I woke up this morning and had this huge thought I had to rush and write down. The main point of the thought was this: God, in His common grace, gives all of us what we need to get through this life. We can be decent mothers and wives, help people out once in a while, receive a measure of health. We can do all of these things without saying a single prayer. He is merciful to give us this common grace. But if you want to see victory over sin in your life, if you want that hope, patience and self control that is promised to Christians; that you can only get by submitting yourself to God every day and asking for this uncommon grace.
God wants Christians who will be soldiers for the kingdom; non-lukewarm, on fire, willing to do what it takes soldiers. This will take a willingness, as Paul said, to not to be entangled in civilian life, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:4) . To not go complaining to your commanding officer when bullets start flying, shocked that this is happening (something I gleaned from a recent Francis Chan message). Jesus specifically warned us this WOULD happen, many times. To be useful as the first century Christians and others were, we must be fully committed to the belief that we can literally do nothing without God’s help and pray accordingly. We must believe that God hears us and will answer (James 1:6). We must stay sober, knowing the devil is just waiting for a chance to pounce (1 Peter 5:8).
We need to stop praying the same prayers as unbelievers for health and wealth (only) and start each day asking God for our assignments and ending each day reporting the day while thanking and praising Him for allowing us to be used by Him. To love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength we need to be fully commited to getting to know Him, to reading scripture and praying. And to love others as ourselves we need to recognize our constant need for Him and remember how we are sinners who need mercy and grace as much as the unbelieving world. We also need to ask God that we would love our friends, families, and neighbors enough to tell them the entire truth of the gospel. It’s not love to know that God is coming to destroy all ungodliness and then not warn the people He has put around us (trust me, this convicts me greatly as I am not doing this well).
Our lives must look different to the outside world. It’s not enough to stay as we are but add the title “Christian” to our names. That will lead to nothing but a weak, powerless, depressing Christianity that saves no one. To believe in Christ is to believe in the King of all kings and faithfully proclaim his message of judgment and redemption to a dying world. The messenger of a king doesn’t change his message to make it more palpable to the crowd; he respectfully recognizes the authority of the king and humbly acknowledges that the king’s message is better than anything he would personally write. He also fears the king more than he fears the jeers and insults of men.
Do we fully grasp that when Jesus died the veil was torn between the common man and God? That all who believe become priests and saints who are able to offer acceptable sacrifices to Him without the need of any mediator but Christ? And do we fully grasp that our bodies are now the temple of God; that He lives within us? I think of all the ways I allow my love of the world to interfere with being effective for God’s kingdom building. I eat too many sweets and then feel lethargic and have a stomach ache, able to do nothing but lay on the couch while feeling powerless as the numbers on the scale grow. I watch tv too late with my kids and then rush them into bed without any time to read them scripture because I was unwise with my time. I don’t exercise, and then don’t even have the energy to run the race God has set before me. I am lazy in my housekeeping and therefore become less hospitable because I don’t want to clean the house. What if a soldier in a regular army was so lax? They wouldn’t be able to carry the pack and would be breathlessly lagging behind, unable to keep up, not ready to fight. If soldiers will have self control and discipline being in the simple army of men, how much more should we soldiers be diligent while in the army of God? Do we not fear Him? Do we not realize that His infinite power is available to us at every moment to do what we cannot?
It takes an enormous amount of power to change deep, old habits that are etched into our very souls. But we have the highest, ultimate power on our side, if we will just call on Him and believe. If we will be willing to deny ourselves now to have everything later. If we will be so Heaven minded that the things of Earth can’t offer any temptation we can’t resist through Christ. This life is not our final home, we are a people who are sojourning through on our way to a glorious city that is where we have always belonged (Hebrews 11:10). We have to stop getting so caught up in this life that we put down our weapons and relax for a bit, completely unaware that the devil has taken our weapons and lulled us to sleep before he takes our lives.
There is no resting on this side of Heaven. As John Owen said, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” Are we fighting? I think back two years ago to when I first started this journey. I was on fire for the Lord, seeing his hand in my day. I would read the Bible for hours, devouring His word. I got depressed for a while that I had to wait so long to go to Heaven and see him face to face. My spirit called out, “Abba, Father!”, and I would often just stop and smile in the wonder that he loved me. I experienced immediate victory over a couple sins, and gradual victory over some others. One of these sins was my love of eating sugary sweets.
As I would read my bible each night, I would skip the sweets. I remember thinking, as my stomach growled, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) I was just tickled pink that I was able to overcome this addiction I had for sweets; often turning down cake or devil dogs because I really didn’t want it. 10 pounds fell off with very little effort. I even attempted an exercise video and could make it halfway through without dying (baby steps). I was finally feeling the fruit of the Spirit, self control, for the very first time in my life.
Now, here I am, two years later completely addicted to sweets again. I keep wondering, what happened? Why can’t I fight it anymore? Has the Holy Spirit left me? But then I have to examine the rest of my life. Am I still reading scripture for hours a day? No. Am I still praying as diligently as I was? No. Am I still so Heaven minded that it consumes my thoughts? No. Yes, my spirit still cries out “Abba, Father!” and I still love God, but my love of the world and the pleasures in the world is threatening my effectiveness as a Christian. I am literally choosing a stupid little cake treat over the God of the universe. How foolish, how petty, how very human-like.
And so this realization came to mind this morning; that I’ve been relying on God’s common grace to do in my life what only His uncommon grace accomplishes. I am convicted of being in danger of becoming lukewarm; a tepid, useless liquid that Jesus will spit out of his mouth (Revelation 3:16). Do I believe that I am in danger of losing my salvation? No, I believe that it’s Jesus who keeps me and no one can pluck me out of his capable hands (John 10:28). No, I am not in danger of losing my salvation, but I am in danger of losing my reward. I am in danger of living a sad, depressing, powerless Christianity that doesn’t draw in the unbelieving world but rather repulses and causes them to pity me. My love of the world is causing me to be lulled to sleep.
Over time I’ve been foolishly trying to live the Christian life on my own power. I have stopped asking God for help and am relying on myself. I put it upon myself to convict hearts and transform lives, a job reserved for the Holy Spirit alone. And so today I resolve to pick up my dusty weapons (Ephesians 6:10-18), grateful that God protected me from the devil as I started to doze off and sleep for “just a minute”. I resolve to ask God for the uncommon grace that is essential to living this life in Christ. I resolve to be a solider He can be proud of, one that He knows is ready for every good work because I have sought His power to be so ready (2 Timothy 3:17). Today I resolve to return to my first love (Revelation 2:4). Do you need to return to yours?
In my wandering I have been reminded that he is the only one who can ever satisfy my soul. I could leave Jesus and gorge on sin, fully in love with the world, and none of it would ever fill the emptiness that only Christ can fill. I am only left feeling worse than before, as the pig returns to the mud. Jesus tells us a lot of hard truths, but as Peter said, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) We must stay awake and be on guard. We must take up our cross and daily die to the very passions that wage war against our soul (1 Peter 2:11). God tells us in His word that friendship with the world is enmity to Him (James 4:4). He reminds us again in 1 John 2:15, ” Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Why does He keep warning us? Because we fallen humans need to believe this truth. We need to get this, if we want to be useful and effective soldiers in the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
So to close, whether you’re feeding the poor or scrubbing your toilet; whether you’re selecting which snack to eat or which beverage to drink; do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and remember that you were bought with a great price (1 Corinthians 6:20). The God who enlisted us owns us and we can’t live the kind of life that pleases Him by our power alone and by His common grace. May we all ask Him, for that uncommon grace that He reserves for those who love Him. I promise you, we’re all going to need it to walk this narrow path.