My mother loved the Lord, and she was one of the first in her church to be born again and Spirit-filled during the charismatic renewal of the early 1970's. But no matter how the charismatic movement and the freedom of the Spirit meant to her, wild horses could not have dragged her from membership of St. Andrews Episcopal Church of Kokomo, Indiana.
She loved the Processional. She loved the wood work, the stained glass, the liturgy and the routine of the Sunday morning service. She loved the old hymns. All those things 'affirmed' her as a person and affirmed her in her faith.
The word 'affirm' means 'to state something as true' or 'to publicly show your support for an opinion or idea'. It can also be used in a legal sense in which a higher court affirms a lower court's ruling as correct. In our context it means the spiritual things you do confirm who you are and what you believe to be true, which leads us to be affirmed as individuals.
My question is; How are you, individually and as a Christian, affirmed? How are you affirmed as it relates to 'church' or the body of Christ?
Are you affirmed by the auditorium church and all the sense-related trappings? Is a coffee shop in the foyer part of that? Is it the carpet, the woodwork, the sounds system? Or perhaps it is the people in the building? If your church 'worship' resembles a rock concert, if the ushers hand out ear plugs as you enter, if the worship is presented with laser and other lights, smoke and a performance oriented band, does that affirm you in your faith and confirm what you believe to be true? Or does your church sing traditional hymns and do those contribute to affirming you as a Christian.
Are you affirmed by a cell/small group within the auditorium church? Is it the men's group, the women's group, the intercessory prayer group that affirms you? Are you affirmed in knowing your children are enjoying a good youth group or Sunday school or nursery?
Don't misunderstand; This is not about why you go to that church, or why you don't go to a church. This has to do with what in your spiritual life affirms you as a Christian. What confirms all you believe? Is it something, or someone(s)?
When we meet someone new to us, one of the first questions asked is, "So what do you do for a living?" This is because when we hear what someone does for a living we form an immediate opinion of that person. That opinion is based on previous understandings with people in that line of work.
If you experienced a dishonest lawyer in the past and a new person tells you they are a lawyer, you either think they may be corrupt, or are at least suspect until they prove themselves. One of the quickest way to kill a conversation is when I tell people I'm in the ministry. They either run for cover for fear I may try to convert them, or nullify their revulsion by telling me someone they knew once a long time ago was a nice country preacher.
If someone identifies themselves as a 'Messianic Christian', doesn't that immediately form an image in your mind? But to them, that (at least for the moment) affirms them. By digging into Jewish roots they find affirmation in their faith and as a person, quite often.
If someone identifies themselves with say, Bethel church in Redding, California, doesn't that present an image? Or IHOP in Kansas City, or Brownsville or TACF for those of us who have been around awhile. Why do people go to 'revival centers'? They affirm them both in their faith and as individuals.
Some are focused on ministries that meet together for one purpose - to go out and 'witness' to strangers. They find purpose and affirmation in 'witnessing' for the Lord, and the Lord does some amazing things. There are few things as affirming as walking up to a stranger sitting at coffee, asking if they needed healing for anything, and watching them get instantly healed.
Others may find their affirmation in a more 'fringe' belief, like flat earth or cessationists (believing tongues/healing died with the original apostles), or focusing on specific doctrine like deliverance, inner healing, or physical healing.
Examine your own heart, and scripture for balance
When Paul told the Corinthians that he was afraid they would leave the simplicity of faith in Christ for 'another Jesus, another spirit, another gospel', he did so stating if they did so, it would be because Satan has beguiled them - deceived them - into leaving balanced, simple faith in Christ, for a more complicate life of faith.
Whatever you find that affirms your faith and affirms you as a Christian, imagine that is all stripped away, out of reach, gone, taken away from you. Would you life in the Lord change in any way?
When Jim and Tammy Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart fell from grace in the early 1980's, thousands upon thousands walked away from the Lord - proving their faith was in man, committing idolatry, and when their 'man' fell, so did they.
If everything in your Christian life other than simply knowing the Father and the Lord Jesus were taken away, would you just keep walking with them and be otherwise unaffected? We'll pick it up there next week.
Until then, blessings,
www.cwowi.org and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org