Confronting a Double Mind

Mick Turner

These days I am increasingly convicted my own ways of being unfocused and uncommitted in my walk of faith. I am committed, don’t get me wrong, but I have my own unique ways of casting myself adrift. The Holy Spirit is rubbing my nose in this and I must say that although unpleasant at times, it is overall a positive thing.

Jesus tells us that a house divided against itself cannot stand and certainly an individual divided against himself or herself cannot stand, either. I am guilty in spades and confess that I am chronically double-minded. James (James 1:8) warns against this and says that a double-minded man is unstable in all ways. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, echoes the message of Jesus and his brother James when he says:

But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. (NLT)

Jesus words about a house divided and the passages cited by James and Paul all point to the dangers of double-mindedness. The Master says we cannot stand, but instead, will fall. James does not mince his words – he plainly tells us that this lack of commitment leads to instability in all areas of our lives, and Paul says that it leads to corruption and susceptibility to false teaching.

In another relevant passage of scripture, the disciples spot Jesus walking on the waves and Peter, in an initial act of faith, heads out across the water to greet his Master. At some point, however, the disciple discovers what he is actually doing, doubt sets in, and he sinks like a stone. Jesus, in his response to Peter, asks him, “You of little faith. . . .why did you doubt? (Matthew 14:31). What does this have to do with double-mindedness? Plenty!

Dr. Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary on this passage, tells us that the word translated as doubt actually has the meaning of “standing uncertainly at two ways.” Peter ended up with little faith because he saw two ways of proceeding and in that momentary paralysis, sank with the weight of uncertainty. This is a vivid example of the dangers of a double mind.

Held firm in our walk of faith by our firm commitment to Christ, we are encouraged to deepen our connection to the Master and in all things, to remain focused on Jesus, the author of our salvation and the Holy Spirit, the choreographer of our sanctification. In all these things, the implication is to avoid double-mindedness. Paul tells us:

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body (Col. 2:6-9 NLT).

In my personal walk of faith, as I have mentioned here and elsewhere, double-mindedness has been a consistent stronghold the enemy has built up over the years. The Lord has been faithful where I have been unfaithful and he, like the shepherd looking for the one sheep that left the fold, has come to fetch me on many occasions. I don’t mean to say that I have wandered into deep sin or anything like that. Instead, my unfaithfulness has been more in seeking spiritual solace in places other than the Christian faith. The thing the Holy Spirit finally helped me to see was that there is a huge difference between the person of Jesus Christ and the religion that bears his name.

Understanding that one simple truth has made a world of difference for me. Now, I find much comfort in the “God of All Comfort” and have come to understand that he is, indeed, with me always and at all times.

And as I have come to be less double-minded, I am much less a house divided against itself. I have become more spiritually mature and less likely to wander down some seemingly fascinating theological rabbit hole, yet I do admit that sometimes the temptation still arises.

And it is in this growth that I have discovered another salient truth about the Christian walk of faith. As we become more single-minded in our commitment to Christ, we do become more mature from a spiritual perspective. We become more stable (not unstable like James warned us about) and less likely to be taken in by what Paul called “high-sounding nonsense.” In Ephesians 4, Paul gives us further wise counsel:

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Eph. 4:14-15)

Double-mindedness, lack of focus, and inconsistent commitment are all counterproductive to an effective walk of faith. I hope in some small way this article has helped to illustrate that cogent fact. And without a doubt, the scriptures cited point to the need to address these obstacles if, in fact, they do exist in your life.

I would encourage readers to spend some prayer time over the next week, asking the Master to reveal to you any areas in your walk of faith were these issues may be lurking. Also, ask for power, guidance, and wisdom in addressing whatever may arise as you do this.

Think about it.

© L.D. Turner 2014/All Rights Reserved

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Manifesting Christ in Daily Life

Mick Turner

The process of manifesting positive character traits is one component of kingdom living that many people either don’t understand or don’t give priority. The fact is, the process of sanctification is comprised of growing more and more into the likeness of Christ. That is what the Christian path is all about.

I find that one of the most awesome aspects of Christian metaphysical spirituality is its practicality. Although some people tend to get scared off by words like “metaphysics” or “manifestation,” there is nothing mysterious or other worldly about these principles. Instead, the biblical principles of personal growth and transformation are really quite simple. Granted, we can complicate them to a great extent if we want to, but that kind of pseudo-complexity is not needed. Instead, Christian spirituality is really a process of ongoing cooperation with the Holy Spirit, with the goal of becoming increasingly Christ-like in our thoughts, words, and actions.

