Beyond the Negative

Sometimes in Christian circles we have unholy pride in what we don’t do. It is easy to feel a sense of confidence in restraining oneself from certain behavior. We have this faulty understanding that not participating in cultural sins somehow makes us more spiritual than everybody else. In actuality, true spirituality does not consist of just restraint, though that is involved. It goes beyond that by engaging in godly acts that reflect the character of Christ.

No “Worldly Things”?

I enjoyed this story told by Lewis Sperry Chaffer, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary. He once said: “I know a city of over a million where everyone in that city never watches a movie, drinks alcohol nor does any other ‘worldly thing’. Did you know there was a city of that size in America? I’m speaking of Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn New York. They are absolutely through doing evil. If Spirituality consists of what you don’t do then the corpses have it all.”

Chaffer ended by saying: true spirituality is the output and character of our lives it is not merely the absence of certain behavior.

Grace Driven Effort

Growing in our walk with the triune God isn’t easy, and it’s not something we do naturally. I remember a few weeks ago telling a friend that I wanted to get in shape. He told me that he could make me a schedule, and a diet to go along with the workout. As he explained what was involved I realized quickly that getting in shape is hard! It’s not something that my body will do naturally as I had secretly hoped… I actually have to make a conscious effort to get fit, and then follow through with it. DA Carson explain this truth as it relates to the Christian life:

Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the  Lord.

We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and  call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.

Many times our Christianity is defined by the “don’ts” and not the “do’s”. Being aware of what not to do is a safety warning for us. But we need a holistic understanding of the Christian life. And this involves actively engaging in grace-driven effort in loving and serving our neighbor and our God. This cannot happen passively. This walk is difficult and takes time. But as we have been saved by grace, we will grow into His image by His grace.

Redeemed Sinners in the Hands of a Mighty God

When we think about the heroes of the faith we often have a misconstrued view of them. It is common to believe that those individuals were a touch above everyone else, and that in order to be used by God we need those special skills too. It is true that those believers were gifted, but their impact on God’s Kingdom was not because of their ability, rather it was a result of the God who wielded them. When we grasp what God is seeking and how He works with His creation we too can significantly impact this world for Him.

God Used Moses

In Exodus 3, God says to Moses that He has seen the afflictions of His people, and He will deliver them. God tells Moses His plan for the nation of Israel, and then commands him to go to them saying, “I AM has sent me to you.” God then shows to Moses several signs he can display to confirm God’s message to the Israelites. After seeing God’s miraculous power, Moses says to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” God’s response to Moses is classic. He says, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? The Lord responds essentially by saying that He is God. Moses you’re worried about speaking, but you forget that I made your mouth. We often forget in the midst of our challenges that we serve the Almighty God, and He has made everything. Even though we are immensely inadequate God can work through us if we will just realize that He is God.

God Used Asa

One of my favorite verses is “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) This verse is written in the context of judgment, but it brings hope to those who want to serve God. The history of the nation of Israel with regard to its Kings is not complicated: they have many bad kings and the occasional good one. A great king was Asa, and he did what was good and right in the sight of the Lord (2 Chronicles 14:2). When Asa became king, the first thing he did was remove the pagan altars and the high places, shatter the sacred idol pillars and chop down the Asherah poles (2 Chronicles 14:3). He removed before God everything that was a sin. (Interestingly, if we want to be used by God we also have to destroy the idols in our lives.) In battle before the Ethiopians, he sought the Lord, and his army was able to triumph over a million men.

However, as Asa got older he began to depend on his wealth and did not seek God (2 Chronicles 16:3). The Lord had orchestrated events in such a way that Israel could have wiped out their enemy. But instead of trusting in God, Asa depended on another army. That’s when the prophet tells him: God is always looking to support someone whose heart belongs to Him. God pretty much tells Asa, you think you’re special but your success is only because of Me. The principle being: God determines who will rise and fall and He is always seeking to support a heart that is fully committed to Him.

God Used Carrey

William Carrey the ‘Father of Missions’ started out repairing shoes for people. He told men and women that he wanted to go to India to do missions, and many scoffed at him. One man said to him, “Sit down, young man! When God pleases to convert the heathen, He’ll do it without your help or mine.” Carrey had only a primary school education, but he had a heart that wanted to serve God, and a desire to share the Gospel to unreached people groups. Carrey said, “we have only to keep the end in view, and have our hearts thoroughly engaged in the pursuit of it, means will not be very difficult.” The Lord enabled that man who loved Him to learn 34 different languages, and the people of India have the Bible because of him.

God Used Moody

In order to be used by God we don’t need a particular set of gifts; we just have to be willing and committed to Him. In fact, it is God who does the gifting and qualifies the called. Henry Varley spoke at a prayer meeting and said the famous words, “the world has yet to see what God can do with a person wholly committed to Him.” A person in the back said to himself, “By the grace of God I will be that man.” The person who made that decision was D.L Moody the Billy Graham of the 19th Century. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Moody was able to lead thousands of people to know Christ. He had a 4th grade education, but his heart was fully committed to God.

God Can Use You

Our impact on the Kingdom of God does not depend on our ability; rather it is contingent on our relationship with the Savior. When we have a heart that belongs to God there is no limit to what He can do with our lives. God used Moses the weak communicator, Carrey the Shoemaker, and uneducated Moody. God can use you and me if we would just give our hearts to Him, and place His will above our own. “The eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”