The older that I become, the more I'm beginning to understand that the things which are really important in my life are often hidden inside a schedule that blurs the lines between relevant moments and rehearsed busyness. There will always be 'busy.' Busy is a fact of life that seems to be inescapable. We have responsibilities to an employer, family and friends, upkeep of our homes, children's sports, school, church events, grocery shopping, mowing grass...and the list goes on and on...almost indefinitely.
We schedule things into our life because we deem them to have worth and importance. We run from event to event trying to satisfy the demands that are listed 'in ink' within the pages of our over-scheduled agendas for the day...hoping to catch up in time to rest for a brief moment before we start the same hectic process again tomorrow.
Often, we use the busyness of our schedules to validate our own importance. If we're busy, then we must be important, in demand, and relevant. We think that busy people are achievers, they're motivated, they're important, and they have to be smart because their schedule is so full...right? Wrong.
For years, decades even, my life was dictated by a calendar book of appointments that were often scheduled months in advance. I took great pride in my ability to plan my schedule in a fashion that squeezed the most out of every second of the day. I owned a successful business, and the schedule that I created for the purpose of 'feeding' that business ruled my life. If it wasn't on my calendar, then it wasn't important. The problem was that I had way too much on my calendar, and not all of it was important. I found myself failing at prioritizing my life, missing out on moments of relevance, because of my schedule of rehearsed and habitual busyness.
For anyone who knows me, I hope it's obvious that I love Jesus? My greatest call is that of being a follower of Christ, a disciple of the living God. He has freely given to me everything, in spite of my "way less than tolerable" lack of merit. He is my Savior, and I am His child. It is in the finished work of Jesus that I find hope, and it is only in keeping my focus on Him that I now find a greater degree of clarity in my priorities.
To me, the things of God are the things of importance. I would love to say that I always put God first, but I cannot honestly equate myself with having that degree of perfect righteousness concerning my own decisions. I misappropriate God's place in my life frequently, but, nonetheless, I strive to firmly establish Him as the priority and the goal.
In our lives, our walk with eternal God should certainly be the priority, but that walk is not always elevated through packed schedules. Packed schedules can actually inhibit our walk with Jesus, because our 'walk' with Christ is not grounded in 'calendar activity'...it is grounded in the development of a close relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord. Our walk with God begins and ends in our communication with Him through the Holy Spirt, His Word and through prayer. This is how we come to know our Lord. This is where we learn His heart and His will, and it is in this relationship where we will receive the directions for our physical service.
My pastor stated today that... "if you have never said 'no' to being involved in a church ministry, then you may not know Jesus." I agree with his point, and his point is simply this: if we always say 'yes' because we feel that it is our duty to serve whenever asked, then we are not really seeking God's guidance in planning the things that could possibly detract from our time with Him. Satan can use church activity against you, your schedule/time and your relationship with God. If you don't believe me, then start paying attention to some of the grumpy, burned-out, fed-up, cranky workers at a church near you. Many are 'doers' who are well-intentioned and devoted to staffing the ministries of their church. They have great hearts to serve, but they have been so busy for so long that they are simply tired, and their joy is drained. Drained joy is a definitive sign of a lethargic relationship with our Lord. Busy Christians are often more concerned with growing a particular ministry than with growing their individual walk with God. It happens frequently, and it's never on purpose. In this situation, the Christian, the ministry, the church, and the Kingdom of God all suffer.
If Satan can convince you to serve the ministries of the church without serving God, then he doesn't care about your church involvement. In that scenario, you're just a busy Christian trying to plug the leaky-holes in the dam. You're tired, worn-down, and your walk with Christ has surrendered to a schedule. Your availability to God is consumed with busy-work. Satan is pleased.
Here's my point...
Our availability to Almighty God is a direct reflection of how we prioritize our life. The first step of our growth in Christ is communication with Him. This step is taken through prayer and reading God's Word...a step where we should be discipled by the Holy Spirit of God. If we are not available to God here, then it is impossible for us to really be available to the service of God through any other aspect of our life. If we don't make ourselves available to talk with God, then our walk with God will be on of rehearsed busyness...irrelevant, tired and devoid of passion. I've been there.
