The Body of Christ has a similar problem to a lot of North American bodies. Don't you find it strange that after all these years of diet products the rate of obesity is still climbing. Worse yet, now that we have had a couple of generations of this problem, and with the dawn of video game systems, child obesity is reaching epidemic levels. Aside from the original problem of people not eating and exercising properly, the solutions are the wrong solutions for people who are obese. Like everything else in life we look for short cuts and that one elusive miracle product. We follow one plan but it isn't working fast enough so we switch to another one, and then the new craze hits and we grab hold of that. The fact is there is only one real solution, complete life-style change. Food intake has to change; an healthy active life must be developed; regular, purposeful exercise must be done. I find it interesting how this relates to the Church.
A problem in the Body of Christ is our attitude toward quick fixes, short cuts, "x number of steps" books and programs that promise us instant spiritual success. We fail to understand that the Church is not some kind of system for self-improvement but is instead a relationship which we must immerse ourselves in completely. To be a Christian requires an acceptance that everything is going to change. In Matthew 3 we are introduced to John, the cousin of Jesus, who is the prophet sent to prepare the way for Jesus. We find him baptizing people for repentance. A great many people were coming to experience this baptism, desiring to turn their lives around and come closer to God. However, John had a warning for people if they thought this was the quick fix:
"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (Matthew 3:11)
This is an important point to make because some of the problem I see is that parts of the Church are getting obese from the attitude that all that is required is repentance. It is fine to say you are sorry about your offenses but what are you going to do about it? Many people have been sorry in the past and repented, making offerings to God in the desire for forgiveness, but the change was superficial. This is my fear that much of the change we are seeing in people is superficial as they repent, seek forgiveness but fail to allow God to deal with the root of the problem. The root, being the heart, can only be dealt with when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit. This is when our entire thinking and feeling changes as we are made into a new creation. We are born a second time and the transformation begins in earnest.
Consider Peter for a moment. He was a great follower of Jesus and he was a great failure. He made tons of mistakes even though he was being taught directly by Jesus. We know that there were some changes in Peter while he was with Jesus but they were not as deep as they needed to be. It was not until Peter received the Holy Spirit that we see the remarkable change in this fisherman. There is a huge difference between Peter of the gospels and Peter of Acts. The difference being the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
There is a great danger of people staying on the surface with the acts of repentance and forgiveness. As important as these are even John knew that we require more. As the Apostle Paul was coming into Ephesus for the start of his great ministry in the region, he came across a group of believers. But there was a problem:
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."
So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?"
"John's baptism," they replied.
Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:1-6)
The Body is growing obese on repentance and is failing to plunge into the full transformation and power that Jesus Christ offers us through the Spirit. We need to leave behind the milk and desire solid food, healthy food. We need to stop searching for diet products and systems and be transformed into a healthy life-style. God has called us to healthy and productive activities that will see us changed and the world impacted for Jesus Christ. There is no other solution for a life spent in service to Jesus, we have to plunge in, from head to toe, with nothing held back. We must go beyond repentance and desire to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is in this transformation that we are taught how to love, forgive, have compassion, live mercy and serve with no reluctance. Without it we are only playing around at the edges, repenting and trying to make ourselves feel better about life. There is a big difference between dangling your feet in the water on the edge of the pool and diving in the deep end. This is the difference between John's baptism of repentance and Jesus' baptism of the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit!