The essence of New Testament restoration is “Christ in you “(Colossians 1:25-27). If Jesus Christ is truly the object of our restoration, the Soldout Discipling Movement must be viewed as a movement towards that object or a continuing process. Though the object being restored is ultimate and fixed, the process of application to the individual life or congregation is never ending. This realization is critical to one’s identification with the true Restoration Movement.
Historically, the emphasis on process among many “restorationists” has focused on the depth of information found in the New Testament. Because of the need for research into historical background, Greek and Hebrew, and the meaning of the New Testament books, the restoration of New Testament Christianity must remain a process. The New Testament is a storehouse of information that is beyond anyone’s lifetime to completely absorb, but that must not be the true rationale for the Restoration Movement’s emphasis on process .
New Testament books can be understood and New Testament patterns can be achieved but a complete imitation of the life of Jesus Christ is impossible. The New Testament testifies to this perfect life which must be understood for us to see clearly what we are to imitate. However, understanding Jesus and imitating His life are not the same. If the object of our restoration is merely an understanding of the New Testament, it can be achieved because the New Testament was written to be understood. But if the object of restoration is the Life of Jesus Christ, it will always remain out of our reach . The former object breeds arrogance while the latter cultivates humility.
Therefore, the movement must embrace a spirit of exploration and openness to change. Yet, this characteristic has not been dominant through restoration history. Any emphasis on embracing an openness to change and exploration has met with more suspicion and condemnation than exaltation. This “defense” of Christianity is most often the result of ignorance of that to which genuine restoration is pointing.
Not understanding the object of our restoration (Christ in you) is the reason for many of the problems in the Restoration Movement. Churches wholly dedicated to restoring a pattern find themselves with nowhere to go once that pattern is achieved. Once you have climbed the mountain, there is nowhere to go but down. Any church projecting an arrival has missed the essence of New Testament Christianity. A genuine acquaintance with the essence of New Testament Christianity, Jesus Christ, should produce the humility necessary to keep “restorationists” moving toward their object. Arrogance always stops this process, while humility keeps the movement alive.
This is the reason for the similarity between the Pharisees in the first century and many “restorationists” in the 20th. The religion of the Pharisees became so well-defined and unalterable that they confused conviction with arrogance and projected that they had gone as far as was needed. This so-called arrival was the basis for Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and tax collector in Luke 18. The arrogance of the Pharisee is seen in his defense of a spirituality that had crystalized prematurely. Jesus challenged this form of religion (John 5:39-40).
Likewise, many “restorationists” are diligent in their study of the Scriptures in search of early church patterns, but often miss the most important pattern of all, the lifestyle of Jesus Christ. The characteristic or pattern of the early church which must be imitated is the one which rejects the church in agonizing dedication to the restoration of Jesus Christ in every Christian’s life. Paul stated his dedication to the process in Galatians 4: 19. The early church serves as an example of Christians also involved in the Restoration Movement. A true standard never changes, the early church did.
When the object of restoration is missed the “Pharisee in you” is restored rather than “Christ in you.” A congregation striving to imitate the lifestyle of Jesus Christ or implement genuine restoration will seek and save the lost, will have a warm and vital fellowship, open and penetrating relationships, and a humility and a teachable heart which keeps the congregation moving toward Jesus Christ.
Restoration is a process but this does not mean “restorationists” are without conviction. To the contrary Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31 b-32). The truth can be understood and interpreted correctly. Yet, it is the inability to completely imitate the object of restoration, the life of Jesus Christ, which keeps the restoration movement a process. We must be confident that the teaching which reveals how to enter into Christ can be known and must be unconditionally defended. Yet, those Scriptures revealing what we are to become once we take on Christ (“imitators of God,” Ephesians 5:1), though capable of being understood, will provide a lifetime of restoration effort and the assurance that the goal will never be fully realized.
This assurance should provide “restorationists” with the humility to keep the movement moving. There is never a time for congregations of God’s people to project an attitude that the restoration process has found its fulfillment in any congregation(s). A congregation’s methods of instilling Christ (Christ in you) must be constantly re-examined, reevaluated, and improved to insure that the highest degree of discipling is taking place. The failure to do this is where tradition finds a dangerous foothold among God’s people. Tradition can be defined as activity without growth, protected by pride. There are too many congregations holding on to a traditional way of doing things in the name of restoration while failing to recapture the essence of New Testament restoration.
Capturing the essence of New Testament restoration is what makes the Christian life the adventure it was meant to be. A constant defense of what we already know can take us away from the knowledge necessary to imitate what we have not yet imitated. The Restoration of New Testament Christianity means a lifetime committed to a goal never reached . Yet, it is in this commitment we find meaning and fulfillment while pressing on to the goal of restoration: “Christ in you.” Hopefully, what we achieve will provide direction and motivation for the next generation of disciples to go a step further in the imitation of Jesus Christ and winning the world for Him.
Categories: Quiet Times