May 13, 2008 § 3 Comments
Yesterday Katherine and I attended the particularization service of a new church work in Philadelphia. ‘Particularization’ refers to the official ‘becoming’ of a church within our denomination. It isn’t that it wasn’t a church before the ceremony – but it wasn’t a recognized ‘particular’ church until then. The pastor is a friend I graduated from seminary with. We were examined for ordination on the same day in South Florida. There is a lot of history.
The service was beautiful – the music, the liturgy, the testimonies and the messages – they all came together and wove a tapestry of joy and promise for the future. In a particularization service it all happens. The people officially become the church’s first Members. The minister officially becomes the church’s first Pastor, and the leaders officially become the church’s first Elders. It is like being in a birthing room as a baby is born.
I have to confess that it isn’t a stretch for me to lose sight of how powerfully transformational it is for someone to become a Christ-follower. Perhaps this is a reflection of how my faith sometimes lags. I’m no different from the next believer – believe me, there are dry times – powerless times – times when what I know in my brain isn’t firing with my heart.
Paul says that when someone begins to follow Jesus (he calls it being ‘in Christ’), they become new creations. He continues to say that ‘the old has passed and the new has come’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). It isn’t second-hand stuff for an individual to trust Christ. God doesn’t replace heart parts – He gives us a whole new shooting match.
And when it happens, somehow, intuitively and instinctively, we know it, don’t we? We know that God has done something – that He has forgiven us and filled us with Himself. We don’t quite understand it, but we know it. We know that regardless of what we were and did in our past lives, inside, now, we are new.
Just like that church. It wasn’t a re-plant – it was a newborn. And in Christ, so are you – on the day you realized that following Him was your only hope – and today – and tomorrow.
As I write Katherine and I are in the throes of finding a good used car for our oldest daughter who is about to graduate from high school. In the fall she will attend college. She has turned in a few job applications. Life for her – and for us – is changing – much of her existence will be on the road.
In searching for the ‘perfect’ car you hope for the least damage and the absence of disgusting air freshener scents. Auto dealers use all kinds of terms to describe these vehicles, but, come on – when all is said and done, whether ‘used’ or ‘pre-owned,’ the bottom line is that someone else, or multiples of people, sat in that particular car – it was theirs before it was yours.
In reflecting on all this I realized that a reason I sometimes become dry in my faith is because I don’t witness or expect new things in the Christian landscape – new churches – new creations – new beginnings, etc. I can get so lost in the minutia of things about the Faith that I lose my bearings regarding its transformational power.
It would be one thing if it was only a matter of forgetting how beautiful conversion is – but it is more than that. To lose sight of the transformational power of the Gospel is to lose hope – to lose hope that a marriage can be restored, a sinner forgiven or a wayward child welcomed home.
Yesterday I was reminded that the One who said, ‘I make all things new’ has and continues to make good on His word. I needed to be reminded of that – and I suspect that you do to.