Imagine that I told you that I was a professional football player. Intrigued by my statement, you begin to ask many questions to validate my claim. “Are the practices hard? Do you train and workout daily? Do you interact regularly with your teammates? Do you constantly study the game of football to deepen your knowledge of the game, therefore making you a more valuable player?” Surprisingly I answer back to you that I do not attend practice, I hate working out, I avoid my teammates at all cost, and I rarely study the game of football. Yet I continue to proudly tell you that I am a professional football player! You would have to say that I was delusional!
Lets use a different example. Lets say you drive to your local mechanics shop to have some work done on your car. You walk into the joint and asked to see a mechanic. A man comes out of the back office claiming that he is the mechanic. You begin to describe the problem with your car, but he immediately stops you. He says, “I know very little about car, I really have no passion to study the workings of an automobile, but I am here in this garage every day, so I’m a mechanic!” Again, you would have to consider that this man is either half crazy or delusional.
This simple logic applies to every area of life. Reason tells us that a person cannot just claim to be something without defining characteristics proving their profession to be true. Yet when it comes to the topic of Christianity, a great majority of people are very quick to claim the title of Christian when their lives look nothing like the truth. This even applies to people inside of the church walls.
As in the example of the football player, many people will profess to follow Christ, yet have no fruits or evidence in their lives. We tend to immediately think of lost people who have no real love for God, which is quite true. But it can be shocking and eye-opening to see that this same problem applies to people who would consider themselves regular church going people. Just because a person goes regularly to hang out in a garage does not make them a mechanic. In the same way, just because a person is faithful to attend church does not mean that they are truly a Christian. They may say they agree with the Bible and love the Lord, but if there is no evidence, their profession is false.
So what is our measuring stick for what a Christian looks like? Ultimately it is Christ Himself. But the example I like to point to is that of the apostles. Specifically in the book of Acts. Acts is the historic account of the first believers and the first church. In modern-day society, many professing believers try to schedule a daily “quiet time” with God. This time generally consists of a few minutes a day that we read a devotional or memorize some scripture. Then we close our Bibles, pat ourselves on the back for giving God a few moments of our day, and go about our daily routine which is centered around us.
But in the book of Acts, God was not just give a portion of the apostles lives, God was the center of every aspect of their lives! This kind of commitment and zeal for God is foreign to us today!! To say that a daily devotion is not sufficient is seen as asking way too much! But looking back to the original church, the point of everything they did was not for themselves, but for God.
Even their jobs were not seen first and foremost as a means to provide income. The point of a job was to provide for themselves so they could do ministry!
“Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tent makers just as he was.” Acts 18:3.
When the average church member thinks of the apostle Paul, his job as a tent maker is not the first thing that comes to mind. When we think of Paul, we think of a passionate man of God who’s life’s mission was to proclaim Christ! Paul’s career goal in the world of tent making was not to save enough money to buy a nice condo on the beach and retire in style! On the contrary, retirement was not on Paul’s radar! Paul’s job was simply a means to support His ministry!
Now is it wrong to retire from a job? Absolutely not! However, the way most people today think of retirement is not Biblical. When we lived in Central America a few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting a 70-year-old man named Charlie. He was a member of the church Lacy and I were attending. Charlie had told me of his success in the world of sales and marketing, which was his profession for most of his life. I asked Charlie if he and his wife were retiring in Panama. I will never forget what he told me. Charlie said, “We never had any plans of retiring. My job was always a means for us to do ministry.”
With his retirement savings and pension, Charlie and his wife could easily have cashed in on a house in Malibu. But that was never his goal. Charlie went on to tell me that in their later years, he and his wife used his retirement money to travel the globe on mission, planting churches and telling others about Jesus. Charlie said, “Why would anyone want to waste their lives living for themselves! That is not what we were created for! There is far greater joy and purpose in living our short lives for Christ!”
Charlie looks a lot like the apostle Paul. He had such a love for Jesus, that he gladly gave away many of the comforts we tend to justify! Is this radical? Absolutely. Would this be considered fanatical? No doubt. But it is the same passion we see in the book of Acts.
Even aside from the Bible, men throughout history such as A.W Tozer, George Muller, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, and countless others had their lives marked by an insatiable hunger and desire within them to know God! To seek Him daily! This was not a duty to them. It was a passion birthed out of God making them a new creation! Delving into God’s word daily was not an option to them, it was as necessary as daily food and water.
“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” Psalm 42:1.
Where are the men and women who like David, would say, “Like a dying, dehydrated animal thirsts for water, so my soul thirsts to know you God!” If this great passion is seen in the first believers as well as the faithful throughout history, why is it that so many modern-day professing Christians lack this zeal in their own lives.
As Pastor John Snyder said, “Is it because we know God so well that we are so casual about God today, or is it due to the fact that we hardly know Him at all?”
Because throughout history, overwhelming passion has been the trait that marked the lives of the most faithful of men. Christianity today has been redefined as reciting a nice little prayer and attending Sunday service regularly. So many church goers do not know the true God of the Bible because they rarely pick up their Bibles. There is no pursuit of God in their lives. Rather, they merely see themselves as justified in their faith as they rest on a decision they made once in their life. But again, what does the Bible say?
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:21-23.
The scary thing about this verse is that God is not speaking to an atheist. He is speaking to a person that would have professed themselves as a Christian based on things they did. In our day, it would be coming to church, saying a prayer, attending a Bible study. Many people even today will stand before the Lord claiming that they were good church people, or that they prayed a prayer of salvation. And God will respond to them, “I never knew you; depart from me.”
It is not about what you do that makes you a Christian. It is who you know. And if you truly desire to intimately know someone, you build your life around them. Think of your relationship with your spouse. If you hardly spent time with them, and only received most of your knowledge of them from others who knew them, it would be apparent you had no real relationship with your spouse! An intimate relationship consists of passion and a desire to know them more daily.
“But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the LORD, have spoken!” Jeremiah 9:24.
If we are to boast of anything, it should be that we truly know God. Our goal should be to read His word and not to insert ourselves into the scriptures to see what God says about us. Rather, we should seek to know what God says about Himself. And in light of his goodness, we begin to see our depravity and great need for a savior. That is the beauty of the Gospel! That we are not great, but He is great! What defines you? Is it your job? Your hobbies? Your marriage? Or is everything in your life viewed by you as a tool to glorify Jesus! Do you desire to Know HIM? I pray we would not just rest on a profession of faith, but rather that we would examine our profession of Christ in light of the examples given through scripture.
“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.” 2 Corinthians 13:5.