Christian sanctification (becoming more Christ-like) is a divine partnership between God and the human being. The Holy Spirit’s part is something we cannot fully understand and certainly cannot control. We just have to trust, in positive faith, that the Holy Spirit will do exactly what scripture tells us he will do, He will transform us more and more into beings who bear the fullness of Christ. Rather than fussing and fretting over the Holy Spirit’s work, it is best to focus on what you need to do in order to fulfill your part of this transformational process. And believe me, we do have a part to play. There are those who would tell you that sanctification is entirely a process of grace and there is nothing that we can or should do. This is patent nonsense, pure and simple. Granted, the grace of God, like the wind blowing across the sea, is the power source for our spiritual growth into Christ-likeness. However, if we want to catch that wind and reach our destination, we have to raise our sails.

There are definite steps you can take in order to move forward in bringing into manifestation the Christ-like qualities that you want to inculcate in our personality. Before we get into the specific steps you can take, we need to take a look at two important principles. It is vital that you come to understand and accept two key realities that will prevent you from stumbling out of the starting gate. These two key points are:

You already have everything you need to live the kind of life God desires for you.

No one is disqualified, including you.

You Already Have Everything You Need

In a splendid passage tucked away in the second epistle of Peter we find a message of hope and guidance. The power of this passage of scripture is often overlooked, either through superficial reading or lack of reflection on what the leader of the band of apostles was actually trying to tell us. In a few short words, Peter gives us both a description of where our power to live the Christian life comes from and tells us in plain language the virtues stemming from such a life. Let’s take a look:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in world by lust.

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or shortsighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

Therefore, brethren, make certain about his calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble. For in this way entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. [2 Peter1: 2-11]

In the first section of this passage, Peter reminds us that grace and peace in our lives comes through knowledge of God and Christ. Then he makes an amazing statement. He tells us that Christ, through his divine power, has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness. He has already given us all we need to become whole in Christ and live a life of holiness. All we have to do is, with empty hands and an open heart, reach out and receive it. Further, Peter goes on to tell us that through believing and appropriating the promises made by Christ, we may become partakers of the divine nature.

Do you really realize what this means? Do you see the profound reality that Peter is putting right before our eyes? We, even as limited, fallen, and broken humans, can partake of the nature of God Himself. When I truly reflect on this statement, I tremble in awe.

In the next section, Peter lists for us the virtues that grow out of living from this divine nature. They are:

Faith

Diligence

Moral Excellence

Knowledge

Self-control

Perseverance

Godliness

Brotherly Kindness

Love

Even superficial reflection will tell us how much better our lives, and our world, would be if we would but just make these principles and integral part of our daily lives. If we looked to these virtues as the guiding factors in determining how we lived, life would truly be filled with peace and grace.

In the third section, Peter asks us to be honest with ourselves. He asks us to deeply reflect on our calling, the fact that we are the chosen ones of Christ. Do we really want the kind of life Christ is offering us? Are we willing to make the necessary sacrifices? Are we willing to be led and formed into an image of godliness through the power of the Holy Spirit? If we answer in the affirmative, then we can be assured that we will not stumble. Does that mean life will be without problems? Emphatically no. Does that mean we will never have to struggle with our lower nature, the world, or ourselves? Of course not.

What Peter is saying here is that if we live our lives according to the nine virtues he outlines, we will never stumble, and we will never fall. We will ultimately succeed in growing to be more Christ-like in thought, word, and deed.

Let’s take a look at the same passage, this time from Eugene Peterson’s The Message:

Grace and peace to you many times over as you deepen in your experience with God and Jesus, our Master. Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you – your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.

So don’t lose a minute in building on what you have been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.

So friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, his choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now. Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved, and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I think Peterson’s version drives Peter’s message home in a clear, concise manner. Whichever version you prefer, the point is the same. God, in his infinite grace and wisdom, has already provided everything we now need or ever will need in order to live a godly life. Through the successful mission of Christ, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension, we are not only justified in the sight of a Holy God, we are also empowered to live as new creations, capable of far more than we can ever imagine. We can, indeed, walk in Christ’s victory and operate in this world as more than conquerors; we can truly become everything that God intended for us to be and carry out our mission of being Christ’s agents here on earth; agents in carrying forward the Father’s kingdom agenda.

In the words we often use here at LifeBrook: God has provided for us all that we need in order to become the optimal versions of ourselves for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

You Are Never Disqualified

The second point we must consider before exploring the specific steps of manifesting Christ-character in daily life pertains to those otherwise sincere Christians who, for whatever reasons, feel their past sins and failures have disqualified them for service.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. This false belief is a blatant lie from the Father of Lies.

One of the greatest gifts of God to each of us is the placing of a divine plan for our lives deep within us. God has his generalized plan for humanity and a personal plan or mission for each of us. You, me, the butcher, baker, and even the candlestick maker have a divine purpose scripted on our hearts by the Creator and it is a plan just for us. More incredible is the fact that God has equipped us to carry that plan out and in so doing, help establish his kingdom right here on earth and bring great glory to his being. What a wonder! What a blessing! What a responsibility!

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you have been, and what you have done. That divine purpose still exists inside you and with a little effort and a lot of faith, you can discover it. Start with prayer, asking God through the Holy Spirit to reveal his divine plan for your life. Be persistent in your asking; be vigilant in waiting for an answer; and be confident that the answer will come.

Also, keep in mind that it is never too late to get started on the dreams God has for you. God created you to accomplish extraordinary things and no matter how old you are, how sinful you have been, or whatever afflictions you may suffer from, God can and will use you because that is one of the primary purposes you were created in the first place. Listen as Jim Graff speaks clearly to this issue:

God uses ordinary people – with all their flaws and problems – to accomplish extraordinary dreams. You and I don’t have to wait until we have it all together, achieve a certain degree of fame, earn a specified amount of money, get a better job, or meet the right person. Instead, we can start today to embrace who we are and how God made us, knowing that he will use us. From this knowledge, wellsprings of confidence water our hearts. That confidence allows us to see our dreams and visions as God’s road maps to significant lives.

A significant life – that is what God created you for. Make a consecrated commitment right now to lead a life of excellence in cooperation and divine partnership with the Holy Spirit. The life of excellence is what Jesus demonstrated for us and it is that same kind of life to which each of us is called. Sure, we may foul up things from time to time, but God is right there with us offering a hand to pick us up, dust us off, and send us on our divinely appointed way.

As said earlier, it matters not where you have been. In fact, your past failures and problems may be part of your qualification for the task God has for you to perform. I worked for many years in the field of addiction prevention and treatment. The most effective professionals ministering to those suffering from addiction were those people who were former addicts themselves. It is this foundational philosophy upon which Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are built.

If you think your past sin(s) prevents you from carrying out your purpose for God, you have been lied to by the Master of Deceit himself. Satan would like nothing more than for you to continue walking around half-alive, depressed, despondent, and spiritually paralyzed. That’s why that little voice tells you time and time again that there is no way God will ever use you. Granted, he may use others but you, you’re a lost cause.

Whenever I hear people speak of this voice in their head that says God can’t or won’t use them because of past mistakes, I always tell them to stop listening to the voice and spend some quality time studying sacred scripture. I love these words, written by John and Paula Sandford:

God’s children, in whom He has done mighty things, have come from checkered careers. Moses was a murderer. Look at what Jacob did with Esau and Laban. Abraham tricked King Abimelech. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed. Peter denied Jesus three times. James and John fought to be the highest. Paul went to Damascus breathing murder and threats. Our checkered careers, our utter sinfulness and degradation, our falling into all manner of vain seeking, become by the grace of God on the cross and in the resurrection the inevitable writing of wisdom on our hearts. Our hurts and sins have become our schooling and preparation. Would that we could learn purity the easy way. Praise God that His mercy is such that He turns the depth of our sin into the strength of ministry.

Listen my friend – God saved you and God will use you. The God Christians worship is not a God of wasted effort. God never does anything without a reason, a plan and a purpose. If you are saved, you are to be used. You are destined to be God’s instrument for something special. If you doubt what I am saying, go to Scripture and conduct a detailed study of Paul’s life.

Paul, formerly known as Saul, was there when Stephen was stoned to death. He even held the coats for the men who pelted the first Christian martyr. Saul was the most persistent and ardent persecutor of the early church. By the world’s way of reasoning, you would never expect that God would use Saul to spread the faith across the Mediterranean World. But that’s exactly what God did. God, thankfully, doesn’t necessarily think as the world thinks.

If God can use Paul, he can surely use you.

In China I knew a wonderful believer named Mr. Zhou (not his real name.) Now in his 60’s, Mr. Zhou was a successful businessman and used much of his income to support the efforts of the house churches in his Province and also to support young pastors in training. He also spent most of his free time training Chinese missionaries to live and work in Muslim countries. Mr. Zhou had many business interests in the Middle East and often used his stores for employing young Chinese missionaries.

