Thursday, June 10, 2010

Living for Jesus

What would "living for Jesus" look like in our comfortable, complacent, settled-in, suburban lives? I wish it was an easy definition with clean-cut answers. Life is messy, and so is our daily schedule of essential tasks and relational dances. But, an attempt to answer this question for ourselves is always beneficial to our spiritual growth. Before we dive in, know up-front that I'm on a daily journey right along with you to live for Jesus more than I live for the world. And, the world is quite enticing.

Living for Jesus. First of all, we need to strip away the unspoken current cultural response that living for Jesus means being really busy with church stuff. Building massive programs that impress the world. Maybe you've avoided this plague, to which I congratulate you. But, for many local church members, it is far too easy to replace living for Jesus with working to please people who say they believe in Jesus. Ouch. Yes, indeed. This is a reality none of us wants to face, but all of us need to reconcile with our true beliefs. Are we pleasing man in attempts to make God happy, or are we set on pleasing Jesus, whether anyone else sees our moves and motives?

Don't get me wrong. I love my church. I love fellow believers. And we, who believe, are to manifest our love for God through our worship of Him and service to others. But, busy-ness does not mean godliness. It surely doesn't save us, or save our seat in heaven. I wonder, do we ever stop long enough in our Christian service to evaluate if what we're doing actually shares the gospel? If it draws unbelievers to the truth? If our good-hearted service is anything other than a nice gesture done to make our own hearts feel warm and good? Do we ever stop to see if what we did included Jesus and His heart at all? Did we bring Him along for the ride, or was He the purpose of the trip?

True living for Jesus will be a life of perpetual motion -- following God's lead and transforming lives through a variety of avenues. But rarely will it fit neatly in the newest program idea or latest group project. God is above our need for tidy activities and volunteer recognition. He longs for us to be available to serve Him wherever -- especially outside the church walls. Even when our message is foolishness to those who are perishing. Even when we might not be liked or accepted for the message we share. Even, heaven forbid, when the gospel is the greatest gift we can give -- above any item, meal, offering, or good idea.

Living for Jesus means we live for Him first. Family second. The world last. In fact, we don't live for the world at all, unless speaking of our life in Christ that is dedicated to sharing Jesus with the lost in the world. To transform the world for His glory. This in no way implies the current trend of the church morphing into a mini-world. We've got to stop thinking if we look a little more like the world, then maybe they'll want to hear about our Jesus. Jesus isn't anything like the world, and to imply such is nothing more than false advertising. I believe that's why the message of Christ is so powerful -- nothing on this earth could ever compare, and everything on this earth pales to the hope we have in Jesus. So why downplay who He is in order to look like a world who will never be complete without Him?

The longer we play like the world, and add our Jesus talk on Sundays, the more our statistics of divorce, sin, and secrets will mirror the world. Why? The church collective won't want to offend any of our good church goers with the truth of sin, and the consequences of sin. It will become even easier to stay within the realm of happy thoughts and feel good messages. Even now, our dress, programs, and humanitarian efforts are many times indistinguishable from the secular trends and efforts. Our words, and the way we teach our children, often reflect afternoon talk show theology much more than the Scriptures we proclaim to hold so dear. We'd rather drink out of a coffee cup with a Bible verse on it that open the Bible for a life-giving Word of hope.

To live for Jesus means to live as an outcast of sorts; as one who will never fit in with the norms of the world. A life that stands out for being different, not because we're simply rebellious, but because of the constant tension of being in the world but not of the world. In but not of. Lifelong struggle, with daily choices that lead us closer to the world, or Jesus, depending on the door chosen. Which will we choose; today, tomorrow, and next year?

Such choices drive our commitment to living for Jesus. With a constant sway back and forth on the tether of spirituality, it is easy to see why we opt for the vague notion of "believing in Jesus" rather than "living for Jesus." Believing happens in the mind -- hidden from a bystander's view. Living is active, open, and obvious to onlookers. The proof is in our actions, not our membership card or our name on the church roster. Living is the real deal. Living is dirty, transparent, and full of the hard things of life. Living for Jesus always glorifies the Father.

Living for Jesus includes taking time out of a busy schedule to pray or just chat with a friend who is hurting. We pray without ceasing, not just in our morning quiet time. We look for opportunities to share our faith. We speak the truth in love when the Holy Spirit prompts us. We ask God to order our steps and our days; and then we obediently follow His direction. We leave ourselves open for God's agenda over our own.

Our plans become the flexible ones -- whereas we far-too-easily make the opposite choice to let our service to God be optional while our personal goals remain unmoved. Most of all, we never assume we've got it all together -- repentance and self-evaluation of each day's choices is integral to a life set on holy living. Pride and self sufficiency has no place in a life lived for Jesus.

To live for Jesus means He is in control. He. Is. In. Control. Of our lives. Our money. Our family. Our service. Our priorities. Our mouth. Our heart. Our motives. Our dreams. Our everything. And, this life, for Jesus, will show that He is the constant. He is the unchangeable factor in our life. We're just along for the ride.

(c) 2010 Jennifer Devlin