's change the figure: every church should be a seminary, if the original sense of that word---a place where seeds are planted. This means that our occupation and preoccupation ought to be Christian education, encouragingly, the recent trend toward evening schools for Christian training, seminars and conferences, adult electives in Sunday schools, is evidence that we are getting serious about our Christian education efforts.
But perhaps the greatest need is, Somehow, to get Christian education back in the home, in the family scene, with the father assuming his spiritual leadership role. discovering how to do this with vital effectiveness is difficult, but the Lord has a way, I'm sure. Here too we must seek from him that wisdom needed to understand and pursue his plan of action.
Every Man Mature
If we were to choose a theme verse to express God's aim for our training efforts it would he" that we may present every man mature in Christ" (Col. 1:28).
The Apostle Paul was so concerned about this task that he adds: "For this I toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me" (Col. 1:29).
Note the terms toil, striving, energy. All of these mean work, energy output on our part, so we'd better be serious, highly motivated, and fully engaged in the task. It will take all we can give it.
But note, too, where the energy comes from: "the energy which he mightily inspires within me." And who is he? From the text, the antecedent of this pronoun is Christ. He provides the power.
A more literal rendering of this passage says it this way:
"God desires to make known the riches of the glory of this revealed secret, among the nations, which is: Christ in you, the confident expectation (of the fulfillment) of that glory). Him we proclaim---encouraging and warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom in order that we may present every man mature in Christ (fulfilling all that Christ designs to accomplish in his life). For this I also (as well as you) work hard, agonizing, according to the operation of his energizing in me with Power." (Col. 1:27-32)
On tile one hand, this is no lazy man's course; but on the other, neither is it the unaided independent activity of the flesh: We are called to be cooperators in God's Master plan, energy cells constantly being from an outside Source operating inside us.
Some program! Christ in you, the hope of glory. Hope here pictures a present experience as well as a future expectation.
Our charter is clear: every man mature. Our method is prescribed: him we proclaim. We proclaim Christ, with all the adequacy of his resources.
Obviously God's program is so great that we must get it spread around. We must not be so provincial in our thinking and so preoccupied with our own local situation that we have no time or thought for needs outside our own little circle. The Body of Christ is bigger than that and our concern should be for all God's people. Narrow, rigid sectarian lines of thought and action have always been condemned by God. Just check out how many words in God's description of the works of the flesh deal with this problem: enmity, strife, jealousy, selfishness, party spirit, envy (Gal. 5:19-21).
There is no way we can proudly parade our sectarian "distinctives" and be in accord with God's desire. God's distinctives belong to everybody.
God asks that we share the wealth of '"the riches of his glory" with anyone and everyone who wants a share. So let's have no artificial boundaries! The great Head of the church wants every member to share in the bounty of the whole body.
In practical terms this means we help others to strengthen their local situation; we try to foster new assemblies of believers; we provide every positive input we can, not to build a superdenomination, but to build up the body of Christ in cooperation with the one who said, "I will build my church."
Putting It All Together
Putting it all together is the Lord's problem, and I don't know how he's going to do it. But I'm going to be tremendously interested in finding out!
Meanwhile I can cooperate quite clearly and simply by:
- Letting Christ be Lord in me
- Listening attentively to what the Spirit says to the church.
- Praying dependently about all that concerns the fulfillment of his program for his people.
- Responding obediently to him as the expression of my love.
As history brings us ever closer to the final wrap-up, I'm increasingly concerned to make whatever personal contribution the Lord has in mind for me:
For God has allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in him. And here is the staggering thing . . . that in all which will one day belong to him we have been promised a share . . so that we, as the first to put our confidence in Christ, may bring praise to his glory! (Eph. 1:9-12, Phillips)
The apostle goes on, "And you too trusted in him when you heard the message of truth."
It's clear---the Lord wants all of us fully engaged in the fulfilling of his plan.