What makes Mr. Zhou’s story so fascinating is how it is similar to that of Paul. Back in the chaotic years of the Cultural Revolution Mr. Zhou was a young man and a leader in the Red Guards. His specialty, as he put it, was ferreting out Christians and torturing them. He often beat them horribly, put dunce caps on their heads and signs on their backs, and then marched them through the city streets while a gathering mob hurled insults, bricks, and bottles at them.

Later, when in his late 30’s, Mr. Zhou found Christ through the efforts of a pastor he had once tortured. Now Mr. Zhou does God’s work out of a sense of love and service. God used Paul and God used Mr. Zhou.

If God can use Mr. Zhou, He can use you.

Once you finally accept the fact that God can use you, wants to use you, and will use you, it is then time to get to work. Many times sincere believers put themselves in a holding pattern, waiting for specific directions from God as to what their ultimate purpose is. Yes, we do need to discern what our ultimate purpose is and with prayer and patience we will do just that. Yet in the meantime there is plenty that we can do. No matter where you live I am certain of one thing: there are people living there who are in need of something and who are suffering. More than likely there are already groups of Christian servants working to meet some of those needs. Find out about these groups and find a way to get involved. The real question is not so much what you should do. The real question once you know in your heart that God wants to use you as his compassionate servant to a hurting world is, “Are you available?”

Only you can answer that question.

Hopefully, you are, indeed, available. You are gifted for service my friend. And no matter what form that service may take, you can rest assured of one absolute certainty: the Holy Spirit will empower you not only proceed, but succeed. He will make sure you not only survive, you will thrive.

My primary purpose in writing this article is to encourage you to understand and accept the reality that God put a potential and purpose in you before you were born and, further, he still wants that purpose to be realized. Stop looking back at the past and instead, step forward into the service that God has for you. You cannot change the past but know this: whatever happened is history in God’s eyes and in God’s heart. As a Christian you have been forgiven so turn your eyes forward instead of keeping them riveted in your rear view mirror.

Do all that you can to let this truth sink deep into the depths of your heart: where you are going, what is in your future is far more important that what’s behind you. Scripture tells us that with God, all things are possible. So if it seems your dreams have died, let the Lord resurrect those dormant dreams and allow those dreams to drive you and motivate you to be all that you can be for the glory of God and the sake of others.

By now you should have internalized several key principles regarding your status as a child of the Father of Lights. First, God has already provided you with everything you need to live a life of godliness and holiness. You have been given these divine gifts in the spiritual realm and, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, your job is to bring these sublime, Christ-like traits into manifestation in your daily life. Second, you should also be clear about the fact that nothing you have done disqualifies you for these gifts, nor does it disqualify you from the responsibility to use your gifts in service to the Master.

The process of bringing these divine qualities to manifestation in the physical realm begins with a complete commitment to excellence. It means saying no to a life of mindless mediocrity and yes to fulfilling your destiny and calling as a child of the Living God.

(c) L.D. Turner 2014/All Rights Reserved

Reflections on Living the Faith: Obedience

Mick Turner

I won’t waste time by detailing the ins and outs of the spiritual struggles that are unique to my life. Suffice to say that they have been long-standing and they have created a situation where much valuable time and talent has been wasted and for no real good reason.

Once making a decision to really live the faith, not just the faith that I agree with or the faith that I find convenient, but to make a consecrated decision to follow Jesus through a life of obedience – one has to count the costs. I have done that many times over. Further, although those who have not walked in my shoes could not understand what I mean, the fact is the Master has communicated to me the reality of his existence many times over. He has not done this in the “blinding light/burning bush” sort of way, but instead, he has done so through countless serendipitous events, what common vernacular these days would call “synchronicity.”

There have been so many of these synchronous events that any kind of internal debate about the validity of these experiences at this point would be a fruitless waste of time. Rather than falling into that pit of delusions and dead ends again, I choose instead to believe and further, to believe in order to understand. Jesus is where it begins and, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, he is also where it ends. I lean on Hull’s words here:

Mohammad and Buddha were normal men who reached extraordinary heights as humans and whom others came to admire. Jesus was different; he was, as G.K. Chesterton reportedly called him, “the everlasting man.” In Christ, God became his own prophet and burst onto the scene, speaking with authority and performing miracles. He was so extraordinary that it took 451 years and ecumenical synods for the church to explain who he was. No one really grasps it even now. “God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ.” (Colossians 1:19) The only rational response is to bow before him and, like Thomas, declare, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

Hull, in his remarkable book entitled Christlike: The Pursuit of Uncomplicated Obedience, writes in a concise and straightforward way about what it means to follow Jesus, to truly follow the Master. He begins by citing a familiar scripture, Philippians 2: 5-8:

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Hull is tracking the deep obedience that Christ’s life exemplified and it is exactly this same sort of deep obedience to which we are also called. According to Hull, this powerful passage of scripture reveals four key elements of Christian response that is in conformity with Christ:

Humility

Submission

Obedience

Sacrifice

Humility

Humility comes to a person who grasps that all gifts, talents, opportunities, and accomplishments are from the hand of God. It is rare to hear a person take credit for all his or her accomplishments; even the most secular award recipients give God and others some credit.

