Like most young preachers, I’m a bit of a dreamer. I see the church how I think it should be in light of the New Testament pattern – a church devoid of sin, apathy, bad attitudes, and ill motives. But I am often awakened to the fact that the church is comprised of imperfect people (just as I am imperfect, I am sometimes reluctant to admit) – people who often lose sight of the teachings of the New Testament.
Is this not ultimately the root of all problems we face in the church - people who have lost sight of what Jesus and His New Testament have to say about how the church should be? Realizing this - again, like most young preachers - I have to manage my dreams by learning how to be loving and longsuffering with my brethren who are growing at a slower pace.
I am reminded that an essential part of restoring the New Testament is restoring the love, patience, and compassion Christ expects us to practice with our Christian brothers and sisters. I don’t need to focus on restoring the doctrine – or the discipleship – or the holiness – of Christ’s church at the neglect of restoring the love – or the attitude – or the compassion – that Christ wants His church to demonstrate.
This brings me to my point: too many who are concerned with restoring the New Testament are often imbalanced in what they want to restore. My dream for the church is greater consistency in our noble attempt to restore the glorious Bride of Christ to her first-century glory. Because, in reality, we have failed in our mission to restore New Testament Christianity if we are careless about any of the following points:
Restoring our zeal. Perhaps the greatest problem the church faces today is the problem ofindifference. So many self-identifying Christians have a laissez faire attitude toward matters of sin, discipleship, faithfulness, etc. Yet Jesus told us how He feels about this cancerous problem of apathy when He said, “Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:16, ESV). It is time for the church to renew its passion for the lost, its zeal for moral purity, its dedication for doctrinal fidelity, and its urgency for discipleship.
Restoring our doctrine. For whatever reason, the pendulum tends to swing either one way or the other; in the minds of some, 'grace' must be emphasized at the exprense of 'doctrine,' and 'doctrine' must be emphasized at the expense of 'grace.' What a crude view of the perfect law of liberty (Jas. 1:25)! The subject of grace and the doctrine of the New Testament are inseparably dependent on one another (Titus 2:11-12). We are to dedicate our hearts to walking in the light - by keeping all of Christ's commandments (John 14:15; cf. Gal. 5:25) - if we wish to continue receiving the benefits of God's immeasurable grace (1 John 1:7-12; cf. Rom. 8:1).
It is time for the church to renew its dedication to "seeking the old paths" (Jer. 6:16). We cannot compromise with the world and our denominational friends on the pure New Testament teachings about matters like the one church (Matt. 16:18), the simplicity of our worshipful singing(Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19), the holiness of our bodies (1 Cor. 6:19-20), and the purity of our lifestyles(Jas. 1:27). Let us never forget the constant need for protecting the perfect system of faith of our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 3).
Restoring sacrificial love. All of Christianity is built upon the framework of Christ's love (John 13:34-35). The church must be dedicated to the inexhaustible task of restoring the sacrificial love of Christ.
We must sacrifice our pride. We must learn to forgive as Christ forgives (Col. 3:13; Luke 17:3-4). Often this necessitates swallowing our pride by loving our brother enough to compassionately rebuke his sins (Matt. 18:15-17) or settle our outstanding grudges with him in person (Matt.5:23).
We must sacrifice our energy. We are to bear one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2) - emotional burdens, burdens that are consequences of past sins, physical burdens, etc. Getting involved with others and their burdens can be messy, which can quickly be exhausting. But Christ cannot live in us (Gal. 2:20) if we are unwilling to serve others as He served others.
We must sacrifice our comfort. Christ has sent us into the world (cf. John 17:14-19), therefore we cannot forget our mission to teach and make disciples of the world (Matt. 28:19-20). We need to die to ourselves and carry the cross of Christ (cf. Luke 9:23) to the world around us - something which can never be entirely comfortable.
The Biblical mandate to restore the Christianity of the Bible demands that we consistently apply the teachings of the New Testament. In a time when churches are becoming increasingly imbalanced in their restoration of the apostolic teachings, my dream for the church is that we will become more uniform in our zeal, doctrine, and love.