There’s a very simple message at the heart of the Christian message: by faith in Christ, be transformed by the love of God into a new creation. Then, by the renewing love of the Holy Spirit, we love God and love others (see, for instance, 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). We are told that being saved by Jesus is like a dead man coming back to life, like a woman giving birth to a child, like a slave being released into freedom, and like orphans becoming beloved children. The transformation is comprehensive, entire, total.
So what is to characterize our new life in Christ? Its quite simple; as Augustine of Hippo famously said, “Once and for all, I give you this one short command: love, and do what you will.” When the love of God has remade us, and is the governing principle of our lives, the inevitable outcome will be that we love God and love others. It is the loving presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives Who gives us the capacity to fulfill the Great Commandment (e.g., Matthew 22:37-40, Acts 1:8, Romans 14:17, Galatians 3:3, Ephesians 5:1).
Given the majestic and awe-inspiring work of God in saving us and restoring us to His purposes, it is incredibly strange to notice the shallow and disjointed approach to discipleship in the American church. Love cannot be a sentimental feeling, but an increasingly wise and whole-hearted approach to serving those around us (Philippians 1:9-11). Reflect for a moment. Do you have a clear, practical, Biblical understanding for…
- how to serve God and others in your daily work?
- how to steward your finances?
- how to share your faith with respect and gentleness?
- how to encourage your friends in the way of the gospel?
- (if married) how to love your wife (or husband) and children?
- how to worship and enjoy fellowship with God on a daily basis?
- how to study the Scriptures and wisely apply them to your life circumstances?
- how to serve within your church?
- how to rest in the presence of God?
- how to build bridges in the kingdom of God with brothers and sisters of other races, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds?
- how to turn away from sin and idolatry?
- how to grow in the fruits of the Spirit, imitating the example of Jesus?
Perhaps you’re reading this post as a new Christian; be assured, in God’s grace, He will develop you to maturity over time. Perhaps you’re wondering how well the author of this post could handle this checklist. All I can say is that I am an unworthy servant and a beloved son. Given the lavish gift of salvation, the motivating principles are not guilt, shame, fear, or competition. Rather, it is an eager, happy desire to please our loving Heavenly Father.
In Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal writes,
This is the difference between “education” and “training.” Medical school is education, first aid is training. Education requires fundamental understanding, which can be used to grasp and respond to a nearly infinite variety of threats; training involves singular actions, which are useful only against anticipated challenges. Education is resilient, training is robust (153).
Without a fundamental understanding of our faith, we will be overmatched and defeated on a daily basis. If our churches are giving us bandaids instead of basic training, we will be able to patch up a few minor wounds, but we’ll never advance the kingdom of God:
- If you’re a mother or a father, what kind of environment is your home? Is it daily immersion in the good news of Jesus and a thorough training of how to imitate Christ in all kinds of circumstances?
- Is your daily commute a time of catching up on celebrity gossip and pop hits or a mobile training center for the Christian worldview and living?
- Are your roommates memorizing video game scenarios or the Word of God?
- As a pastor, are you selling your church members out by failing to tell them what discipleship requires?
- Whatever your responsibilities and life circumstances, are you wholeheartedly embracing the demands – and the joys – of life in the kingdom of God?
Life is not a game. Christianity is not reducible to ten tips and tricks for a better you. Every day we are encountering people with an eternal destiny. Each person is made in the image of God. They are offered the gift of forgiveness and freedom through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. Our own lives are being disfigured by sin or being renewed into something beautiful as we pursue righteousness.
As the Apostle Paul exhorted us in Philippians 3 (ESV):
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
May God bless you and be with you as you rededicate yourself to knowing and serving Him.