An intimate relationship with God is either important to you or it's not. Making time to interact with God through prayer and reading His Word is by far the most important aspect in the life of a Christian. It is in this availability to God that we find our purpose within His will. And, it is this availability to God where true service arises. We have enough 'busy Christians' in the world today, but we have too few passionate disciples of Christ.
True service stems from real discipleship, and real discipleship is forged in relevant relationship...relationship that requires availability. Put your list of priorities on the back-burner, and make time to become available to real, relevant relationship with God. When that happens, our priorities change, our calendars change, our our life changes.
Do you have time for God? He's available...are you?
Fear is powerful. It is a very effective tool in the art of manipulating people. I believe that Satan understands with great clarity just how easy it is to scare God's children. Sadly, it's even worse than that. To our dismay, we are often scared right out of our belief in the power of God to work within and beyond our set of fearful circumstances. In our fear, our fragile faith begins to question the very secure standing we already possess in the grace, mercy, and provision of Jesus Christ. We're basically scared right out of our effectiveness for Jesus, as we question His power in our life. We're shaken loose from the very things that should be foundational.
Where there is fear, there is darkness, and where there is darkness, there is no peace.
Colossians 3:15 is clear... "let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful."
The word for peace in this verse is the Greek word eiréné, which simply means 'peace, quietness' or 'rest.' However, a deeper and much more interesting characteristic of this word is the fact that it is derived from the Greek word eirō, which means 'joined together' or 'tied together as a whole.' Peace through a union with Christ...
We are called to be joined together with God through the completed work of Jesus Christ.
We are to be one with Christ through His Lordship in our life, and it is only in that union that we will ever find lasting, unshakeable, and irreplaceable peace.
When we are not at peace, Christ is not at the helm. When Christ is not at the helm, the very delicate balancing act between faith and fear is often lost to the impending darkness. Consequently, our light for Christ is dimmed, or even extinguished, because of our petrifying fear of the darkness encroaching upon us. In the absence of the light, the darkness will reign.
The darkness being discussed here in the quotation from R.C. Sproul is the activity of Satan in our life and in our world. It can be our sin nature, or possibly the evil activities of Satan prowling among us as a roaring lion...a lion seeking someone to completely devour. Either way, darkness brings with it conditions and feelings that are distinctively adept at diminishing our faith and our 'light' as God's children. These conditions and feelings can birth in us a crippling fear. Just as we have no peace when we attempt to remove Christ from the helm of our life, God's light fails to illuminate the darkness when we embrace fear. Instead of choosing to be strong and grounded in empowering faith, we fall prey to the uncertainty of the developing shadows, and God's light in us is rendered ineffective. It is simply not allowed to shine.
We are called to be light to a world of darkness...
Matthew 5:14-16 states: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
If we have a higher degree of devotion in embracing fear than we do in the engagement of faith, then darkness will always reign. In our life, the light of Christ will only shine if it is allowed to shine. Will we serve in faith, or will we hide in fear? It's our decision to make...faith versus fear...light versus darkness. It's unfortunate that light is best seen as a result of dispelling the darkness around it, because, for the child of God, it is that very darkness that seems to destroy our light. Child of God, let it not be so.
John 16:33 tells us: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Trouble is coming. Darkness will emerge. We are warned of this in God's Word. This warning should be a call to catalyze our relentless pursuit of Almighty God, and it should dictate to us that we do not need to ration our recognition of God's faithfulness for only the moments when things are good. Our light for Christ should shine the brightest in the moments of the most extreme darkness. We were created for this purpose.
We need to understand that our purpose on this earth is not to cower behind the perceived gravity of dark situations, but it is to stand up, firmly planted in the faith, power and provision of God, and be the light of Christ. Our light can only shine when we overcome our weak tendency to allow fear to consume us. It is Christ that loved us enough to die for our weaknesses. It is Christ that we should love, and it is in that perfect love that we thrive. It is also in that perfect love where fear is cast out (1 John 4:18).