Humility is the starting line for putting on Christ; its absence makes conforming to Christ impossible. God stands in opposition to any person who doesn’t have it. Humility attracts God’s grace, and just as surely, pride runs it off. I would define humility as the acknowledgement of who and what you are dependent on. Humility’s power is that it frees a person to focus on others; it opens the door to begin to affect others as Christ did….When we lose our pride, lay aside our desire to control, decide to obey and live for others, humility becomes our habit. It makes its way into our character through the regular practice of prayer, through the assimilation of God’s word, and in living for others.

Submission

Jesus modeled a submission that was fueled by love; therefore, it endured and had no limits. He submitted to his Father’s will, which was for him to give up the privileges of divinity. There was no limit to Jesus’ willingness to serve the Father he loved….let it be said that submission is the fruit of humility. The two together form the identity of Jesus. When his disciples follow his example and submit to the Father out of love, their lives have a transformative effect on those they come in contact with. When a person submits and serves from a basis of love, that person is free from self interest, and the joy comes through.

Obedience

Christian spirituality finds its only meaning in obedience. Any other destination for what we call our spiritual worldview would discredit it. The only road to a life of satisfying obedience is one paved with humility and submission. When the word “obedience” stands alone, it feels austere, possibly even legalistic. Jesus never thought of obedience as a sterile act of courage; it was his heart responding to his Father, another way of saying, “I love you.” For him, obedience to the Father was uncomplicated and heartfelt.

Sacrifice

Sacrifice is the natural result of humility, submission, and obedience. Jesus’ sacrifice was the greatewst and most outrageous in the history of humanity. Not only did he choose the indignity of taking on a body, even in this very hour he continues to inhabit such a limited container, he continues to bear the wounds of his execution.

In relation to sacrifice, Hull makes an interesting yet alarming observation. Personally, I find that his remarks, although some might consider them extreme, to be both cogent and eye opening. As Christians committed to a life of obedience, we would do well to pay close attention to what the author is telling us in regards to the future:

In America and Western Europe, one can still speak their religious mind without fear of jail. I believe this will change in the next decade; it will become illegal to speak of the falsehood of other religions under the guise of hate speech. Most Christians in the West should be more concerned with the serious de line in evangelical faith. It is wobbling seriously at this time and if things remain the same will soon fall on its face onto the hard ground of relativism. When evangelicals give up on hell and the exclusiveness of Christ, Christianity will no longer be a threat to the Enemy or a serious solution to evil. The sacrifice of today’s disciple will be taking a stand and being labeled for it, being hated for it, and losing friends over it.

As the future unfolds, the issue of obedience to Christ will most likely take on new parameters. Increasingly, many of us will be forced by circumstance into making a true and heartfelt decision regarding our character and our faith. A few years ago I would have not believed the prediction of Hull just quoted. However, I have watched the insidious progression of post-modern values and moral relativism and, at the same time, the steady decline of both the church and how it is viewed by our society. These two factors have brought me to a point where I feel Hull’s predictions are not all that far-fetched. In fact, they are already beginning to materialize.

Think about it.

© L.D. Turner 2014/All Rights Reserved

Wise Words for Today

Jesus is like air to the lungs and water to a desert dweller. He is not a religious artifact. He’s not dead. He is alive. He is engaged and engaging. He is here now, changing lives all over this world this very moment. When He walked on earth He changed everything for everyday, for all time. What started then continues today. It can’t be stopped though many have tried. Jesus is the rock of redemption and His church will prevail. He is here in this moment with you, doing what He always does, calling you to a higher place, calling you to break free from convention and stop going to church and start being the church everywhere you go. Let’s be “Jesus people” again. Let’s be men and women whose hearts are captured, redeemed, renewed, enlivened, ignited, set fee! Let’s return to the revolution to be the change we want to see in the world!

David Foster

(from Renegades for God)

Commitment to Christ: A Dangerous Propositioin (Revised and Expanded Version)

Mick Turner

As the Body of Christ we are now in a similar cultural milieu as existed at the time Jesus walked the earth. Granted, times are different, but the themes are much the same. Like it or not, the Church now lives in a post-Christian culture. America is Christian in name only, certainly not in practice. Over the past 50 years the dominant worldview and subsequent value system has undergone marked change. Post-modernism and situational ethics now hold sway. It is within this mix that the Church must now carry out the essentials of its mission. The question at hand is: How will we reintroduce Jesus to the world, given the realities of the culture we now live in?

