My Wish Is That in 2013 You Would Catch Fire!
This is written as the clock runs out on 2012. I write on a theme that I am sure I have broached several times before but as we face a new year it comes back to mind with renewed vigor. The context for my subject begins with your relationship, my relationship, with Jesus Christ. The context could equally be the point of authenticating your life, or giving it meaning, or doing something worthwhile before you die. The passing of time gives urgency to that thought. But I want to begin with Jesus, because it is my understanding that He is what gives our lives meaning, and He is the One who gives them possibility. Now if Jesus is not God, if he is not the Christ who is come to save us from our sins, then the issue of giving your life purpose and meaning is still relevant. If He is the Son of God, and if He is therefore equal with God, and if He and He alone is the way to salvation, forgiveness, hope, redemption, and heaven, and if He is the center of all things than nothing else is relevant except as it relates to the Son of Glory. So, I write upon the theme that since Christ is the meaning of our lives (or else you are wasting yours) then the question arises as to what will you do for Him, how will you live for Him? The Gospel of grace does not make this an irrelevant question, at least it didn’t for the Apostle Paul, who seemed to live his life as if every second counted and how he lived it counted. If your understanding of grace is to live without urgency or purpose, but just enjoying His imputed righteousness, then I don’t think you understand grace or righteousness. Pardon me for having to make a digression about this but I am afraid one might fall into the trap of creating a false choice between a life of intensity, and a life of dependency on grace. I don’t think you can sustain a life of spiritual or ministry intensity without depending on the grace of God to help you live and give you victory, but intense you should be. This is not the same as a life of anxiety or works righteousness or falsely trying to make up for your own inadequacies, or trying to prove something to yourself or your parents. Real grace should wash that out of your system. The Holy Spirit has to be the One who constantly helps you figure out the difference, and constantly helps you repent when the focused life and strong work effort are done in the flesh. It means staying in the Word, staying broken in your need of Him, taking life from the Vine in Whom you live. A life of intensity certainly doesn’t mean a life without Sabbath, or without joy and enjoyment. My message today comes as a preacher who loves the Reformed Faith, and to some degree understands the priesthood of every believer, who appreciates in some measure the value of all honest vocation in giving glory to God, who to some degree understands the issues of giftedness and calling. I also have some understanding of the failure of many in the Reformed camp, especially pastors and teachers of theology, who have failed to light a fire in the hearts of our young people because they model a theology that it says it doesn’t really matter what you do, that the calling to the ministry is no more significant than any other calling, that time is not a matter of life and death. So this is my New Year’s message, and that is that time does matter, what you do or choose not to do does matter, and it matters for the souls of men and women, boys and girls, and it matters for cultures, and nations, and the Will of God. It is as if we have settled for all practical matters for a theology that is simply about our quality of life, the raising of our Covenant children, our materialistic comfort, our security. Anyone who shakes the tree too much becomes suspect, and we suspect their Reformed credentials. There may be some who have honest theological difference here, but I suspect most live the life they live not because they are theologically convinced nothing is urgent, that God does not bring judgment (at least they live as if it is certainly not imminent) but rather, and forgive me if I am too blunt, but because they are too self centered, too lazy, too cowardly. One other category may be helpful, but you will forfeit that after reading this, and that is some are just too ignorant. I have spoken with some who have wondered if God were calling them to “risky” ministry. Should they go into military chaplaincy, should they plant a church in the inner city? I am non-plussed when I hear them excusing themselves because such ministries would affect their quality of life, their time with or absence from the children. Is it wrong to ask believers what price they would pay, would sacrifice would they make, to answer the question posed to Isaiah, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” So that they might say, “Here am I, send me!” The Lord is closer now than when we first believed and we are to redeem the time because the days are evil. We live in an age of such “grace preaching” that if God were judging our nation or the world no one would admit it because they don’t want to give God a bad reputation. Paul says because He feared God he tried to persuade men. Maybe we all need such a fresh vision of hell, a fresh vision of damnation, a fresh understanding of bondage to sin, that we would be on fire for God before our neighbors are on fire for eternity. Whatever job you do I hope you do it for the glory of God, and I hope your life is a strong witness to the love of Jesus in you and through you. Yet, let me say that I don’t know if you can do anything more meaningful in life than to give your life to full time ministry. I am not advocating a Church dominated by and for clergy. I am advocating a holy vocation that affects individuals, families, and communities more than anything else one can do; if it is done right, if it is holistic, if it is truly Biblical, if it is Spirit filled, if it is one of compassion and love, if it is passionate, if it is prophetic in its call for justice and mercy. (I can just hear some hating this idea, but I won’t abandon or soften it so we can all justify our middle class ambitions). I am calling for a change in our Reformed culture that gets in touch with the urgency of the Gospel of the Kingdom message, that has a missionary mandate, that has evangelistic fervor, that has a passion and love for the people, all because some men and women have met Jesus and their souls caught on fire and they can’t for the life of them have that fire put out, and nor would they want that. May the rest of your life count, for the One who gave that life to you, and gave it back again.