The End of All Our Exploring
Summary: These are the weekly messages of Wellspring Counseling, a Christian agency whose mission is to help those find the extradordinary in their lives. You can recieve more information about our non-profit organization at wellspring-counseling.org.
There are many examples of those who were legalistic in the Bible. Let me give you a scene from the Old Testament that exemplifies someone entering into joy and someone who is being held back. This exchange is a perfect example of a friend and “just” a disciple of God—David and Michal.
Let’s look at the reverse though. From what we’ve learned about joy, someone who is joyless would be: Someone who sees the glass as half-full. Someone who has little passion (inward and outward) in their lives. Someone who holds a lot back and is half-hearted (we’ll get to this one a little later). Someone who can not be themselves. Someone who doesn’t know how to have fun. Someone who has not experienced freedom. And then finally, someone who puts all of that stuff above on other people. For now were going to call the opposite of joy a term you may have heard of – for now, we’ll call it legalism.
The first place where this is most evident is that disciples do not experience joy in a consistent manner. This aspect is the hallmark or underpinning in what it means to be “just” a disciple—there is a lack of joy. Let me say it another way, disciples lack joy in a meaningful way that is coherent, consistent and reliable. After this, all the other traits splinter off and are born from this one aspect. I remember someone once saying that joy is the hallmark of the Christian. I think that says it precisely what it means to be the friend of Jesus. However, in a realistic way, disciples do not experience this stuff on a regular basis.
A.W. Tozer, one of the most gifted Christian writers, entitled his most famous work Following Hard After God. It’s a great title. It says it all. It is one of my favorite books and I can remember reading it some years ago. It said it like it is, but in a gentle and beneficial way. It broke me down and yet it lifted me up. The best writing is remarkable; it not only speaks eloquently, but in an obvious way cuts to the heart with its nouns, verbs and prepositional phrases. However, in thinking about that title today in relation to this chapter, strangely enough, one can also follow too hard after God. A person can miss the point in why they follow Him at all.
A short fictional piece to preface our discussion of what is "just" a disciple?
I had my own experience in which I had lived a believer too long. I was a junior in college and I was definitely living two lives. On the one hand, I had started a Bible study with a very good friend of mine. The school where I went was non-Christian to say the very least. For example, we had to jump through so many hoops to just start that Bible study, and yet the Gay and Lesbian Club were financed to the hilt by the school. But even with this, I was trying to lead. I was taking risks. I was on the cutting edge of living Christian ministry (or so I believed). Jim Eliot, Tony Campolo, Billy Graham--those fiery, passionate followers of Jesus were my heroes. I had such great motives. The problem was—it was just so difficult to get my actions to follow. You see, I was also another person. When one has an impersonal relationship with God, they inevitably do not know themselves or their calling either. Again, they will go where the wind blows. Even with all of my confidence on the out-side, internally I was a mess. I played a good game; I knew how to impress; I knew how to wear the mask. But I was also the person who had dark secrets in hiding. At its core, God was not my security; relationships with women were. God was not my god; sexual relationships were. During that time, I was in so many different relationships with women and most of them were with those who wanted nothing to do with God. Just like me, they were out for a good time. As I’ve said, a lot of those relationships were sexual and that furthered my plight. At this point in my life, there was one woman I had had my eye on for a long time. To this day, I remember her name; it was Julia.
Another tale-tale sign that a person is a believer is when one looks at their friendships. Many moons ago, I heard Tony Campolo say that if you didn't have intimate and accountable relationships in your life that were focused on Jesus, you would never make it as a Christian. He challenged, that you might be sitting in a church pew on a Sunday, but you wouldn't be a follower of Jesus. At the time, I thought that that challenge was a bit over-the-top and harsh. Now, however, I see the truth in those words. God made us for others, and others are made for us. It's a reciprocal relationship. This is the body of Christ.
C.S. Lewis illustrates this “loss of self” beautifully in one of his early books. Many of us know it because it comes from his classics The Chronicles of Narnia. In the third book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, there is the story of a boy named Eustace. Early on we meet Eustace, but there is something different about him compared to the other children—he’s selfish, often complaining and an overall bothersome to the others. There’s something missing for him.
Another aspect tied to this idea that believers live in two kingdoms is the truth that believers typically are self-centered, rather than God-centered in the way they live their life. This was my struggle in my early years of faith: I wanted it my way. I thought that after giving my life to God, I could just continue living the way I had before and not much would change.
Many passages in the Bible talk about a person who does not have any convictions and therefore, is tossed about by the wind going wherever it takes them. One states soundly “that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error…” (Ephesians 4:14) Because believers don't know who they are and because they are attempting to straddle two worlds, they are not decisive in how they live their lives. This was my problem in my college years. Because I had not made a full commitment to God, overall, I was not committed to anything. I went wherever the wind took me.
This message was given at Resurrection Life Church in March, 2005. It was devoted to discussing the dangers of pornography, in particular for young men and boys. Toward the end of the discussion, we briefly discuss the ramifications of the ADD/ADHD diagnosis.
This takes us to our next point about who believers are. There’s some good news and some bad news. The good news is that believers like to live in the kingdom of God; the bad news is that they also like to hang out in another area of town as well. This is another characteristic of a believer and it ties to the last one—believers live in two worlds—in the world and in a Kingdom. Sometimes, they aren’t exactly who they want to be—and things aren’t what they seem.
Judas liked to hide. Remember, in Luke, it tells us that he liked to take money and conceal that from the disciples and Jesus. You can picture him taking a few extra coins out of a pouch and secretly placing them in his left pocket. Later on, he would go off without anyone knowing and go spend his little stolen fortune. Perhaps he would go off with a prostitute and take bliss in the secrets of the night or go off and dine alone with some food that was more to his taste as the disciples ate the same thing day after day—some unleavened bread and fish. Believers typically like to hide as well...
In the Old Testament it says that David was one of God’s favorites. Even though he committed adultery, had someone killed and did a pretty awful job at raising his children, God had a special place for David in his heart. Do you know why that was? It was because David saw the Lord in every aspect of his life, whether it was living with sheep in the fields or hanging out with the aristocracy in the palace. Likewise, he gave his all to his King. In this dedication to his God, he lived his life as if He was at his side at all times. Becasue of this, God was really real to David.
So what exactly are the characteristics of a believer? We will go over some tale-tale signs of the believer. The day that a person comes to believe in Jesus is a beautiful yet dangerous moment. It’s wonderful because it starts life off in a way in which we begin again. The words to portray this experience can range from cleansing to newness to freedom. It’s a unique experience unlike anything that we will ever undergo. Think about it for minute. At one point, you are entirely alienated from the Creator of the universe to now being his child. That is one remarkable transformation!