Sunday, December 26, 2004

How To Swim

By Michele Rayburn

Picture a swimming class. "How to Swim Like A Champion!". Sub-topics: Proper breathing, the basic strokes, getting maximum speed, kicking techniques, advanced hand-cupping. You get the idea. And let's say the class lasted for, oh...maybe a year. Or two.

Oh. And did I tell you that you don't actually get to swim? There's no water. It's just a classroom. With email follow-up studies, monthly newsletters, coaching, etc. But no water. No swimming.

Ridiculous, isn't it?

Well, today the church can be a place of great learning…but the people don't seem to be experiencing fellowship with Christ and with one another. It’s like learning how to swim, but never actually going swimming. We're not jumping in and living this Christian life, at least not when we gather together on Sunday.

The focus doesn’t seem to be on fellowship, but on more learning. Learning "how" but never "doing". Has the church become a school? We take notes as the Pastor or teacher speaks. But when we close our books and "class" is over, we say our formal "hello’s" and "good-bye’s", and then we’re on our way. Is this what the early church modeled for us? Is this what God intended? Do we have that "fervent love for one another", a desire to "build one another up in the faith", and yes…even to "bear one another’s burdens"? Do we "confess our sins to one another and pray for one another"? Or, are we just too busy and in a hurry to care?

If we’re not experiencing fellowship, why not?

Has the fervent love for one another been replaced with a fervent love for something else? Are we not bearing one another’s burdens because it might be called "gossip"? Are we not confessing our sins to one another because of the fear of condemnation and ridicule and "real" gossip? Why do we not have a sense of togetherness and dependency and a need for each other?

Putting on a fa├žade that everything is O.K., and that we have no needs, lacks the life of Christ. We can talk about obedience and good deeds all day, but until our hearts are softened by the Spirit of Christ through communion with Him, we will not be able to have fellowship with one another. "If we walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another." If we aren’t in fellowship with Christ, it will show in our relationship with one another. And if the Pastor isn’t directing our thoughts toward Christ, it will show in our relationship with one another.

Where is our heart today? Is it in great learning? "Knowledge puffs up." That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to learn. The question is, why is all this great learning not drawing us closer to Christ and to each other? What is missing?

Love Builds Up
Do we read the Scriptures just to learn about Christ, or to meet Him there? Is it a spiritual experience or an academic one? Jesus said, "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me." (John 5:39) Jesus is our Life. And until we experience Him, we cannot walk according to the Spirit. And unless we are walking according to the Spirit, "walking in the Light", we cannot have fellowship with one another. We can’t have love for one another unless we abide in Him, because love is a fruit of the Spirit.

How do we swim? How do we have real fellowship? It begins with Christ. If we have fellowship with Him, we will have fellowship with one another. If a church is not conducive to fellowship, then it is not assembled as God intended it to be. Our "great learning" should be a time of "great meditations", "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs", sweet communion in the Lord together as One Body. Christ is our life. And when we walk in His Light, and drop the things of darkness that stand in our way, we can have fellowship with one another.

If we dissect the Christian life into a series of "how-to’s", instead of keeping it all together as a Christian walk, we will never begin to swim. I think we all know "how to swim". But we just need to make the decision to spend time in fellowship with Jesus, and then start "swimming" in love and fellowship with one another. We need to be reminded of the "how-to's". We need to constantly renew our minds. But let’s not forget to go to the water and swim.

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