Our purpose statement at Westwood includes 3 elements: Grounded in Christ, Growing together in God’s Word, and Going for God’s Glory. We desire as a church to see people grow as a disciple in these three areas, and we seek to shape everything we do as a church body around this vision.
We are currently working our way through the Gospel of John in our current sermon series during our Sunday morning worship times. Although we are taking a break from that series for a few weeks during December, I have been thinking a lot about our most recent passage in John. In the closing verses of chapter 6 we see the crowd who has been following Jesus really struggling with a very difficult saying he has just uttered.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. – John 6:53-58
Verse 60 then tells us, “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it,'” and many of them turned away to no longer follow him. Upon witnessing this, Jesus then turns to the twelve disciples and asks them if they will turn away, also. The response of Simon Peter includes one of my favorite moments in all of the Scriptures. In response he declares,
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God. (vs 68-69)
What an incredible declaration! I am even more astounded as I have spent so much time meditating on these words lately. This past Sunday, as I sat listening to our choir’s beautiful Christmas presentation, yet another truth about this statement struck me. This statement offers a wonderful picture of what it means to be Grounded in Christ! Allow me to explain.
First, this statement is an all-in statement. The disciples were more than fans or followers; they were invested. They had already made the decision to allow this man to completely rearrange their lives. They had left everything to follow him, and they had already made the commitment in their hearts to follow him no matter what they encountered along the journey. This is what it means to be grounded in Christ.
Second, this statement reveals a firm trust these disciples had developed, even in a lack of complete understanding. This response does not assure the reader that they understood something that the rest of the crowd did not. On the contrary, when I read this statement, it is clear to me that they had no idea what Jesus was talking about! I believe this statement allows us to see a real world example of “a peace that passes understanding” (Phi 4:7). Although they did not understand the statement made by Jesus, they trusted Jesus. They had walked with him, “and have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Being grounded in Christ includes this type of trust. It also has to do with growing in knowledge and our theology, which results in being rooted in our faith. Measuring how grounded we are in Christ has less to do with the amount of scholarship one has, though, and more to do with attaining a level of faith and trust that holds firm when we encounter various John 6:67 moments.
Third, this exchange illustrates for us how all three of our purpose statement elements work together. The disciples did not have it all figured out, but they had come to be grounded in their faith in Jesus. They had come to this place in the midst of growing together with Jesus each and every day. As they would continue to grow together, they would become even more grounded in him. Although they were doing more watching in these 3 years than actual doing, they were going together in mission, learning what it meant to go and to minister and participate in Kingdom work. The day approached when Jesus would leave them, place his Spirit within them and ultimately send them out for the work that he had called them to do. One day they would come to understand what these words by Jesus meant, and by that time they had become so grounded that they would eventually give their lives for the sake of the gospel these words represent.
The path of discipleship does not include the strictly linear path that most of us would desire. “Just give me the three steps to complete and I’ll check the boxes!” It, instead, includes all of these elements working together over the course of a lifetime. We, therefore, must be intentional to be pursuing growth in all three.
Are you growing in all three areas? Can you see how all three are happening in our lives as you travel your own journey of faith? How does your heart respond to John 6:67 moments, those moments when issues or circumstances arise that may cause us to waiver in our faith and resolve? Are you seeking to grow in the context of small community (we at Westwood urge our members to be actively involved in Life Groups)? Are you at the same time going for God’s glory, both individually as you share Christ with your circle of influence, as well as within the greater context of your church’s mission?
Great questions to ponder consistently as we strive to grow as disciples ever day.