The late Bob Jones describes an experience of heaven he had in the 70s due to a fatal sickness, where for several minutes he was clinically dead. He recalls standing in a long line of people, waiting to enter paradise and Jesus asked every person one simple question, “Did you learn to love well?” What’s on the Fathers heart is often very different to what is on our hearts. How tragic would it be to spend life focusing time and energy on things other than what truly matters to God. Many of us think we know what it means to love well simply because we can explain it. Just because you understand something enough to explain it doesn’t mean you’ve experienced it. All of life’s dysfunctions find their root in a lack of experience of Gods love. Loving God, ourselves and others well is the true fruit of spiritual maturity. We will not grow into true spiritual maturity until we experience Gods love in us. Gods goal for your life is for you to love well more than achieve well. Explosive Insights!
Often we think of change as being only a positive process but in fact to enter the transformation spiral is to prepare yourself for a bloody battle with your sinful nature. Preaching is spiritual warfare, not just with cosmic powers but with our flesh. The flesh will oppose anything of the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God stands in direct opposition to your flesh. This conflict is not dualistic, meaning between equal adversaries. God is supreme over every cosmic power and our flesh but nevertheless, there will be blood on the floor of your heart, one way or the other. By God’s grace and your faith, it will be your flesh and the enemy, needing trauma treatment, not your spirit and God’s purpose for you.
I recently did a video interview with Dr Allan Meyer (CEO Careforce Life Keys) and I asked him a question about some of the critical issues facing the western church at the present time. In his excellent response, he reflected on the current focus of many Christians and much preaching being the goal of an individuals personal happiness, rather than following Jesus Christ.
As I have reflected on this many times in my own preaching ministry, I think about Jesus’ words in John 10:10 “The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy but I have come that you may have life and have it in all of its’ fulness.” Unfortunately, some of us have wrongly mis-interpreted this verse through our western context and concluded that God’s goal for us is our happiness, which surely must mean, health, wealth and prosperity… Ah, NOT!
As I read the Scriptures, I don’t find the emphasis of my personal comfort being consistent with the biblical account of Jesus’ life or the Apostle Paul’s life or any of the other apostle’s life, for that matter, as is recorded in the New Testament. Money, success and well-being are all gifts from God and should be stewarded accordingly but God’s goal for me isn’t the obtaining of these things, alone. Me becoming more and more like him is his goal and this can be accomplished through a variety of circumstances and dare I say it, is often accomplished rather well through suffering.
The joy of the Lord is my strength but God’s joy is available whatever I am facing or going through, not just when things are going my way. As preachers, our goal should be to be faithful to the text and expose what the text is simply declaring in the most compelling way possible, not to proselytize people to a mirage of false hope. As pastors, our goal should be to lead people into Christ-likeness and a biblically based worldview that equips them to grow in spiritual maturity and gospel grace, not to encourage growth in spiritual immaturity.
Churches that promise happiness and bliss to their congregation alone, if they follow Jesus and perform for him are setting people up for massive disillusionment. Following Jesus in the real world does fill me with joy but sometimes I do face circumstances that are quite the opposite of happy. When a close family member of mine attempted suicide in 2001, I wasn’t happy. When I didn’t get the outcome I was hoping for as a budding athlete, I didn’t feel warm, happy fuzzies. When I get criticized and ostracized by others for my faith in Jesus and commitment to my calling, I don’t necessarily feel happy but my joy in Christ remains intact.
What’s your goal in life? If happiness is your goal, then you will live a misdirected and self-pre-occupied life but if God’s goal of Christ-likeness and knowing him is your goal then you will live life on purpose. Refuse to settle for anything less.
Grace! (Video Interview will be uploaded very soon)
Self-discipline is a bridge that can take you from where you are to where you want to be. One of the things that characterizes our capacity as humans is our willingness to discipline ourselves for what is most important to us. What we really want to do, we do, even if it involves sacrifice and copious amounts of discipline.
No one got anywhere without disciplining themselves to focus their time and energy on the goal before them. Without a goal or a vision set before you, you’ll lack the motivation to discipline yourself but when you have a compelling reason to get up early, eat well, study and go the extra mile, discipline will come much easier.
Musicians discipline themselves to practice hours everyday. Athletes get up at 5am and prepare their bodies for the rigors of competition. Politicians log hundreds of hours in the office preparing for their election campaign. Pastors work tirelessly preparing sermons and discipling budding leaders to help grow the church. Mums invest hundreds of hours each week raising kids and building into their future. Why do we do the things that we do? Its because we see the goal before us and we think its worth disciplining ourselves for.
How much more should we be willing to lead ourselves when it comes to the call of God on our lives? God has given you a call because there’s a need in the earth, he has created you to meet. Your call has eternal ramifications. Whether or not you fulfill your call depends on your willingness to discipline yourself for it. What are the things you keep putting off that God has called you to do? What is the one thing right now in your life that if you disciplined yourself to do it, would add the most value to you? Keep the goal clear and discipline yourself to work towards it.
1 Corinthians 9:27 “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”