Answering this overriding question is a complicated affair, certainly beyond the scope of this short article. Additionally, we, as the Body of Christ, need to reflect deeply on how we may best go about meeting this aspect of our calling. Much prayer is called for. One thing is certain, however. We must present a more realistic portrait of who this man Jesus was, and still is. When he enters a person’s life, things are not always meek and mild. In fact, taking on Christ often results in an inner revolution. The Revolutionaries fully understand this and also understand that Jesus calls for a radical change that fuses the personal with the social and the spiritual with the political.

 

As we take Jesus on board we must recognize we are giving accommodation to what can be a dangerous entity; one capable of challenging our conventions, our preferences, our habits, and ultimately, our character. Jesus does not come into a person’s life in order to affirm the status quo. Quite the opposite, this dangerous being takes up residence within your inner kingdom with the stated aim of fomenting revolution. Yet for most of us this inner revolt is sorely needed. It can, in fact, change us from wandering, confused, and empty vessels into vibrant, vital, world changers. David Foster gives us a glimpse of just what Jesus is up to:

Jesus is like air to the lungs and water to a desert dweller. He is not a religious artifact. He’s not dead. He is alive. He is engaged and engaging. He is here now, changing lives all over this world this very moment. When He walked on earth He changed everything for everyday, for all time. What started then continues today. It can’t be stopped though many have tried. Jesus is the rock of redemption and His church will prevail. He is here in this moment with you, doing what He always does, calling you to a higher place, calling you to break free from convention and stop going to church and start being the church everywhere you go. Let’s be “Jesus people” again. Let’s be men and women whose hearts are captured, redeemed, renewed, enlivened, ignited, set fee! Let’s return to the revolution to be the change we want to see in the world!

If you decide that you are fully ready to commit to this deep calling deep brand of Christian spirituality, recognize that you may very well experience responses that are less than positive. These negative reactions to your commitment to Christ may come from people important to you, like your friends, your family, and especially from other believers. It is for this reason that each of us must individually and prayerfully follow the advice of the Master who told us to simply “count the costs.”

I think one of the reasons that Christians as a whole are at best lukewarm in their commitment to following Christ stems from the church’s long-standing efforts to tame the Master. Instead of the subversive revolutionary that he was, Jesus has long been presented as a non-threatening cardboard figurine on burlap bulletin boards, either holding a lamb in his lap or rubbing children on the head. Rarely have we seen him for the rebel that he really was and as a result, the church has given a false impression of Jesus “meek and mild” and by proxy, turned God the Father into a distant and kindly Daddy who expects little from us other than a modicum of worship and a check in the collection plate.

David Platt, in his remarkable book Follow Me, describes how we in this country have slowly but slowly but inexorably transformed the Jesus of scripture into a being that, at least in some cases, barely recognizable:

Almost unknowingly, we all have a tendency to redefine Christianity according to our own tastes, preferences, church traditions, and cultural norms. Slowly, subtly, we take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into someone with whom we are a little more comfortable. We dilute what he says about the cost of following him, we disregard what he says about those who choose not to follow him, we practically ignore what he says about materialism, and we functionally miss what he says about mission. We pick and choose what we like and don’t like from Jesus’ teachings. In the end, we create a nice, non-offensive, politically correct, middle-class, American Jesus who looks just like us and thinks just like us.

These words may be hard to hear for many of us, yet they still ring true in you think about it. This has been especially true since the rise of the Religious Right on one end of the political spectrum, and Liberation Theology on the other. Whenever we wed the faith with a political movement or join at the hip with a political party, we usually wind up with a distorted Jesus that bears little resemblance to the real deal. On a more personal level, many of us tend to mold Jesus into a more palatable commodity, one that doesn’t create too much change or stress in our lives. In essence, we seek to serve a Jesus that affirms our status quo and many of us whittle away at his true character until he becomes what we need him to be.

Although many of us are guilty of doing this very sort of thing (I include myself in this statement), I believe that it must be said that this is heresy in one of its most insidious forms. Again, David Platt cuts straight to the point:

But Jesus is not customizable. He has not left himself open to interpretation, adaptation, innovation, or alteration. He has spoken clearly through his Word, and we have no right to personalize him. Instead, he revolutionizes us. He transforms our minds through his truth. As we follow Jesus, we believe Jesus, even when his Word confronts (and often contradicts) the deeply held assumptions, beliefs, and convictions of our lives, our families, our friends, our culture, and sometimes even our churches. And as we take Jesus at his Word, we proclaim Jesus to the world, for we realize that he is not merely a personal Lord and Savior who is worthy of our individual approval. Ultimately, Jesus is the cosmic Lord and Savior who is worthy of everyone’s eternal praise.

