Who is Jesus to you? This is life’s most fundamental question; one who’s answer should dictate your decisions and actions.
But I want to be crystal clear. Acknowledging Jesus does not equate to having faith in Him. When confronted by someone who asks you about Christianity and you respond that you “believe” in Jesus but that response is simply some knee jerk reaction to some long forgotten childhood upbringing and not a byproduct of having “a daily walk” with Him, you are just acknowledging Him. If you simply ask others to pray for this person you know or that situation you are aware of, but your life bears no fruit of actually believing that He can make a difference in YOUR life, then you are simply acknowledging Him. It’s the spiritual equivalent to the “nod of acknowledgement” done by high-school boys walking up and down the hallway. And this is a dangerous place to be. You need to prepare yourself.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
**See also Rev. 3:14-22
Many might respond by saying that this statement is based in fear, and God is love and love drives out fear; a sentiment derived from 1 John 4:18. And you would be correct, though misguided and I would say you’ve missed the larger point John was making. Even simply reading the rest of the verses around it (and the small book as a whole), you would see that this love is in the context of abiding in Christ- a faithful trusting, a leaning your entire being on and in Him day to day. At this point you should also continue reading the first few verses of 1 John 5 and come to grips with the correlation of those who love Him are those who follow His commandments.
The “fear” some are trying so hard to dismiss easily is the same sort of thing that we can think about in a marriage. Saying I love Carla doesn’t give me the opportunity to sin or live unfaithfully day-to-day. If I say I love my wife and cheat on her, sleep around with other women, go behind her back and flirt with everyone, and I don’t have any fear… I would be a fool. That’s an extreme example, but the same applies if I were to tone it down some. If I say I love my wife but when we meet someone new, I introduce her by saying, “Oh! Her? Oh she’s just my wife,” and I have no fear… Again, I’m a fool. A certain fear of only acknowledgement rather than being devoted to my wife helps remind me of what love looks like, what abiding looks like.
Acknowledging Jesus is not confession. It isn’t commitment. It isn’t submitting to His Lordship in your life. It certainly isn’t a faith that saves. Come ask me questions about how to turn the corner in your spiritual life and gain fervor for having an actual relationship with the One True God. Admit that you are a sinner. Believe that God sent Jesus to pay for your sins. Commit your life to Him. Whether you see this as the Easiest Hard Decision you’ll ever have to make or the Hardest Easy Decision you’ll ever have to make, make today be the day you answer life’s most fundamental question.
Many of you, by now, have heard my humbling story from my time doing some disaster relief in Nepal. It centers on how everyone does everything in flip flops. Walking up a mountain for 4 hours with 40-60 pounds strapped to your head and back, well then... You should be wearing flip flops. Clearing broken glass, building rubble, and debris? Clearly flip flops are your footwear of choice. It's not that there aren't shoes there; most choose the simplicity of a thin piece of rubber between two toes and under their feet to get things done.
I equate this to how we Christians, here in America, tend to tackle any problem. We tend to throw money at an issue and/or claim that we "need" this bit of equipment or that essential training before we can do something of value for the Kingdom of God. In all actuality, most of this is just encumbrance, things that get in the way of the Spirit doing something amazing in your midst. All we really need is a pair of spiritual flip flops.
The real trick is figuring out what those things are that the Holy Spirit has gifted us with. They are going to be different for everyone and certainly won't look the same from one person to the next. Over the past few weeks, I've been trying to think about what two "flip-flops" I wear. How has God uniquely knit me for His service? First, there is the desire to serve people at their point of need. Coming to the rescue, helping them in times of trouble, being side by side in ministry that may not necessarily be my own. Secondly, would be the desire to share the gospel/disciple through friendship. Meeting people and engaging them with the Word and how it can impact their lives.
If you had to strip away everything you think you "need" for ministry, what would you be left with? What, other than a relationship with the Almighty, Provider, Counselor, <insert descriptor here>, would you say is the core of who you are and how you operate in ministry if nothing else gets in the way? Is it time for you to lay some things aside in an effort to become unencumbered and allow the purity of the gospel to shine through in your ministry and your life?
Serving through love and laughter is a great way to live.