Remember when you were a child and you played at some role? Dad bought me an old car to run in our farm fields when I was about 13. Gunning that little Plymouth Valiant around the dirt oval in made, I could pretend I was leading the field in a big race. As the tires spun, dirt flew, the engine raced, I ‘saw’ challengers for first place on my bumper. My pulse raced and I was at Daytona. What fun! But, actually I was just a kid, in an old car, doing about 35 MPH in a farm field by himself. Dale Earnhardt Jr. would laugh at my pretend races, wouldn’t he? Real life is much more complicated than we could imagine as a child.
Let me ask a pointed question for your consideration – are you truly engaged in Christian discipleship or are you just playing church?
Real spiritual need exists all around us; yes, even in our homes and our own hearts. A dress-up, playing at religion kind of “Christianity” cannot address those issues with the power of the Spirit. We need to be engaged with God, doing the daily disciplines, opening our hearts to His Spirit, learning His ways so that we can do more than offer platitudes to those who are lost, to those who are slaves to their sin, to those who are struggling to find a way to make it to tomorrow.
Jesus, just prior to His Ascension, told that little band of followers that they were not ready to go just yet. “Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. … But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4,8, NLT) He knew they needed more than a good story, more than an ability to imitate what they had seen Him do. They needed to be changed from the inside out, full of God’s Spirit. They waited expectantly, praying daily, wanting all that God had prepared for them so that they could fulfill the Great Mission of changing the world!
Do you? Do I? Are we expecting the Spirit’s to empower, ready to let Him lead us to real maturity, to equip us to go beyond playing at church and to become the people of God that confront evil with the Gospel of salvation?
We cannot work it up, sing songs loudly to make it happen, or bring in a preacher for a revival! Spirit renewal begins with hunger, real desire for God, and rests on our faith to receive. A man with a huge need came to Jesus one day. Look at the interaction.
“As Jesus entered the village of Capernaum, a Roman captain came up in a panic and said, “Master, my servant is sick. He can’t walk. He’s in terrible pain.” Jesus said, “I’ll come and heal him.” “Oh, no,” said the captain. “I don’t want to put you to all that trouble. Just give the order and my servant will be fine. I’m a man who takes orders and gives orders. I tell one soldier, ‘Go,’ and he goes; to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
Taken aback, Jesus said, “I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know all about God and how he works. This man is the vanguard of many outsiders who will soon be coming from all directions—streaming in from the east, pouring in from the west, sitting down at God’s kingdom banquet alongside Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then those who grew up ‘in the faith’ but had no faith will find themselves out in the cold, outsiders to grace and wondering what happened.” Then Jesus turned to the captain and said, “Go. What you believed could happen has happened.” At that moment his servant became well.” (Matthew 8:5-13, The Message)
The religious people that Jesus knew were so used to the forms and the words of faith, they had lost the reality. They were playing at it. The Roman captain believed Him, trusted His power, and his faith found an answer. Let’s take a look at our forms, our songs, our prayers to see if they have become like the lines of a play to us; things we have learned to say but no longer really believe. If we find we are just pretending, how about we go back to God to wait, to ask, and pray for a renewal of faith that actually connects us with the powerful Presence of the Holy Spirit?
Here is a word from the Word. “The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” (Luke 17:5-6, NIV) Don’t try to ‘understand’ or explain His words. Just receive them, believe them, and live them.
Lord, awaken us to the need.
Show us Your power.
Lead us to deep, mature faith that is ready to do Kingdom work.