Annie Dillard, one of my very favorite writers, talks about how Christians ought to be a bit more reverent in the presence of God. In her provocative yet compelling style she says:

On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have any idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does not one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares: they should lash us to our pews.

Dillard’s point is clear and to a large extent, irrefutable. Far too many of us who claim to follow Christ either don’t really believe what we profess or we have never taken the time to truly consider what it is we signed on for. I personally think it is high time that we became more honest with ourselves. Here is a diagnostic indicator: If you faith has yet to make you very uncomfortable, you might want to spend some time in prayer and reflection trying to discover what is amiss.

When we fail to understand what the Christian faith is all about, we wind up with a church that misses the boat in terms of its vital functions of worship and teaching. Pastor Robin Meyers gives this biting but wholly accurate assessment of what we often find in sanctuaries today:

Worship consists of high-tech, high-volume, effusive praise and tearful thanksgiving for what God has done on behalf of each and every one of us – followed by preaching that circles the wagons of what is falsely assumed to be a besieged and righteous minority doing battle against the forces of secular humanism. The rhetoric is that of a western movie, the “last stand” between the chosen but misunderstood and legions of depraved liberal heathens whose worldly logic has led them to worship false gods (mostly in the temple of the flesh) and who are out to destroy the only true religion by removing it from the public square……For those who would never think to raise their hands in worship (because they sit on them), mainline and liberal churches offer something as tedious as many evangelical services are self-centered: a dull and droning list of politically correct announcements that go on interminably. No detail is too minor and no story too trivial to escape the sentimental displays of communal therapy. The hymns are often contorted by a preoccupation with inclusion at the expense of meter and particular power, and the sermon continues in the same vein – offering enlightened ways to cope with the aches and pains of daily life, instead of submitting to a vision so compelling as to redeem suffering and death itself.

No matter which side of the theological aisle you find your pew, you ought to be sweating bullets by now. In case you are among the especially insensitive, however, rest assured that Meyers is not quite finished:

In a world that is desperate for something real, many mega-churches today are like Disney World plus God, while too many mainline churches are serving up bits and pieces of the Great Books Club. One wonders which fiction is most cruel, that all your dreams come true if you pray the “Prayer of Jabez” or that discipleship is the same thing as enlightenment. Odd as it may sound, we need to recover something as old and dangerous as it is transformative: following Jesus.

For many Christians, whether Evangelical or Mainline, such a shrill indictment is hard to swallow. Surely there are exceptions, but what Meyers is describing here is not those few. Instead, he is taking direct aim at those of us who find way too much comfort in the status quo; those of us who start accumulating sweat on our upper lips at just the mention of thinking out of the box. Meyers, in very direct terms, is talking about the frozen chosen.

In juxtaposition to these lukewarm pew-fillers stand the renegades, rascals, and revolutionaries mentioned earlier. These sincere Christ-followers understand that if the church is not only to survive, but thrive, it must get back to its roots in obedience to Jesus. We need to imitate Christ, not “believe in” him. With the aid of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we need to push forward with every effort to become more like the one we profess to serve. Many of this new breed of Christ-followers understand this and apply this wisdom to their daily living. Robin Meyers speaks clearly about what we must rediscover if we, as a faith tradition, hope to survive:

If the church is to survive as a place where head and heart are equal partners in faith, then we will need to commit ourselves once again not to the worship of Christ, but to the imitation of Jesus. His invitation was not believe, but to follow. Since it was once dangerous to be a follower of The Way, the church can rightly assume that it will never be on the right track again until the risks associated with being a follower of Jesus outnumber the comforts of being a fan of Christ. Until we experience Jesus as a “radically disturbing presence,” instead of a cosmic comforter, we will not experience him as true disciples.

Meyers concludes by stating that churchgoers need to answer one basic question before all else:

What am I willing to give up to follow Jesus?

Sociologist and researcher George Barna speaks at length about the movement of committed Christ followers that he calls “Revolutionaries.” Barna speaks particularly well to the issue of sacrifice that is so often part of the life of the “Deep Calling Deep Christian.” If you are seriously considering this path of consecrated endeavor, then pay attention to Barna’s words:

Know this: just as the prophets of old were unwelcome in their own hometown, so are Revolutionaries looked at askance by even their closest friends and family members. The skepticism of those who lead conventional spiritual lives is a palpable reminder that growth always comes with a price tag.