For the darkness to be dispelled, Christ must shine. We are designed to be reflections of the light of Christ in a world that is becoming increasingly darkened by the unchecked evil of Satan. The walk of the Follower of Christ should be marked by great faith...a faith that produces the abundant and radiant light of Jesus Christ.
God has never failed us, even through our faithlessness, and He will never fail us. In that fact alone, our foundation should be built on an unshakeable trust in the power of God. That trust should solidify our desire to 'live out loud' for the sake of the Gospel of Christ. The light of Jesus should resonate in our every word...and fear should be diminished in the perfect love offered only by One so great as He.
Child of God...the Dispeller of Darkness and the Light of the World lives within you.
So..."Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16 KJV)
Don't let fear hide Jesus in you. Lives are in the balance. There's work to be done, and that work will only be accomplished in the Light.
Be the light.
So, today would be my birthday...
I've been down this road before...about 43 times in the past 43 years. It's odd how this day seems to come around every year, isn't it?
I don't have any problems with having a birthday...no problems whatsoever. I actually enjoy them. The process of getting older doesn't make me sad, I don't concern myself with the stigma that many seem to place on aging, and I am thrilled to be alive and well on September 18, 2015. I've been doing this now since September 18, 1972...and so far, I'm pretty pleased. It is not my intention to stop anytime soon.
I have a wonderful life. I am incredibly blessed to have two very healthy, very wonderful, and very loving parents that I absolutely adore. They bring more joy into my life than they could ever possibly know, and they are simply the manifestation of the many blessings in my life that I do not deserve. I love them dearly, and I'm proud and humbled to be their son.
I have wonderful friends. I'm certainly blessed to be associated with the people that God has placed into my life. These wonderful people have been a joy to me, and I am quite certain that they will never know how much I appreciate them. Many of these people have been involved in my ministry over the years...they've sang with me, or played in the band at my churches, they've traveled with me, they've lugged sound equipment, luggage and furniture from place to place as God has moved me. These people have made me laugh and cry. They have prayed with me and for me. They have been consistent, dependable, and they are loved.
I have a wonderful church. Currently, and I hope for some time to come, I am the Worship, Discipleship and Missions Pastor of Rainsville First Baptist Church in North Alabama. This is a great church, and it is filled with wonderful people. I'm blessed to have been led here by God, and I'm excited about what God has in store for this church in the future. So, I have a loving family, great friends, a beautiful home, food, clothing, health...I'm certainly blessed beyond measure.
With every passing year, and every birthday, I find myself unconcerned with my age or the celebration of my life, but I find myself fixated on the blessings that I live in and around daily. I'm amazed at the road my life has traveled thus far, and I'm humbled to know that I don't really deserve much, but I have much more than enough. I have been blessed to go places and see many things that some will only dream about. I'm blessed to be doing something with my life that I am passionate about, and I'm excited about the future.
I'm also blessed with a life that is lived under the grace provided me through the purposeful sacrifice and ever-powerful blood of Jesus, my extraordinary Savior. He has not just given me another birthday, but He has provided a hope for tomorrow...hope for eternity. Without Him, my life, regardless of any success, would be a life of worthlessness. I'm humbled that He chose to save me so that I would have the distinct honor to serve Him. To the author of my life and the determiner of my days, and the Savior of my soul, I give the highest praise.
Today, I turned another year older. I'm thankful for the years that have already passed and the wonderful memories that I have made. I'm beyond optimistic about the future, because I know the One who holds that future. If you're reading this, I would like to thank you for sharing a moment of your day with me as I celebrate the passing of another year of life and the beginning of a new day...a day of hope, promise, and a day of the celebration of life itself. God is good, and the best is yet to come.
When I was young, I don't ever recall
having a real belief in Santa Claus.
