Saturday, September 3, 2016

Schooling is for Christians, Not Just Fish!

Photo by Jamie McCaffrey 2014

As we enjoy Labor Day, the last weekend of the summer, many students have already returned to school. Regardless of our age, there are lessons to be learned in the classroom of life for as long as we live.

If you have ever marveled at the beauty of the seas from the unique perspective of a diver or a submergible vessel, no doubt you have been awestruck by myriads of small fish swimming in organized patterns, known as schooling.

Each fish on its own is tiny, weak, and often brilliantly colored or gleaming in silver scales, making it easy prey for larger fish or marine animals. Yet together, the school takes on a life of its own, swirling and darting about as a single organism, confusing and warding off predators while promoting foraging, feeding, and reproduction.

Scientists suggest that there is a genetic basis for this behavior, which has many advantages including the multiplied sensory input to many pairs of eyes, making it easier to spot danger and avoid it, or to find food and swim toward it. The hydrodynamics of swimming in a group formation make travel faster and more efficient, with each fish expending less energy than it would if it were swimming alone. And, being in a group has many social advantages including making it easier to find a suitable mate. 

Schools of fish are an apt metaphor for the church, or body of Christ, and Christians who are faithful to church enjoy many blessings not available to those out of church. When Jesus recruited Peter to be one of His apostles, 

He promised that if they followed Him, He would make them “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17). 
In the early days of the church, the fish was used as a symbol of Christianity (Acts 11:26). The Greek word for fish, “ichthus,” is an acronym containing the first letters of the Greek words translated into English as "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour" (Mark 1:1; John 20:31; Acts 8:37). 

The two intersecting arcs, representing the profile of a fish, were easy to draw in the sand as a subtle declaration of one’s faith. If a newcomer was a Christian, he would recognize it and announce that he, too, was a follower of the Way (Acts 16:17), But if the stranger was hostile to the cause, he would not know the symbol and would assume the Christian was just doodling, so the Christian would avoid persecution.

Like fish, born-again believers (John 3:3-8) are meant to engage in schooling rather than going it alone. Once we are saved by placing our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we become members of the body of Christ (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12,27). When we come together as His body, we can follow Him with new beauty, submission, and holiness, glorifying Him (Ephesians 5:24,27).

The unity that should bind together the body of Christ allows the church to function “in one accord” (Acts 1:14; 2:1,46; 4:24; 5:12, etc.). The church acting as one can sail on currents of peace and righteousness (Isaiah 48:18); feed on God’s Word (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4) encourage one another even while swimming against the tide of public opinion (James 1:6); and ward off attacks of Satan, who constantly tries to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). 

Sadly, few churches today accomplish this ideal. Instead of following Christ’s command to carry out the Great Commission by sharing His Word at home and throughout the world (Matthew 28:19), many churches function essentially as social clubs designed to entertain their members. Because they are focused on self rather than on Him, they tend to stagnate, like schools of fish that remain in one place too long, becoming slowly poisoned by buildup of their own wastes and depletion of oxygen. 

Praise God that He is the Living Water Who will forever satisfy our thirst (John 4:10-15) with His pure, flowing fountain (Song of Solomon 4:15; Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13; Revelation 7:17), if we remain sensitive to move freely (Acts 17:28) wherever and whenever He leads us! A church should facilitate this in its members by having a clear, Christ-focused, Bible-centered mission to follow Him. 

Many churches today do attempt to encourage their members and foster a sense of belonging, but not always as members of the body of Christ. Even atheists have banded together in “churches” that sing “feel good” songs, discuss self-help, and contribute to community causes. 

But when Christians assemble together (Hebrews 10:25), their main purpose should be to glorify Him, and to encourage one another through God’s Word rather than apart from it. They should strengthen the body by submitting their own needs to those of one another and to the common good (Ephesians 5:21), Then the church experiences the joy and peace of unity (Psalm 133:1), loving, praying and caring for one another (1 Peter 4:7-11).  

As the tide of political correctness turns against Christianity (1 Peter 4:12), church members should encourage one another to strengthen their faith and to know and follow what they believe (Ephesians 3:17-19), not only individually, but corporately (Hebrews 3:13). But this is difficult, if not impossible, when leaders in some churches allow their thinking to be conformed to the world, rather than transformed by the renewing of their mind through God’s Word (Romans 12:2). 