Be forewarned: just as Jesus Christ, the ultimate lover of humanity, was scorned, misunderstood, persecuted, and eventually murdered for His extreme love, goodness, compassion, humility, wisdom, and grace, so are Revolutionaries abused by a culture in crisis. The mere presence of Revolutionaries makes the typical American citizen – yes, even the typical churchgoer – uncomfortable. It is not uncommon for Revolutionaries to meet with rejection – verbal, intellectual, relational, or experiential – simply because of their determination to honor the God they love…..Like their role model, Jesus Christ, they ignite fierce resistance merely by being present and holy. It is perhaps that holy presence that will get Revolutionaries in the deepest trouble they will face – and that will bring lasting healing to a culture that has rebelled for too long against its loving Creator. These Christian zealots are radically reshaping both American society and the Christian Church. Their legacy is likely to be a spiritual reformation of unprecedented proportions in the United States and perhaps the world.

These ideas that Barna discusses and more cogently, that are lived out in the daily lives of countless “Revolutionaries,” bring to mind the spiritual philosophy and practical tactics used by Doctor Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights Movement. Basing his own methods on those of Gandhi, Dr. King used radical non-violence to expose the injustice, brutality, and prejudice of the existing social order. The more the powers that be reacted to those involved in the movement, the deeper the darkness of their hearts appeared to all whom witnessed what was happening. Perhaps in a similar way, the commitment, sincerity, and Christian love exhibited by these Revolutionaries may well shed light on how far many in the status quo church are from the true example set by the Master.

Describing David, an example of this new breed of Revolutionary Christian, Barna writes:

His life reflects the very ideals and principles that characterized the life and purpose of Jesus Christ and that advance the Kingdom of God – despite the fact that David rarely attends church services. He is typical of a new breed of disciples of Jesus Christ. They are not willing to play religious games and aren’t interested in being a part of a religious community that is not intentionally and aggressively advancing God’s Kingdom. They are people who want more of God – much more – in their lives. And they are doing whatever it takes to get it.

Two questions are immediately relevant, my friend. Do you want more – much more – of God in your life? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get it?

Listen closely. In your inner sanctuary, your heart of hearts, can you hear him calling you? Will you go with him, even if it means breaking free of convention? Will you follow him, even if it means you stop going to church and start being the church? Are you ready to be counted among the Jesus people? Are you ready to join the revolution?

If so, welcome aboard!

© L.D. Turner 2014/All Rights Reserved

Wise Words for Today

Almost unknowingly, we all have a tendency to redefine Christianity according to our own tastes, preferences, church traditions, and cultural norms. Slowly, subtly, we take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into someone with whom we are a little more comfortable. We dilute what he says about the cost of following him, we disregard what he says about those who choose not to follow him, we practically ignore what he says about materialism, and we functionally miss what he says about mission. We pick and choose what we like and don’t like from Jesus’ teachings. In the end, we create a nice, non-offensive, politically correct, middle-class, American Jesus who looks just like us and thinks just like us.

But Jesus is not customizable. He has not left himself open to interpretation, adaptation, innovation, or alteration. He has spoken clearly through his Word, and we have no right to personalize him. Instead, he revolutionizes us. He transforms our minds through his truth. As we follow Jesus, we believe Jesus, even when his Word confronts (and often contradicts) the deeply held assumptions, beliefs, and convictions of our lives, our families, our friends, our culture, and sometimes even our churches. And as we take Jesus at his Word, we proclaim Jesus to the world, for we realize that he is not merely a personal Lord and Savior who is worthy of our individual approval. Ultimately, Jesus is the cosmic Lord and Savior who is worthy of everyone’s eternal praise.

David Platt

(from Follow Me)

Wise Words for Today

The lamp that is aglow in the obedient life will shine. The city set on the hill cannot be hid. Obedience to Christ from the heart and by the Spirit is such a radical reality that those who live in it automatically realize the unity that can never be achieved by direct efforts at union. It is not achieved by effort, but by who we are. . . . . . . . . .But actual obedience to Christ as Lord would transform ordinary life entirely and bring those disciples who are walking with Christ together wherever there lives touch. Christians who are together in the natural contexts of life would immediately identify with one another because of the radically different kind of life, the eternal kind of life, manifestly flowing in them. Their mere non-cooperation with the evil around them would draw them together as magnet and iron. Any other differences would have no significance within the unity of obedience to Chri8st who is present in his people.

Dallas Willard

(from The Great Omission)