A doctor stands at the end of the table and deftly pulls an infant girl from her mother’s womb in the last stages of labor. The act of conception has long since been forgotten, nine months of gestation have been fulfilled, and now, hours of pain have come to this moment. The first act of this new life.
The father, standing in the corner, expels his own breath that he has been holding for those tense moments. It is an excited sigh of relief that was triggered by his daughter’s first wail because it was a sign that she was breathing – that she was Alive!
With God’s good graces, this new infant daughter may live to 80 or 90 years of age before expelling her final breath. In between this moment and that one, she will take for granted the air that passes across the fibers of her lungs as a natural part of her living. Sure, there will be times when she will choke on a drink or find herself under water longer than she intended, and in those moments she will be reminded how precious that thing is which she has been taking for granted.
As I study and read about New Testament ecclesiology, I can see this same story reflected in the spiritual.
Take for instance how the church started.
Christ’s death was the catalyst needed to conceive the early church… without His part in the redemption of man to the Father, the church could not be born. Following His death we see a time of expectant waiting as His followers eventually find themselves in Jerasulem, in an upper room, gathered together not sure of what is going to happen.
And then it happens. A breath of air is breathed into the church. It supplies power and life.
The people outside are drawn to the wailing of this infant church and Peter stands and delivers a Spirit-inspired message concerning the Good News. When the people hear this message they are cut to the heart and ask what they are to do. And what we see is the process at work again.
The seed of faith was conceived in them as the breath of the Spirit worked through Peter….and he is ready to walk them through their own births. Much like the doctor in the first paragraph of my post.
These people needed to see that they were to become a new creation in Christ, that they had to turn away from the old things. And then much like a babe is birthed through the amniotic fluids, they would need to be baptized to symbolize their new birth. But one more thing would be required otherwise theirs would be a still birth. They would have to breathe.
2000 years later I am left to wonder if we see the affects of the stillborn around us. Or at the very least, individuals who have taken for granted the very breath that gives them life.
Are we a church that needs to learn how to breathe?
If you have been around the American church for very long, you will have learned several tools for communicating salvation to those poor wayward souls who do not yet know Christ. There is the Roman Road, GOSPEL, and, of course, the ABC’s of salvation to name a few.
I want to take a look at the ABC approach to witnessing for just a moment. A quick internet search will show that the ABC’s are not as simple as we would be led to believe because the letters are not always assigned the same meaning. I will demonstrate the one that I am most familiar with, here:
- A – Admit your a sinner.
- B – Believe in Jesus
- C – Confess that Jesus is Lord.
Seems simple enough on the surface – maybe too simple.
For instance, in order for someone to admit they are a sinner, they must first Believe that there is a greater authority on what is right or wrong. Otherwise, how are they to define sin? Conviction of sin can only come from a true knowledge of God’s character and how out of step from that character we are. It is my belief, then, that the first letter in this acronym must be “B” for Believe. That belief is what leads the lost person to be convicted of their sin and seek Repentance. Which, “R”, is the letter I would use for the second part of the acronym that I propose. And finally, repentance/belief are both marked by Obedience and the means that “O” is the final part of my acronym.
Salvation which is another way of saying someone coming to Faith in Christ, brings an important point to this discussion. Let me define faith as this:
Faith, is in the same moment, both a belief and the response to that belief.
Let me use that definition to walk my acronym:
B – Believe there is a God whose character has demonstrated our need for redemption and that this same God made a way for this redemption through His son, Christ Jesus.
This belief must be acted on by either rejecting His authority or accepting it. By accepting it, we are called to Repentance.
R – Repentance is agreeing, in love, with God that we are contrary to His will and that we need His forgiveness for redemption. That belief calls for action on our part to turn away from our own desires and, instead, seek His will in our life. This requires Obedience. For the new convert, they are to follow in obedience by being baptized and publicly confessing that Christ is Lord.
O – Obedience is believing that God knows best for our lives and has set forth instructions for godly counsel in His Word, the bible. That belief calls for us to be modeling our lives after His teachings.
With each step, a belief (faith) is followed by action. I think James, the brother of Christ, would concur with this equation.
I would like to point out that the version of the ABC’s that I have presented here never get around to dealing with repentance. This along with the problematic issue of admitting sin before belief, makes me wary of using this particular tool in an effective manner.
If I had more time, I would dig into the following verses. 1 Corinthians 13:13, Luke 9:23, Hebrews 11:1, James 1:27, and 1 Peter 3:15. Take some time and dig into these verses and see how Faith, Hope, and Love fit together.