That may sound really sad to some of you, but I will assure you that it certainly didn't diminish my joy at Christmas! I enjoyed the gifts and the toys, but the magical allure of Christmas for me was not grounded in the belief of fiction. It seems that I always knew where my Christmas gifts came from, and in that reality,
I was, and remain, content.
As an adult, I still try to keep my life grounded in reality. I'm a realist by nature, and it is not in my DNA to allow foolishness to enter my mind in the form of the dismal of truth being replaced by the temporary comfort of a lie. If you know me, then you know that I am someone who has a clearly defined picture of what I believe, and I'm also someone who knows why I believe the way I do. If you don't believe me, then ask me, I'll tell you! Today, I see so many people who are living their lives grounded in the deception and hollow comfort of lies...all the while never really coming to a point of believing in anything.
What do you believe in? Where do you ground your happiness and peace? What is static and concrete enough in your life to establish the framework of your joy? Do you know what you believe? Many simply do not.
Our beliefs bring a specific identity into our life. In large part, our beliefs define us. Politically, we are identified based on our belief of conservatism or liberalism. From the perspective of sports, we can readily be identified by our favorite team. If we have a belief in something, then we can normally be counted on to support it. Not only that, if we truly believe in something, then we will learn more about it, we will defend it, we will honor it with our time, and we will spend our entire life proudly discussing it with others.
Most of our country claims a belief in the God of the Bible. Every Sunday morning, church doors swing open wide and flocks of well-dressed 'believers' happily herd inside. They laugh, hug, shake hands and slap each other on the back in an effort to cheerfully acknowledge those whom they have joined with on this day to worship. During the service they smile (well, some do, anyway) and sing, and with open Bibles, they methodically take notes...constantly shaking their head in affirmation to the words of the preacher. But, how many of these people are really there because of true belief?
After so many years in ministry, I have decided that if you really want to find people hurting, then go to church. And, churches contain some of the absolute best actors and actresses on the planet, because Christians have a well-developed knack for hiding their pain...especially at church.
No one really wants to divulge the fact that their life is not perfect, right? Specifically, we don't want anyone at church to know about our pain, because everyone at church has a much greater walk with Jesus than we do, right? They will look down us, right? They will judge us, right? (On a side note, there's a pretty good chance of judgment at church...be warned) And, since we are the only broken ones in the building, we hide our pain underneath the thin and very fragile facade of smiles, laughter, and pats on the back. But, what we're really hiding isn't pain; what we're really hiding is a lack of belief in the power of God.
If we walked into church every Sunday with a true belief that God would meet us there, and with a true belief that God was waiting to redeem, restore, and rejuvenate, and with a true belief that our cries to Jesus were more important than our assumption of judgement by others, and with a true belief that we live covered by grace and empowered by the blood of Christ, then I believe that church would be a place much different than we currently make it. Church would become a place of relevance to our relationship with God. If we truly believed that God was God, our lives would not be spent living out the lies of nominal, habitual, worthless religion; our lives would be spent embracing the power and victory of the blood of Jesus Christ. We would not live our life seeking compliance with the opinions of man, but we would live our life in communion with the grace of God...grace provided as a result of the finished work of Christ on the cross.
If we really believed that God could do the things that we take such diligent notes about on Sunday, then would our lives not be a reflection of that belief? If we really believed in the relevance of the empty grave, would we not be walking in some degree of sustainable victory? If we really believed that God is standing at the door of the heart of those who believe in Him (Revelation 3:20) seeking fellowship, then would we not arise from our cushy recliner of lukewarm apathy and go answer the door? If we really believed....
What do you really believe about God? What did you believe that Satan has convinced you isn't true? If we really believed in God, His love, and His promises, then what in our life should change right now? Our belief in God should define us, our attitudes, our words, our habits, our thoughts, our actions, and our relevance to the world of unbelief that God has placed us in.