False doctrine and false teachers (Matthew 7:15; 24:11) can then infiltrate the body, introducing corruption and heresy instead of Scripture-based schooling (2 Peter 2:1-3; Revelation 2:8-23). Even worse, they can cause division and argument among the members, which is an abomination to God (Proverbs 6:16-19). 

When worldly entertainment and dress (1 Peter 3:1-4), focus on self-help instead of Scripture, and social networking replace the unity of purpose to serve God and spread His Word, that church is doomed to leave its members vulnerable to spiritual attack. Instead of small groups for age- and gender-appropriate Bible study, cliques form based on popularity, multilevel marketing, or other worldly pursuits (Revelation 3:14-19). 

Those left out or even actively wounded by other church members often drift away from the school, where they are most vulnerable to Satan’s attack (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). The Christian can expect spiritual warfare daily (Ephesians 6:12), but his chances of defeat are much greater if he is not part of a loving, protective, strengthening body of Christ (Ephesians 6:18). 

My husband and I are blessed to be part of such a God-honoring church family, and my prayer is that all Christians would be equally blessed to serve Christ in a body of believers moving as one to serve, worship and honor Him. 

Because every church is made up of people, all of whom are sinners (Romans 3:23), no church is perfect. Yet it is also my prayer that members of every evangelical church would work together in unity to serve God, support their pastor, encourage one another, pray fervently (Romans 12:11-12), strengthen one another in God;s love and in His Word, and to spread the Gospel in their local neighborhoods and across the globe! 

May we learn from schools of fish that there is strength not just in numbers, but in unity of purpose. May that purpose be to move in synchrony with His perfect will in all that we do, and to help our brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same!

© 2015 Laurie Collett

Womanhood With Purpose
Adorned From Above
No Ordinary Blog Hop


Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
just had a break from my ironing to look at the blogs. Yes, that is right, the church must operate as one body according to the written word, in love and allowing all the parts of the body and the gifts given to each to operate, and not divided. Otherwise it is doing it's own building instead of allowing the Lord to build.
We are told that in these last days there will be false teachers and prophets, and we have to be careful to test the spirits according to the teachings of Christ.
It is such a pity that in many places the traditions of man are making void the word of God. The Lord wants us to have all parts of the body operating so that we might have the fullness of all He has to give us in those gifts.
All each of us can do is continue to pray for this and continue to do what the Lord has called us to do.

God bless you Laurie.

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
I will never forget the day I set foot on Green Island, a coral cay at the Great Barrier Reef off the Queensland coastal town of Cairns, in 1997. Green Island is suitable for "beginners" in snorkelling, and for the first time ever, I was able to view close up the magnificent coral life. A couple of days later, I took a catamaran to Port Douglas for a connecting sailing to Low Isles, another coral cay off the Australian coastline. Finally a sailing trip to Heron Island, a continental-type island among the Whitsundays, has fully converted me to admire tropical marine life by first-hand experience. Like as you say, I too have seen beautifully-coloured Surgeon Fish, Zebra Fish, and other similar species in an apparent underwater paradise created by the reef itself.
As for the churches, I fully agree, since a sinful nature still residing within us, that we are not perfect. Just look at the church in Corinth, where members were bedding down with prostitutes, another member was about to take a brother to Court, they were disputing whether eating "unclean" meat was feasible, there were household strife within marriages, there was a level of disorder whenever they met to worship, they abused the Holy Communion meal, and they were threatening to split four ways. Whew! Yet the apostle still addresses them as saints at the start of his two letters. The errors of behaviour found within the church at Corinth makes a good lesson for us to learn from.
An excellent post. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
May the Holy Spirit prevail throughout the church to allow His body to function as it should, each member valued and carrying out the gifts and ministries God foreordained for each of us.
God bless you too!

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Thank God that He knows our sins, both private and corporate, yet loves us anyway, forgives us, and sees only the perfect righteousness of His Son. Wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in anyone's name there will be political strife, and even when the church assembles, there are problems, which only the Spirit can overcome. Praise God that He recorded these examples in the Bible so that we would not get discouraged, and continue to act as a body as He commands.
Thank you for your encouragement and insights.
God bless,