When I am in a group of strangers who inquire about my vocation, with a smile I tell them I sell life insurance. Few things kill a conversation more quickly than revealing that I am a pastor of a local church. There is a not so funny side to that little joke.
There are people who want the assurance of Heaven without the journey of faith. For those who are just ‘converts,’ Jesus like an insurance policy, purchased and forgotten. In truth we are called to be disciples, followers after Him.
Why do some go to church all the time and show no change of heart or behavior? It’s a fair one and has many possible answers. The primary one is that the Gospel of transformation can be swapped for something the late Dallas Willard called, ‘the gospel of sin management.’ (The Divine Conspiracy) The promise of God is to make a person new, the stony heart replaced with a living one. Falling far short of that goal, we are willing to settle for less. Using techniques of behavior modification, we teach people to live marginally better. Is that how Jesus desires us to live when He says, “Come, take up your cross and follow Me.”? The Lord has promised those who serve Him amazing, transformative power through the Spirit!
The work of the Church is not to comfort people while they remain disobedient to God. Jesus commissioned us to ‘go and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything I command.’ That is an impossible challenge if we believe we can do it with gimmicks, programs, or oratory. Discipleship is spiritual work done by the Spirit Who works deeply in and through us. We have developed great skill at explaining the ‘why’ of our sinful urges and learning to co-exist with the Devil; all this a tragic compromise. This is not to imply that we should discard education, understanding of leadership, or psychology. These things are tools that can help us to accomplish our task, but the true Power for deliverance lies not with us, but in His Power. When we come to the end of Self and get desperate for intimacy with Him, we are changed, inside out.
Consider the example of Moses, the man called to lead God’s people out of their bondage. He met the Lord at the burning bush and was told to go back to Egypt. He knew what he was up against and protested by pointing to his inability. “Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:11-12, NIV) “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:12, NIV) Moses looks at his own weakness, God refocuses him, time and again, on His power!
We can never be content to just live more successful lives, even as we adapt to the slavery of Egypt! We are called out to the Promised Land.
In many ways it is easier to settle on becoming a better slave in Egypt than it is to start on the journey to the Promised Land.
Ponder this word from the Word, dear friend. May this truth move you beyond being content with a gospel that is like a life insurance policy and into the ongoing transformation that comes with discipleship.
” And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2, NLT)
Quiet my mind
And draw me near You.
Silence my thoughts
I just want to be with You!
Open my heart,
To hear and listen!
Not my way God,
But your Vision!
And all my fears fall away
In Your presence,
Waiting on You;
Waiting on You.
And as you come to me,
Send your Spirit to minister
Because I am truly desperate
For the promises that you keep.
Waiting On You -Terry Keenan