Our belief in God is dependent upon our fellowship with Him. He's waiting for that fellowship. He's knocking... Decided what you believe, and answer the door.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. – Revelation 3:20 (ESV)
What is your purpose? The easy answer to that question is that we should all purpose our lives to do good things, to be people of character and integrity, and to not hurt others. The much harder questions for our purpose arise when we add the ingredient of God's Word into the formula of discerning what our real purpose should be in the eyes of Almighty God, our Creator. Our life is not a mistake. We are purposed creations of a sovereign God, creations with a definitive reason for existence.
My hobbies and interest vary. My attention span also varies. One day I might have a great interest in something particular, and the next day, that interest suffers loss. The things that fall into this category are obviously not my purpose in life. They are, at best, only passing influences and interests that are quickly weighed against the reality of my true depth of passion to pursue them. If my interest subsides, then it's safe to assume that these things do not drive me. Our purpose in life should be our passion, and our passion for that purpose should drive and define everything that we do.
If a candle had a soul and could speak, it would most assuredly confess that it was made to create light, and it would proudly declare a willingness to completely surrender its life in the pursuit of that purpose. Creating light is not only the purpose of the candle, but it is the only place where the wax creation finds any relevance. In the process of creating light, the candle will totally surrender itself to the call of its purpose. In a surrender that will alter its temperature, structure and appearance, the candle will ultimately become completely consumed by living out its designed purpose. Only in that consumption will its glory be revealed.
A candle does not produce light simply because it is called a candle. A similar thought is that a candle doesn't produce light simply because it was created to do so. A candle only produces light when its wick is exposed to a passionate flame...a flame that will require much from the candle. It will, in fact, require complete surrender.
We are created by God for a definitive purpose, but simply being involved in the weekly practices of Christian religion will not accomplish those purposes in our life. The memorization of theological doctrine, and the habitual practice of rehearsed Christian tradition, will do little to catalyze passion for our intended purpose if we are not fully surrendered to God's distinctive call.
Our affiliation with 'Christianity' does not...
God's presence in our life is a consuming fire...
Hebrews 12:28-29 (NIV)
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship (serve) God acceptably with reverence and awe,
29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”
The Greek word for 'worship' in the above verse is 'latreuó,' and it can also be translated 'serve.' The word 'consuming' here in the Greek is the compound word 'katanaliskó' meaning to 'decisively, conclusively and utterly consume.'
Here we see a clear definition that our service to God is purposed to be a service carried out with reverence and awe, because, if we are truly passionate about God, He will decisively, conclusively, and utterly consume us! We were created to be surrendered and consumed by God, just as the candle is created to be surrendered and consumed by flame.
God wants to consume every aspect of our life. His consumption of us will destroy our old way of life. It will alter our personality, it will melt our established structure, it will redefine our internal integrity, and His consumption of us will produce a light within ourselves that will transform our walk in this world into one of relevance to the purposes of His kingdom. However, that process cannot take place unless we are sold out and surrendered unto the purposes for which we are created. If we are not willing to be consumed, then we are choosing to be made worthless to God's intended purposes for our life. We turn ourselves into something similar to a beautifully made candle abandoned on shelf...a magnificently created instrument of light that is warehoused, dusty and irrelevant in regard to its intended purpose. Useless.
The consumption of our lives by Almighty God is not displayed in...
We are made to be utterly consumed by our God, and it's only in that consumption that the real glory of God will be revealed in us. Determine that finding your Godly purpose in life will require Godly surrender. And, it's only through that surrender that we will find the purpose, passion and relevance to live out a life designed to leave a definitive mark.
This was a special day. Today, my sweet mother had her 80th birthday. I could never adequatley express to anyone exactly how much I love this lady. There are really no words to describe how she has selflessly poured her life into mine for over four decades. She still pours her life into my own, and I'm paying much more attention now than I ever have.
Eight decades of life bring with it wisdom that I will probably never know. I've said it before, and I am still convinced, that the older I become the smarter she gets. My mom struggles with the technology of her iPhone and iPad, and she would have no clue how to do many things on a computer that most younger people take for granted...but she is still much wiser than I will ever be.
