The following article is from the desk of David Bobbitt, one of the brothers at the Madisonville church of Christ.
When someone says “You need Jesus, I need Jesus, we all need Jesus,” what ideas do these phrases evoke in the minds of most people? Certainly, they convey the notion that the need for Jesus is universal, but in a practical sense, what does the idea of “needing Jesus” mean? How does it manifest itself in the lives of people? Does “getting Jesus” mean just being right with God, or is there something more?
According to the Bible, when we emerge from the waters of baptism, we are new creations. (II Cor. 5:17, Col. 2:12, Rom. 6:1-5) We are new creations because our sins have been forgiven and our slate wiped clean, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t still have the same struggles that we did before. Temptation doesn’t just vanish, neither does our way of thinking change overnight. Yet if we have truly surrendered to the will of God, we will commit ourselves to doing our best to live as we should. That in and of itself is a major concession, but many people, when they first put on Christ in baptism, have no idea how to live better lives. This is where our “need for Jesus” comes into play.
The Bible clearly states that not only is Jesus the head of the church, but also that he is the church! In 1 Corinthians 12:27 Paul writes, “Now you [the church] are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” To tell someone that they “need Jesus” is not some hollow, meaningless phrase. To “need Jesus” is to need the church and all the benefits that come with being a part of it. Those who believe that they can be “Christians are large” without being in fellowship with Christ’s body are greatly, and sadly mistaken.
Someone might ask, “Besides being forgiven of our sins, what other benefits come with being a part of the church?” To answer that question, let us first consider the situation that a typical new convert might face. If, for example, a homeless person puts on Christ, he is a “new creation” because his sins have been forgiven, but how does he move forward to live a productive life for God? He may have a drug or alcohol problem and he may not be employed. It may seem that his prospects for improvement are small, but in fact, being a part of the church provides him with everything he needs to turn his life around.
If he has truly surrendered his will to God, then he will be thinking about ways that he can become a good citizen and a productive servant of God. He may genuinely not know how to do that, but his brothers and sisters in Christ can help him. To become a good citizen, he needs to get a job, earn is wages, pay taxes, and learn to be responsible for his own care. Addressing a drug or alcohol problem likely will be one of the first things he needs to do. If he “turns these problems over to God” a solution can be found through the help of fellow Christians. Once sobriety is achieved, he can begin to look for a job and affordable housing. Again, fellow Christians can help because they can point him in the direction he needs to go. Resources are available to help him and Christians can be conduits through which he can find and embrace those resources. Christians can help by providing transportation to job interviews. Christians can also provide food and clothing temporarily until the new convert “gets on his feet.”
Belonging to the church also conveys spiritual benefits. Christians can pray for, and with, the new convert to help him find the strength to move forward. They can teach him God’s word, provided that he continues to attend faithfully. Eventually, the new convert will start to develop a sense of “belonging” to the family of God. He will begin to cultivate hope and develop a vision for what he can become. He will be firmly planted in an environment where he can flourish physically, mentally, and spiritually.
For those who have determined in their minds to “surrender to God,” all of these things are possible. There will be difficulties along the way, but the church can help even a homeless convert have a productive and meaningful life. To tell someone that they “need Jesus” is not just a phrase composed of happy thoughts and wishful thinking, but it is an invitation to become everything God wants them to become through his church.