By Bob Mize
My wife and I went to a crowded coffee shop, purchased our drinks, but found no place to sit. A man was sitting alone at the end of a long table. Spread out in front of him was an open Bible, a notebook, a Bible commentary, and a computer with ear buds.
We interrupted his listening to ask if we might sit at the empty end of the table. He replied, “Certainly, but only if you say hello first.”
He rose, smiled, and thrust out his hand. “I’m Aaron.” We introduced ourselves, and then sat down. We watched as others came and asked Aaron for a seat. His reply to them was the same.
I was curious enough to ask, “Are you a seminary student?” “No,” he said, “I’m just a sold-out Christian.” He went on to describe how sitting at the big table and having people ask for a chair, which he allowed only after they said hello, had led to great conversations. We learned he is older than he looked, the father of six, and very involved in his local congregation.
As we left, my wife and I asked each other about the “sold-out Christian” tag. How would you have reacted? Would you be embarrassed to try what Aaron did? Or do you relate to his Christian devotion and cleverness in sharing his faith?
The encounter prompted me to wonder if there is a solid connection between cultivating our spiritual hearts and our service in the name of Jesus. I believe there is.
A Heart That Seeks
Our personal worship time is the avenue to sustenance, survival, and service. My daily communion time is my spiritual energy drink, but without the “crash” five hours later. Through our personal worship we remember that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). The heart that genuinely understands grace can’t say “Thank you” enough. When we daily soak up God’s gift, we are filled to overflowing. As a farmer cultivates his crop—removing weeds and applying nutrients and water—so my heart is cultivated daily by God’s Holy Spirit.
Jesus made a profound declaration: “Seek and you will find.” Years ago I began taking this promise seriously. I have not been disappointed. All through Scripture God rewarded those who sought him. It is no different now. When I do workshops about the devotional life, I ask how many have a personal time each day to seek the Lord. My wife and I also ask couples about their “devotional in duet.” It is shocking how few individuals and couples spend time daily in prayer and in the devotional use of the Word.
Here are some questions to consider:
• Do you intentionally seek the Lord in personal worship?
• Does your daily devotional time need refreshing?
• If you are married, how is your “devotional in duet”? Do you and your spouse need to make or renew a vow to pray together and for each other? Do you ask the Lord to use you powerfully as a couple?
• Do you ask him to send you to those who need you?
• Do you pray for boldness and courage in sharing with others (see Philippians 1:14, Colossians 4:4)?
It isn’t easy to maintain a daily devotional time. But it must be treated as “top sacred.” After a workshop session in which I challenged attendees to be creative with their quiet time, a young, single, working mom shared with me that she had mastered the habit. The only time she could find was her noon hour at work when she locked herself in the bathroom stall. That’s determination!
Loving and Serving God
The Christian life is not meant to be lived in a monastic setting. Jesus wants us to be salt, light, and leaven in the world rather than withdrawing from it. Kingdom people are to be change agents. What does it mean to “love the Lord your God with all your heart”? What do we look like as “the second incarnation of Christ”? We know the passage about being saved by grace through faith rather than by our own works, but the next verse states, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV 1984). Jesus saved me so I can love and serve him through good works. I am not serving the Lord in order to be saved but because I am saved. There is no higher motivation for serving than genuine gratitude for his grace.
Above All Else
George Müller said, “The first and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord.” Is Jesus your priority? Do you follow in his steps? He was a radical revolutionary, and he calls us to be radical revolutionaries too.
The term radical is often applied to those who are counter-cultural. Revolutionary is the label often affixed to those who overturn governments or shape global political movements. The two terms are seldom used to describe spiritual matters.
Jesus was both a radical and a revolutionary with positive and enduring outcomes. His is a radical legacy. His revolution was through quieter gestures than waging wars and overthrowing governments. His imprint was left in more profound ways than sparking industrial and technological revolutions. His influence is more far-reaching than modern communication and space exploration. Jesus affects everything from calendars to congress. His is the “upside-down kingdom”—where the first shall be last and the last first, where the one who gains the world but loses his soul has lost everything.
Jesus was a radical among radicals. He calls for a spiritual revolution in my heart—for my ego to be sacrificed on his altar. First, I must answer, “Has Jesus become my Savior?” If so, he is now my Lord. I cannot wear his name passively. This is more than sporting a WWJD bracelet, holding up a John 3:16 sign in the end zone, or affixing a bumper sticker to my car. Christ the Lord makes a radical difference in who and what controls me (culture, peer pressure, addictions), whom I love and how (dating, marriage, family, enemies), my morals (business and sexual ethics), the use of my time (giving priority to worship and the spiritual disciplines), my self-view (peace of mind, forgiveness, joy in the Spirit) and my worldview (my transience, my assurance of salvation, living counter-culturally, sharing my faith). I am forever changed into a radical and a revolutionary. He is my Lord. I am no longer in control.
A Radical Choice
Recently I realized I was a little glum about Christ’s people, the body of Christ at large. Looking back over decades of ministry with congregations and parachurch organizations, I noted more decline than vibrant growth. I tallied how many kingdom leaders have fallen and left the ministry. I wondered if Christ’s life, sacrifice, and death were irrelevant and inconsequential. Then the Lord brought me back to spiritual reality, convicting me of fruitless thinking. I was led to pray that old prayer, “Lord, please send revival, and let it begin in me.”
It is pointless to evaluate movements while excusing myself. Discouragement is not a pillar in the kingdom. I can decide to be an unashamed, radical revolutionary for Jesus. I can have the mind of Christ and follow in his steps. Perhaps I cannot mobilize an entire movement, but I can mobilize myself and become radical like my Lord. As I change myself, hopefully others will change in response to my renewed identity.
I’m still thinking about Aaron in the coffee shop. His time in the Word was combined with courageous social skills. Out of a full heart he shared his exuberance for Christ. Like him, I want to be a sold-out Christian. How about you?
Bob Mize is a freelance writer in Lubbock, Texas.
Getting Past Roadblocks
Look over the bulleted list of questions in the article. Likely there are several that hit you in the gut. Rather than letting guilt or apathy take over from there, move forward in Christ.
1. Focus on just one or two of the questions. Avoid the feeling that you need to tackle everything at once.
2. List every reason or excuse for why you’re struggling to live in a more Christlike way in those areas. Don’t list only the more noble reasons; write them all.
3. Now shoot down every excuse or reason on the list, one at a time. Pray that Christ’s power will triumph over each one, and then begin planning how you can overcome each challenge.