Growth and Change
Typically we look at the word growth as positive. But, there time when growth is negative. Consider our current economic status. Many people say that the national debt is growing and also the deficit. That is typically not good news. In terms of health, cancer tumors grow in the body. That is not good growth. So, when we apply this to the church setting, does it correspond? Church growth is not always good, especially if the new members are not willing to abide by the doctrinal views of the organization. That could have adverse consequences.
Another word that is typically seen as positive is change. But, change can be negative, too.
Our lesson says that a church that resists change will not grow and therefore die. Anything that grow changes, but so does anything that dies. Consider a plant that is dying. It may be resisting growth, in terms of expanding the space it occupies and increase its strength. The moment this happens changes occur that will reveal that it is dying. The color of the leaves changes, they shrivel up and fall. The stem will most likely bend. The plant grows when it has water, nutrients and sunlight. When one of these is missing the plant dies. All three of these ingredients have a spiritual equivalent in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Without them we die. Hence, it is important to be connected to where we can receive the resources.
The question is can a church seem to be alive- it is expanding in numbers and strength - but still dying? Many churches are like gangrenes and cancers. They grow but it is nothing more than death taking over the body. Tumors are often extirpated, and gangrened body part is severed. The same will happen with those churches.
In Matthew 7: 21 Jesus said that "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven…” They will beg to get in the Kingdom. Let us read verses 22 and 23,
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
They will say to Christ but we did many things in your name. Christ will probably answer, “You used my name in vain. Your works were not mine.” But, we went to church together, we sat in the same pews, we sang from the same hymnals, and red from the same Bible.” Christ will sill probable say, “You sure it was me?” They will answer, “Yes, it was.” Then they will claim the fact that they gave tithes and offerings, served in the Church in different capacities. Christ will answer, “That money never came to me. And, I do not recall you ever serving. As, I said, I do not know you.” They have been severed from the body.
So, whatever these people did was not pleasing to Christ. Since, without faith it is impossible to please Him(Hebrews 11:6), these church members had no faith, so all they did was Sin; since, whatever is not of faith is Sin (Romans 14: 23). This means that there will be church administrators, pastors, evangelists, and laity that were hard working and successful in this group. You can imagine how it will feel to these people to find out that all they did amounted to nothing. What they thought was a sign of God’s favor, was actually a sign of their rebellion.
So, those who resist change and those who embrace it can be wrong. Resisting the right change and embracing the wrong one will have the same dire consequences: eternal death. I can just imagine the complaints. “I can see why this one is out. He was a sinner/legalist. But, why me? This is not fair!”
So, who will enter the kingdom? Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “… he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” We could say that those that did His will pleased Him; this means they lived by faith (Hebrews 11: 6). Which means that they are just; since the just shall live by faith (Romans 1: 17). So, a just person is a righteous person. The word for just in the Greek is the root word for righteousness. A righteous person is one that performs the law (Romans 2: 13). But, notice that Abraham believed and he was accounted righteous (Genesis 15: 6). So, this kind of righteousness – performing the law - comes through believing the word of God. To believe we must first hear what is said. And, faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of God (Romans 10: 17).
This is more than giving ascent to God’s existence. This kind of faith is dependence on God’s word. “Man shall live out of every word that comes out God’s mouth” (Matthew 4: 4). Paul says in Galatians 5: 6 that in Jesus, works avail nothing, but faith which works by love does. Works of love – self-sacrificing other-centered love – show true faith. This is what God wants to produce in us. This is what would please Him. Will we allow Him to do this in us?