3. Representing God’s Kingdom

I was invited a while back to play some live music at a country store that sells Christian and primitive crafts. I noticed several plaques and pictures that said, “You may be the only Bible some people ever read”. I was reminded about how I had been convicted lately of dropping my guard in front of those I work with and how easy it is to “blend in” with people that are not children of the light. I realize that Jesus associated with the everyday Joe, but He did it all – without sinning. There are no legitimate reasons for allowing ourselves to become a hypocrite. Our determination is measured by the burden we have for other people’s souls. It is all about love and if we can allow love to be developed within our heart, I believe everything else will fall into place. I know it is strong language but I must face it head-on and not hide behind the long list of excuses that we love to whine about. When we meet someone for the first time it is easy to raise our standard to the top because they have only seen our best effort to portray an image. The problem comes when we see someone everyday and it becomes apparent that we cannot keep up the stress and labor of walking the tight rope of perfection. This “stress” comes from us not being spiritually filled-up enough or prayed-up enough, to relax and allow Jesus to do the ministering “through” us.

The best example of familiarity that all married couples can understand is how well behaved we are when we are trying to capture someone’s heart when dating. Then after the wedding we begin to pull off the mask and be more honest with our mate. We become relaxed and comfortable and tend to let go a little more each day until many times we become nothing like the image we were trying so hard to be. The same is true with the people we work with when we let down our guard and become too relaxed. It might start with laughing at a crude joke or agreeing with someone when they are backstabbing another person. Then someone might have a picture of pornography and you willingly lean in to see. After awhile your team begins to look at you in a different light that is less pure and less respectful than before. A strong Christian emits a type of conviction which establishes a standard that people are aware of. God uses this to remind the lost they are hopeless in their own strength and they need to reach up to Him. When Christians backslide, the higher standard they have been called to falls down to the lower level of the unredeemed and unfortunately they begin to feel comfortable and justified with the current state of their lifestyle. Without the conviction from the so-called Christian, the sinner grows more confident and will actually end up lashing out at the backslider with mockery and hate. We as Christians must hold the bar high for the sake of obedience to God and the love for lost souls. So how can we stay strong and not fall prey to becoming lukewarm and overly familiar with friends and family? Here are seven simple points to remember as we pray and ask God to help us be salt and light to the world and especially to those who “know” us.

• GO TO THE DRAWING TABLE: This is another way of saying we are going to make the willing decision to become a living sacrifice upon God’s alter. Maturity is a process that progresses and advances. When we are convicted to move up to a higher level with God, it is good to lay our cards on the table and evaluate where we are and where God wants us to be. Obviously our flesh does not want anything to do with the hot burning coals of as sacrificial furnace because it spells death but that is exactly what we must endure to become transformed into his image. Gold is purified with heat for the purpose of refining and removing the impurities. We protect our secrets and our will but these are the very things we must “hand over” to him. Without this kind of serious commitment we will continue on the frustrating merry-go-round of religious depression, failure and frustration. When someone wants a new “custom” house built they first go to the architect. God is our author and the finisher of our faith and if we are going to become a new structure then we must go to him first and allow him to design us and build us “his way”. We have developed habits that are so hard to break that it leaves us depressed because we realize we are a hypocrite. We try to hide behind the mask of “I’m ok” but it leaves us with a sad, empty feeling inside. We must admit that we cannot change on our own and openly confess that we desperately need him. We say we know and understand there are two realms; one that is lived in the spirit and one that is carnal but just knowing it is not enough. We claim to love God and desire to walk in his spirit but somehow we cannot seem to control ourselves; the truth is – we cannot.

• PRAY FOR AWARENESS: I know we seem to enjoy playing games but God is really not amused and does not think we are funny or cute. He does have patience with us as we are trying to learn but there comes a point where we must begin to grow. I believe that Father wants to reveal the way we are and is hoping that we will come to our senses and see ourselves the way we really are. The Word of God is intended to be a mirror that exposes our own condition which in turn should develop humility. Worship is bowing before God and giving honor and adoration to Him that is Omnipotent, omniscient and Omnipresent. Pride is being self-deceived and is one of the most common and dangerous problems between Father and mankind. If we are ready to stop living in denial then our eyes need to be opened to the “reality” of our problems and the “revelation” of what he is saying. We first need to realize that we need to change – then let us ask God to show us our own attitude and to make us aware of the way He wants us to be. If we are really serious about changing into His image, we will fervently pray for Him to do a deep work in us. If we are satisfied with being religious and do not believe we need transformation then our odds for failure increases drastically. Many people have all of God they want and do not desire any more. They are not praying for awareness because they are uncomfortable with the truth. Selah.

