Sentinels For Christ :: Pledge V Service Authenticity

Pledge V Service Authenticity

Posted by jimgrier on March 30, 2018

Pledge Principal V

"Whenever possible I will give of my time and resources to help those in need."

What does that look like?  To love others as yourself, you can’t claim with sincerity to be a follower of Jesus without it.  You might pass as an associate, but followers produce fruit.

Some time ago I sat down with one of my friends whom I spent some time with while we we’re residents of the Weld County Colorado Work Release Program.  For those of you who don’t know what work release is, it's very similar to a minimum-security jail.  JD, was a big, (very big) Irish fellow that got saved when I shared Christ with him in the jail. We had gotten very close during our time together and because of my background with Sentinel-For-Christ we ended up doing a modified version of our “Legacies” workshop together he was able to use in court which resulted in a significantly reduced sentence (only God does these things!).  The fact was while sitting there with JD I was frustrated.  It didn't seem like anything could change for him and I sat with him feeling at my wits end.  I couldn't say or do to affect the situation.  It appeared he would inevitably implode.  Regrettably, my focus was on my self and what I could do, not even remotely on what the situation needed, which was a God who could do the impossible. Instead of leaning into sustained prayer on JD's behalf I took the evangelical exit and figured, "it is what it is..." not exactly one of my finest hours.

I think most of us can relate to knowing there is great need for pragmatic, Christian love to the world around us.  We don’t have to look far to see people we know that don’t know Jesus or have a broken idea of who  He is and where their identity with him lies.  The longer I press into my own faith the more I am overwhelmed with the needs of the broken as a reality that sits uncomfortably in my spirit.  That by the way is what’s called a conviction for the world. Grace ignites this love for the lost in us.  When Jesus lives in us, it’s part of the package. Prior to being immersed in God’s Spirit, what formally inspired me was “good old morality-based guilt”, (which by the way, isn’t good at all and only leads to frustration and conviction that God wants something to change with us).  Pardon me if I encourage my Christian brothers and sisters who downplay this type of guilt.  God uses guilt, that’s right guilt to get your attention whether you follow Jesus or not.   If it’s present in your life, pay attention. Don’t dismiss it so lightly!  If you cultivate the ability to deny it, you will diminish the ability to listen to God when He’s yelling “Hey wake up!”

When I met with JD after incarceration, his needs were real. He was recently released and, he had nowhere to go, and while he had family in the area the all too familiar life of addiction had destroyed the relationships with everyone he knew. Understandably they didn’t want to bring drama and disorder into their homes. We never see this part of our sin, whatever path it might be, the fallout, the consequences and pain brought on others.  Bad choices as we teach in Sentinels have repercussions and sometimes you can’t avoid the avalanche you brought on your back.  I was struck while talking with JD, how he was unable presently to believe God could do the impossible and change his life.

All of us, if we have any sensitivity to the reality around us, experience the sense of impossibility that comes with the needs of a lost world that doesn’t know Christ.  In fact, the demands on our time just to be effective in our jobs, pull so tightly the idea of making an impact outside of our own small circle seems all but impossible.  But it’s the very fact that the demands of life are impossible is why Jesus empowers us to change what surrounds us and have effect.  (Luke 1:37; 18:27).  I better say that again so we don’t miss it, God specializes on making possible the impossible and he does it by equipping us with supernatural backing through his Holy Spirit.  When Jesus spoke of his disciples being “equipped with power on high” keep in mind these were folks who had walked with Jesus, they were already saved, and yet they needed something more to impact the world and make what seemed impossible possible; “power on high.”

The problem is…dare I say, most of us I’m afraid fall short when the impossible confronts us and settle for a relationship with Christ were we truly don’t believe God can change circumstances.  Oh we are capable of mouthing how great and mighty God is but our faith is so broken and fragile we wouldn't dare think God could actually use us supernaturally.  Why is that?  It’s because we refuse to admit after we are saved we still need Jesus 100% of the time to be running the show.  We fall back to thinking “Oh! now I’m saved I’ve been given God’s blessing to live the life I was meant to have with God beside me!” I’m afraid that’s not why God saved us or gave us power. Our lives were meant to align with His will.  Thinking God now empowers you to live remotely the same life with fewer sinful behaviors and still insist on your own idea of what your destiny will be is not following Christ.  Quite contrary its leading Christ.  Jesus is actually still at the back of the bus and your driving it.   

I’m of the belief there’s a great many folks that got saved so God could make their idea of what life should be “a little bit better with fewer problems!” We approach God like making bank deposits frequently in our acts of service. This is one of the reasons so many run to formulas and the quarterly foreign mission trip which is so popular in American Evangelical circles and return only to find after a short time they still have the same old life with the same old problems.  The God who makes the impossible possible isn’t real for them because intrinsically they don’t really believe it.  We can dig wells or build orphanages and actually still be driving the bus, have little knowledge about God’s Spirit and Jesus has no opportunity to reach us while we insist on making these spiritual bank deposits. If the trip to Bangladesh only releases some pent-up frustration with your own faith and your return back to the same marginal life-style, we are not I should add, experiencing the Spirit filled life.