She can touch a flower, and it will bloom into something magnificent. She can create great meals with anything in the refrigerator. She can sit down at a piano and play it by ear...and, at 80, my mom can still sing like an angel. Her voice still calms my soul, and when I don't feel well, it's still my mother that I really need. For over 50 years, my mother has stood beside my father as his spouse. Their marriage has weathered over five decades with a grace that is seldom seen today. They have been nearly perfect examples of faithfulness and love...and they remain that tremendous example to this very day.
My mother's greatest contribution to my life is the example of her unshakeable faith in God. I can never repay the years of personal discipleship that my mother breathed into my often inattentive nature as a child. However, as inattentive as I was, I still took notice of her example, and that example has served me well throughout my life. Her deliberate actions of pointing me to Christ mean more to me today than they ever have. She still points me to Christ. Often our telephone conversations are spent talking about scripture...long conversations at that. When I call her at night, I almost always interrupt her while reading her Bible. And tonight, as I left her in the living room to go to sleep, she was reading her Bible. There's nothing more precious to me than to see my mother diligently communicating with God...the very one who made me her son.
As the years pass by so quickly, I know that I will not always be able to come home and see my mother. There will be a day when her chair sits empty and her voice is not there to calm my soul. However, as heart-broken as I will be to experience the loss of her presence from this earth, I will rejoice in the knowledge that she will be in the presence of Almighty God. Until that I day, I will continue to treasure this beautiful, magnificent mother that God has chosen to grace my life for almost 43 years. I will continue to try to live my days striving for the Godliness that she so lovingly displays in her own life. I will forever thank God for her depth of Christlike character and grace that has been my example. And I will forever be indebted to God for allowing me a lifetime of opportunity to simply be my mother's son.
Earnestine Beatty, my beautiful, sweet and loving Mother...I love you with all of my heart! I hope you've had a wonderful birthday, and I hope to have the opportunity to celebrate many more with you! I am honored to be your son, and it is my prayer that my life always honors you as the reflection of Jesus that you have always taught me to be.
I love you! Happy Birthday, Mom!
Have you ever noticed how many people-pleasers there are in the world? Have you ever noticed how many people there are who simply try to fix and repair every problem between opposing sides? Have you ever noticed their success rate?
It's virtually impossible for man to create, restore, or for that matter, maintain a constant unity among their fellow men and women.
To exist longterm, unity and peace require one thing: the presence of the Spirit of God. For those who 'know' God, there is always the possibility of peace and unity if they keep their focus on God. Conversely, where there is 'no' God, peace and unity remains elusive. With that being said, our relationship with God should have one priority...our relationship with God.
If every man and every woman individually and fervently seeks out a real and relevant relationship with God, then their relationship with others will reap tremendous benefits. It is when we try to manipulate our relationship with others, manipulation outside of our intimate walk with God, that friendships splinter, marriages end, churches split, and feelings are damaged. God's will is perfect, and staying in the center of that will requires an attention to God that is constant, well-focused, and intensive. We cannot do any greater damage to ourselves or our relationship with others than we do when we elevate them above our personal attention to our own relationship with God.
Churches that strive for corporate unity above spirit-led closeness with God will always be in the pursuit of unity...and it will always outpace their efforts. Marriages that rally all of their attention and focus around the unity and happiness of individual spouses will one day fall prey to the deficit those misplaced priorities brought into the relationship. Friendships, churches, marriages...they are all relationships that suffer hardships when God's Spirit is not the definitive focus.
Just as many pianos, tuned to the same fork by the hands of a master tuner, will all be tuned together as one, so it is with Christians who all relentlessly pursue their own personal walk with Christ. As the closeness and intimacy of their individual walk with Christ deepens and grows, their corporate unity, grounded in their oneness with the Spirit of God, will grow.