• NO SUBSTITUTE FOR OBEDIENCE: Whether we want to admit it or not we will all be judged in the light of our obedience. We are constantly bombarded by someone trying to help us become a better person and steps to help us become happier. The truth is these self-help methods and ideas will never bring us spiritual peace unless they include obeying God and his word. We want to volunteer and serve in charitable organizations and we might even work within the structures of ministry but cringe when faced with personal obedience. We want to create our own life filled with our own ideas but once again God is not impressed. The Christian life is not just a philosophical arrangement of morals and values it is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is based on us hearing his voice and responding to his voice. The hay, wood and stubble of our works and deeds will be burned up in the final judgment because they were either not God inspired or were in direct opposition of what he was trying to tell us.

• KEEP A PRAYER JOURNAL: This may sound simple and really it is, but it has the practical potential to cause a personal revolution in our spiritual life and that is our goal. We all say we know that agape love is what being a Christian is all about but do we really practice it? What I mean is; do we really take the time to think about the needs of others and say a specific prayer for them? Get into the routine of keeping a journal and include within the pages the names of those that you know who need a touch from the Father. This will also cause a stirring that will lead to self-examination and repentance because we must become pure and holy before we go to the throne of his alter. This spiritual habit is very powerful and will bring us closer to him, fill us with his spirit and help us to walk more sensitive in his presence. As we begin to actually care more for others we will begin to reflect his image and character more than ever before. This is real Christianity! Let me also add that moving into the direction of serious prayer produces the power that shakes the foundations of the universe. We must prepare for intense spiritual warfare because the enemy pays more attention to fervent prayer than most anything we can do for the kingdom. It is exciting to record the victories and celebrations of what God has done. Maybe the reason why saints do not have prayer journals is because they do not pray. We focus and spend time with what we are interested in. Of all the things we can do – there is nothing more important than prayer. Prayer is the holy fruit of spiritual love.

• A BURDEN FOR SOULS: It is no secret that we as Christians spend most of our communication time with God asking for “things” that will bring pleasure and what we think will satisfy our flesh. What most people never realize is that our petitions usually are thin when it comes to concentrating and focusing on others. Let us take the time to write out a brand new prayer list and change our way of thinking not for any other reason than agape love. Selfish request are for the young Christian but as we grow into maturity we should begin to see deeper than just the shallow “feelings” of our flesh. What if we made a list of request that was devoted exclusively for our spirit and had nothing on it for our flesh? Try asking God for more spiritual things like, having a burden for lost souls, more wisdom, more love, to be a generous giver and so on. God is filled with love and has a burden for souls twenty four hours a day but we are so concerned with our life that we have become calloused. If we are not filled with his spirit then we will not see people the way he sees them. Ask God to make you less sensitive of the world’s temptations and more aware of peoples needs. Selah. May we be filled with his discernment and grow to love and care about souls enough to pray for their salvation.

• WHO WILL COMMITT? Billy Sunday once said,” Many people have just enough religion to make them miserable”. We talk, talk, and talk all day and all night about things we really do not understand because we have refused to sacrifice the quiet time necessary to know God. It is so much easier to talk about the holy alter of sacrifice than to actually crawl upon it and be refined by God. This is exactly why prayer is the most “talked” about Christian duty yet the least practiced. We have become a “ME” society that has grown more concentrated on self. Our pride causes us to judge others according to our opinions without even considering what God might say. This negative attitude has a direct influence on how much we choose to help others who are in need. Devoting any of our time for the purpose of expressing true love toward others or to God himself is a labor worthy of our sacrifice. We are servants OF Christ and TO Christ. We will never come into the fullness of God’s will or become the useful vessel he has called us to be without becoming a lump of “willing” clay in the hands of the Potter.

• DISCIPLINE IS PAINFUL: In sports, discipline is widely known as the key to becoming the best you can be. Those who are disciplined are not just more likely to succeed but also gain the respect from all who know them. Discipline is an outward sign of someone who is serious, focused and determined. Those who are not disciplined are labeled as lazy, uncaring, and not dependable. Therefore, if we apply these same conditions in a spiritual light we begin to see how the Lord moves within the hearts of His people within the boundaries of their passion to love Him. Of course, it is not easy to adjust our words and actions so that we can gain more humility, but it is worth it if we desire for God to have more confidence in us. This in turn will create a chain reaction that will be noticed in our character. The question must be asked, “Just how much desire do I have to change into the image of Jesus?” Discipline does not fall from the sky but comes from the hearts of those who want it more than anything. Selah. As a man thinks in his heart so is he, which leaves no doubt, as to who we really are. Amen.

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