I’m not downplaying missions. I did short term foreign missions to Baja California for years.  I’m sure our teams made a huge difference in the lives of people we touched.  I also remember for years coming back feeling “out of balance” which I believe now was the Spirit trying to reach me and change my life in the here and now permanently, not just once every three months!  Going to do the work of God everywhere else while failing to understand it’s power in our own back yard or our own family is a lack of understanding regarding God who does the impossible.  God is able with us working in conjunction with his Spirit to affect the immediate, including those directly around us.  If the only place we seem to have impact is somewhere else, we have not learned anything of God’s power.

You’re probably realizing at this point that practical acts or what are sometimes referred to as “acts of service” are pretty much useless if Jesus isn’t driving the bus.  Actually, they run the danger of promoting a twisted self-righteousness that keeps us from being respondent and obedient before God.  We can’t have a “bank deposit” approach to following Jesus. Our position in the world only takes value when it aligns with God’s purpose with God’s leadership.  There are plenty of good things done through the world through non-believers folks, being a witness for Christ has to go beyond these things.  As Christians our acts of service are for being a witness to the world which produces allegiance and salvation for those who don’t yet know Christ, not simply “playing church.” Jesus died for more than that.  Living for Christ is a risky, challenging business that pulls us out of the comfort zone regularly and confronts us continually with our authenticity.  You see it's all too easy (I’ve found anyway) to rest on my salvation and hide behind it as opposed to dealing with the difficult process of responding to the Spirit’s continual call to confront my conscience to see if I am “truly in the faith.”  (2 Cor 13: 5), asking the question “am I aligned with God’s intent?” I’m not talking about maintaining my salvation Jesus (thank God) already did that, I’m talking about maintaining my spiritual integrity and friendship with Jesus himself.  I’ve historically had a habit resting on God’s forgiveness while dismissing transformation.  I played the Christian game of church until God made life so uncomfortable he forced a shift in my thinking that really helped me transform into experiencing the impossible as opposed to simply acknowledging potential possibilities!  God’s work isn’t done on our terms while we are still driving the bus.  His work is done on his terms. I just need to be willing to move, (that’s faith) and unequivocally move out of casual Christian comfort.

Perhaps this illustration will drive it home.  You can send 15.00 to a food organization which may provide for some orphan overseas. Your gift may actually extend their lives and provide more time for them to hear the gospel and accept Jesus through another Christian therefore becoming a Christian.  You can also give that same 15.00 dollars to someone homeless in your city or village who appears to need it.  But they don’t know Jesus and that 15.00 may buy the heroin they overdose on and die.  What’s the difference?  The addict never knew Jesus.  Now how does such an act of service with good intention appear?  We need more than good intentions when it comes to helping others.  We need discernment and a relationship with God’s Spirit that moves on our hearts in conjunction with his Spirit and His people.  God always moves to glorify himself through our actions, never in isolation to make us feel better about ourselves.  

I don’t know what happened with JD as eventually, he dropped off the radar, but I will believe my belief in the impossible was part of God’s narrative to him to believe in the impossible.  Knowing there is a God able to perform the impossible but not believing He can is not a life I would sell to anyone who was considering becoming a Christian.

That’s simply not a life worth living…or any type of faith we should be sharing.

Pledge Principle V is based on God’s Spirit living within us, prompting us to move in the direction and towards the people he chooses. That may include more than a monetary gift. It may involve a friendship with all the time investment that’s comes with it.  It may involve you sharing of your gifts and talents to edify others and show them the beauty of Christ in your life in a way that might appear unconventional even surprising. One of the most important lessons I have learned in ministry is God uses all sorts of folks all sorts of ways to communicate His love through us to others.  The sheep hear his voice in us, they recognize the Master!  If ministry appears a bit dry, ask a God big enough to make the impossible possible to reveal to you how He wants you to communicate his love.  The Gospel through your life is meant so we are  recipients of the joy meant to live within us.  You and I might be surprised in how God is pleased by such requests, waiting to fulfill the desires of your heart in communion with His plan for your life.

You might think of joining in a group similar seekers as well. 

Since few of you know what the Legacies workshop is, the workshop helps Christians in particular break free from entrenched behaviors and beliefs that neutralize our faith.  You can find more about here:  

 

http://sentinelforchrist.com/disciplesource/spiritual-warfare-training/legacies

 

J.P. Grier 
M.S. Counseling M.C.M. Pastoral Counseling 

JP Grier is the founder and writer at SentinelforChrist.com - A network of Christians helping each other to press deeper in Christ.

 

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