We know that something is not right or complete about us. We long to be different. Even the most successful people know in their heart that they were made for something more. The Bible calls that something more the "new creation". This is what we long for, and this is what God wants for us. As Jesus put it in John 10:10, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
The Bible teaches that God wants to give you this new life as a free gift. This is what is called "The Gospel." We receive this gift, and become this new creation by being connected to Jesus Christ. As 2nd Corinthians 5:17 teaches, Therefore, if anyone is "in Christ", he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Further, Ephesians 2:8 teaches, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
How do we become "in Christ"? By going to the places he has promised to meet us! The Bible describes four such places:
1. Through study and meditation on God's Word:
Jesus said, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples" - John 8:31
2. Through receiving the means of grace in worship (The Holy Sacraments & God's preached word)
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. - Romans 10:17
He has been made known to us in the breaking of the bread." - Luke 24:35
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. - Galatians 3:27
3. Through fellowship with other Christians:
"Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there." - Matthew 18:20
4. Through meeting Christ as he is hidden in the lives of the needy:
"Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me: - Matthew 25:40
God's intention is that we will walk the rest of our lives on earth, following Jesus our Good Shepherd on the path that links these four places. Being a Christian does not mean doing each of these once, and then you are done. Nor does it mean staying at one place on the path, and never going to the other. Rather, to fully experience Christ, we are on a journey that goes through the path over and over. As our lives and circumstances change, we may spend more time in one place or another. But we need all four of these ways of meeting Christ, if we are to fully experience his love and Spirit in our lives.
At Shepherd of the Hills, to help us remember and apply this, we describe the PATH in this simple way:
1. Daily Devotions
2. Weekly Worship
3. Frequent Fellowship
4. Sacrificial Service
Further explanation of each of these:
1. Daily Devotions:
We take time daily to read the Bible, reflect on its meaning, and pray for God's guidance, asking him to apply His Word to our life right now.
If you continue in my word you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. - John 8:31-32
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. - Romans 12:2
2. Weekly Worship:
We gather weekly to experience Christ as he comes to us in the means of grace This is primarily listening to the preaching of God's Word, and in experiencing forgiveness and the presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper. We also meet Christ and renew our own baptism, as he reclaims sinners from death and adopts them into his family in Holy Baptism.
For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ - Romans 10:13-14,17
3. Frequent Fellowship:
We gather frequently to be in fellowship with other Christians, through small groups, classes, casual time with fellow Christians, and or serving activities. In our fellowship, we love another with the love of Christ, creating a community that glorifies Christ by being different from other clubs, etc.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. - 1 John 4:11
walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.... speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:1-3, 15-16, 32
4. Sacrificial Service:
We go out often to meet Jesus through our service to those who are in need. Because Christ gave everything, even his life, that we could be saved, we make real sacrifices so that others can have life. This includes sacrificing our time, by visiting the lonely, the hospitalized, the imprisoned. It means sacrificing our resources, by blessing those in need, especially through the ministries of the church. It means using our talents in the service of Christ's mission. We invest our time, talent, and treasure in the work of Christ, because the growth of Christ's kingdom is our greatest source of joy. Like John the Baptist said of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease." - John 3:30
We cannot do this on our own - we are too sinful, too selfish. But as we experience Christ in the Word, the Sacraments, and the fellowship of believers, we receive the Holy Spirit, who moves into our hearts and changes them, making us desire to live our lives for the benefit of others. 1 Corinthians 12:7 offers this promise: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
In Doing this, we extend the mission of Jesus:
Luke 4:18-19 (Isaiah 61:1-3) "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
As we follow Jesus on this path, and meet him over and over in these places he has promised to be, God's promise begins to take shape in our lives: You are living a brand new kind of life and are continually learning more and more of what is right, and trying constantly to be more and more like Christ. - Colossians 3:10