In the Body of Christ, unity is not something that is maintained by pleasing everyone. Unity is not maintained by greasing the squeaky wheels of immaturity in Christ as is displayed in the lives of some in the church. Unity is not maintained by spending more or less money. Unity is not maintained through the singing of any particular type of music, nor is it maintained by good preaching. Unity with God's children, and within His church, is maintained by every believer maintaining their own personal walk with Jesus. The fundamentals of unity distinctly lie in the presence of the Spirit of God, alive and well in the mind and hearts of God's children who relentlessly pursue communication, direction, and growth in their relationship with God Almighty.
"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
—Ephesians 4:1-6 (NIV)
Last night, I had the opportunity to speak at a BCM (Baptist Campus Ministries) event here in Rainsville. We had a smaller crowd of college kids, but the worship was fantastic, and I was just thrilled to be invited to share what God had placed in my heart.
Our text last night came from the third chapter of the Book of Revelation, and it dealt with the lukewarm practice of Christianity by the Church at Laodicea. This church had allowed themselves to become comfortable enough in their own
wealth that their walk with God had become something of an afterthought. They were going through the daily and weekly routines of church, but they had allowed apostasy to dilute in them the passion for their own personal walk and relationship with God. This is a tragedy for the follower of Christ, because dilution of our walk with God can happen in a fashion that is hidden within the things that we 'do for God,' or the the blessings that we receive from God. We're engaged with church, but disengaged with real and personal relationship with God. Or maybe we've simply fallen asleep enjoying the blessings that God has provided in our life? Great wealth buys comfortable beds.
The Church at Laodicea was lost in a sea of wealth which produced in them a walk with Almighty God that was passionless, calloused, irrelevant and nauseating to Christ. They were not hot or cold in their relationship with God. They were comfortably lukewarm...engaged in church, but not engaged with God. Does that definition sound like something that you have been through in your own walk with Christ? Unfortunately, it sound very familiar to me.
Christ offers us a solution to repair our lukewarm relationship with Him. It is found in the latter portion of the letter to Laodicea as a declaration and a warning...
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. —Revelation 3:19-20 (ESV)
Briefly, let's understand and correct a common misrepresentation of this scripture. Growing up, I was taught that this narrative was a portrayal of Jesus knocking on the door to the hearts of the unsaved...seeking to come into their life and save them. I believed that for many years, and I would say that a large number of Christians still believe that to this very day. However, we must read this scripture in context...
The letter to Laodicea was written to the church. It was written to the followers of Christ...people who composed the House of God within the city. I'm sure there were unbelievers present in the Church at Laodicea, but this letter is written to Christians.
Here, Jesus is not knocking on the door of the unsaved...He's knocking on the door of His children!
He's begging to come in and fellowship with them! This contextual knowledge should bring this verse into an entirely different light as we apply it to our life.
Our salvation is not the end of the story. Our salvation is the beginning of the story. When we make Christ the Lord of our life, our relationship with Him has just been initiated, and it needs to grow. No relationship grows without some sort of fellowship, and that's exactly what will repair lukewarm Christianity...fellowship with Christ.
To grow our walk with Christ, and to avoid falling into nauseating, lukewarm Christianity, our relationship with Christ demands daily attention. It demands more than a three minute devotional thought in the morning by a popular Christian author. It demands more than church attendance. It demands more than spare time and second-place priority. Jesus gave His all, and He demands our all.
Lukewarm Christianity is dangerous, it's nauseating to Christ, and we are all susceptible prey to this ever increasing problem. Our modern culture and the situation of our country and our world is a reflection of lukewarm Christianity. For those with a true desire for relationship with God, He's not hard to find. Once we really experience the love and the warmth of God, we should be drawn to Him like a moth to a flame. It's impossible to grow lukewarm when you're addicted to the flame.
Child of God, listen closely through the distraction...the flame is burning and Jesus is knocking...
irrelevant religion, devoid of any recognizable passion or accountability...
A dazed and confused mindset of relationship with God that is certainly lacking in conviction...
Does that sound familiar?
