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Bloggin the 28: Growing in Christ

This is my reflection for the Bloggin the 28 Series on Belief #11: Growing in Christ. It states:

By His death on the cross Jesus triumphed over the forces of evil. He who subjugated the demonic spirits during His earthly ministry has broken their power and made certain their ultimate doom. Jesus' victory gives us victory over the evil forces that still seek to control us, as we walk with Him in peace, joy, and assurance of His love. Now the Holy Spirit dwells within us and empowers us. Continually committed to Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, we are set free from the burden of our past deeds. No longer do we live in the darkness, fear of evil powers, ignorance, and meaninglessness of our former way of life. In this new freedom in Jesus, we are called to grow into the likeness of His character, communing with Him daily in prayer, feeding on His Word, meditating on it and on His providence, singing His praises, gathering together for worship, and participating in the mission of the Church. As we give ourselves in loving service to those around us and in witnessing to His salvation, His constant presence with us through the Spirit transforms every moment and every task into a spiritual experience.

Admit it, you have no idea what the newest fundamental belief really teaches. I'll confess that the main reason I decided to blog on this belief was to get motivated enough to buy the new fundamental beliefs book and read it for myself. Out with the classic creme hardcover and in with a paperback version which just doesn't feel the same but surely will in about ten years.

The purpose of the Bloggin the 28 series is to focus on the practical, social implications of each belief which inherently provides the critique that the fundamental beliefs as currently written have some great theology but little practical, social emphasis. The newest fundamental belief is part of the church's attempt to address the critique inherent in this bloggin the 28 series. The new belief is very well written and in many ways reads like a sermon. The reader is urged to accept Christ's sacrifice which means that they will die to self daily and live a life of spiritual growth which they outline the hallmarks of.

I found it very interesting that the belief places a huge emphasis on the death of Jesus while barely referencing how he lived his life. There is no doubt that the Cross stands as the central event in the life of the Christian but if we forget about his life, we can lose sight of how we are supposed to live as Christians today. Unfortunately, I believe this happens all too often and is why so many Christians seem to be missing the point when it comes to following Jesus. By only focusing on the sacrifice of Jesus, Christianity can devolve into little more than a self-help religion that's all about “me and Jesus.” However, when we focus on both Jesus' life and death, we find that while the sacrifice of Jesus is intensely personal and life changing, that life change compels us to live a life of service and sacrifice for others. The new belief definitely stresses the importance of living in love and sacrifice but I believe it's power and effect would be greater if it focused a little more on Jesus' life as opposed to only his death.

Following the example of Jesus' life is what “growing in Christ” is all about. The new belief provides seven hallmarks of growing in Christ: a life of the Spirit, a life of love and unity, a life of study, a life of prayer, a life of fruit-bearing, a life of spiritual warfare, and a life of worship, witness, and hope. All of them provide excellent principles and focus on key spiritual disciplines. At the same time, a greater emphasis could have been placed on the importance of social action and helping those in need. Jesus most closely identified with the broken and hurting and if we do the same, we will experience dramatic growth in Christ as we see the world through his eyes and serve with his hands. Jesus himself stood up in the temple and announced his mission as he read from the scroll of Isaiah and pronounced,

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)

The way Jesus lived his life and the lessons he taught were always intensely practical and had immense social implications. Jesus' approach to ministry and faith was grounded in the principle that life change occurs best when people start trying to live right before necessarily believing right. A correct understanding of core beliefs about God will eventually come but participation in the kingdom of God can begin before that. Embracing this principle will be a paradigm shift for our churches but is one that is necessary if we are going to facilitate “growing in Christ.” Explaining the Trinity should occur while your study group is providing job training at a local homeless shelter. The Sabbath taught while promoting social justice causes. We learn beliefs and principles in the midst of doing, not before.

The Adventist church has probably stressed believing right at the neglect of practical spirituality. However, we're all looking to find balance within the tensions of the life of faith and the new belief reveals a strong step in the right direction. To close, I'll share my favorite quote from the new belief:

“At the foot of the cross the ground is level. All are brought together—and nothing divides humanity anymore. A new brotherhood is launched. A new fellowship begins. East merges with west, north comes down to south, white shakes hands with black, rich leaps over to clasp the hands of the poor. The cross bids all to the fountain of the blood—to taste the sweetness of life, to hare the experience of grace, and to proclaim to the world the emergence of a new life, a new family (Eph. 2:14-16). Thus the cross initiated victory over Satan and sin, and consequently, brought new life in Christ” (153).



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