Here's a useful question: Why does the church exist? What makes us different from any other organization that provides community and seeks to do good? Jesus said something about this in his prayer (John 17). Jesus suggested that the reason we exist as a community to faith is to "Continue to make the Father known." Why? "In order that the love [the Father] has for me may be in them." This is why I have a photo of our church sign here at the top, with our pastors - Rebekah and Tim. God intends to love out loud through us. (click on the photo to visit our NEW church web-site)
"I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." Jesus - (John 18:26)
Jesus - and I can't help but re-wind a few verses today and jump back into his prayer at the conclusion of the Last Supper - hits this theme fairly hard, quite often, and from a number of angles. He's talking about love; love in the context of knowing, and he suggests in a number of ways that authentic love is best experience through interpersonal knowledge - that loving and knowing cannot be separated.
Making God - the Father - known is achieved more in terms of self-giving relationships than it is by just about every other vehicle combined. Yet so many religious people apply tremendous energy to "witnessing" via condemnation (not our job), conviction (the Holy Spirit's job), guilt, judgment ("I came not to condemn the world"), "holier-than-thou"-ness etc...
But Jesus talks about God's kind of love taking up residence in people, and he talks about it so much that it's impossible to miss the message that "They will know you are my followers by the love that you live out loud".
Jesus wants to live in us, he said, and he prays earnestly that the love the Father has for the Son will also take residence in our very being.
That kind of love is TRANSFORMATIONAL.
There's often a sense in which the affiliation of a Christian (the Christian being me, or you) with a church is not really distinct from any other affiliation. Maybe I'm also a member of a golf club, or the gym, or some kind of service organization or fraternal order.
Where I live a lot of people demonstrate their allegiance to a certain University via particular colors that they wear; they get very excited about it on game days, they pepper their conversation with references to their school, and they're not shy about letting the world know how faithful and committed they are - it's a defining association. To be honest, it's a lot easier to tell that some folk are "Gators" than to know if they possibly follow Christ.
Transformational faith is not just one more affiliation. Transformational faith changes us systemically, not topically. Transformational faith tells the truth about Jesus, and the truth is love that lives in us to the extent that we become an extension of God's love for the Son.
That's what Jesus said.
PRAYER: Please help me to live my faith with more transformational conviction, Lord. I want people to see you when they interact with me. I believe this is your plan for my life in your kingdom. Amen.