The hope of many who live in this form of 'casual relationship' with Almighty God is that God is as attentive to them as they are to His Word. To put it more bluntly, they hope that God exists in a state of distraction in regards to their ineffectual walk with Him. They are hoping God doesn't notice how they negotiate with the world a value for the priority of the blood of Jesus in their life...while claiming an allegiance to God. Hypocrisy as a lifestyle, lived out before the ever-attentive gaze of our judge, Jesus Christ.
Certainly a loving God would never really punish anyone who disobeyed that which He commanded...right? Millions of people are lulled into this false sense of security, based solely on the illusion that God's Word doesn't really mean what it says it means.
A.W. Tozer had it right, and he had Biblical precedence to support his claim...
"Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free." — Proverbs 11:21 (NIV)
We are surrounded by a wickedness in our world today that is beyond comprehension and belief. Culture has taken a definitive step away from the truth of Scripture. Our world is embracing a mentality of Godlessness that is promised to occur directly preceding the return of Christ. The truly heartbreaking part of this narrative is that so many are convinced that a loving God would never punish wicked actions.
Many Christians who fall prey to the 'Grace Doctrine' feel that since everything is covered under grace, then why would we need to live by any set of rules? To them, salvation in itself is a conduit of passage directly to the splendor of Heaven, yet without all of the fuss over sin-nature, disobedience, accountability and the righteous judgment of Christ. It's a mindset that sin is forgiven, so why worry about it? It's also a mindset that leads to their tolerance of evil and wickedness in the world, and in their own life.
Those without the Lordship of Christ in their life will often claim God's love for them as a convenient-reasoning to justify their thoughts of a future residence in Heaven...an entrance into to the eternal Kingdom of God, based solely on God's love, while disregarding the requirement of surrender and Lordship in their life to a crucified and resurrected Savior. Ignoring sin, they focus on God's love and compassion. They need to realize that God's love and compassion is displayed in Christ and His sacrifice.
God does love all that He has created. We must understand that no greater example of His love could be given than that of offering up His only Son on the altar of our sin, shame and unrighteousness. For the follower of Christ, that sacrifice stands in the gap, bridging the divide between two very different eternities. For the unbeliever, the gap is exposed, the chasm is deep, and the only salvation is found in the completed work of Jesus Christ.
We don't need to live our entire life making unfounded Biblical assumptions that Almighty God will lovingly overlook our wickedness and sinful disobedience. His love for us is certainly profound. His love was demonstrated in the slaughter of innocence on a rugged cross, and that blameless recipient of the abuse which was required to purchase righteousness for all will, one day soon, take His seat on the throne of judgment.
For the saved, at the Bema Seat of Christ, our life will be weighed and measured. Although covered under the Lordship of Christ, we will still give an account for the unGodliness of our life. There will be judgment passed. So, follower of Christ, repent of the wickedness and do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind in Christ.
For the lost, at the Great White Throne Judgment, the same Christ who died for their opportunity to be called a Child of God will render a final verdict regarding their wickedness.
The love of God for the unsaved will then be negated by an eternal separation apart from God...which is the real punishment of eternal hell.
God is love, but His eternal love demanded a sacrifice. Under the shadow of such a sacrifice, we should be compelled to understand and live in obedience to the commands of Christ. Wickedness does not escape the ever-watchful eyes of Jesus. The wickedness of the Jew and the Gentile, and the believer and the lost, will one day be punished. It will be punished because God is love...perfect love. He is the author and embodiment of perfect love...a love without blemish or stain, and a love that will not tolerate eternal wickedness.
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called..." — Ephesians 4:1 (ESV)
We have all been called...called to the Lordship of Christ in our life. Live in obedience, without purposed, sinful-adversity and wickedness, devoid of simple religion, and answering the call of intimate relationship. The world awaits the impact that our very life was designed and created to deliver. Greater things are intentioned for us. Live in the shadow of God's grace with a continually repentant heart. Flee the things of wickedness and pursue the righteousness of Christ...a righteousness that allows us to escape the punishment reserved for those who seek and partake in evil.
God is love. He is good. He is just. Live worthy of the call of Christ...begin today.
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!