Thursday, March 13, 2008

Feeling Unhealthy?

Do you ever feel unhealthy? When you've eaten too much junk food, when you're on your third soda and it's only 11:30AM, when you haven't raised your heart rate past a mild trot in weeks? Unhealthy is not a good feeling - it hints of current shame and impending doom.

I often feel spiritually unhealthy. My heart burns for the devotional life, for spiritual disciplines, for discipleship. How can you be spiritually unhealthy when you love such things? Several reasons:

1) A loss of focus on the Teacher. All the things that make spiritual growth happen can become ends in themselves. The disciple has to remember that his journey is about one person - Jesus. If he works hard, learns a lot and grows immensely but is no closer to Jesus, the journey is in vain. Why am I doing what I'm doing? Why am I a Christian to begin with? I need to get close to Jesus, apart from my official position in ministry.

2) A lack of obedience. As the disciple learns to follow Jesus, the Teacher will ask him to do things that are uncomfortable. He will be stretched beyond the aspects of discipleship toward which he is naturally bent. If he naturally leans toward evangelism, the Lord may ask him to learn to study. If he leans toward private disciplines, the Lord may ask him to evangelize. God will lead toward specific conversations, influences, relationships, etc. It is too easy for the follower to dismiss and forget about the thing the Spirit has shown him to do and pursue other holy discipleship endeavors, sedating his conscience with easier good works. What has God directed me to do that I have left incomplete? When the LORD left his final instructions with his friends, he told them to make disciples and teach them to OBEY his Word. I need to obey.

3) A lessened influence in the world. Christians have a bad habit that is destroying the influence of the Church - the longer we are believers and the more involved we become in our local church, the more removed we become from the unbelieving world around us. This is a tragedy. This trend does not model Jesus' life and ministry at all. The LORD did attend synagogue and have conversations with the religious community, but he was frequently accompanied by the "seeking" unchurched. Seclusion in the Christian ghetto does little for the advancement of the kingdom of God; it encourages an us-verses-them mentality and our hearts no longer bleed for the lost and hurting. The Christian subculture feels safe for the believer but is death to the purposes of God in the earth. Am I having significant, caring conversations with those who are far from God? Do I have friends who are unbelievers? If not, I am convinced that I am not really following Jesus and I am living in disobedience and sin.

If my life is suffering from these diseases, I will live with a sense of current shame and impending spiritual doom & failure. We are called by Christ to live lives of eternal impact - am I having the impact I'm supposed to have? Am I a significant player in the kingdom of heaven, a notable character in God's story of redemption today? I want to be healthy.

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