This blog is Part One of my next four blogs on four simple rules of life that summarize for me what it means to make God look good and be a serious follower of Jesus. (Reference my blog of April 21, Following Jesus Made Simple, introducing this subject). And, here’s the first rule:
Love God Enough to Trust Yourself to Him.
Like you, I’ve probably told God I love him and have sung it ten thousand times, but when it gets right down to it – what does loving God actually mean?
It’s quite natural that in thinking about loving God, our minds would automatically go to worship and specifically to worship in church. It’s the place and the way we’re most accustomed to “loving God.” When we join with other lovers of God in singing praises, prayer and hearing from God in a sermon or message we are loving God and he loves it when we do.
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God.” Psalm 100:1-2
I don’t know about you, but I feel guilty sometimes because I don’t always feel as emotional about loving God or Jesus as other Christians seem to be. The warm, joyous, tearful feelings I experience most often come when I’m singing praise choruses, listening to the testimony of a new believer, in times of personal prayer or when some new revelation from God or about God, washes over me. But those don’t happen every day or even every week, to me.
And, I can’t, by an act of my will, just conjure up these feelings and make them happen. I love it when I’m surprised by joy – I just can’t surprise myself into joy. I now think of these moments simply as a wondrous gift from God to encourage me to press on and as his way of reminding me that I’m his beloved.
But in between these mountain top experiences are there other ways we can demonstrate to God and others our love for him? Is it really possible to love God when our hearts are heavy and fear, not faith, grip us?
On the cabinet next to the sink where I get myself ready every morning, I have a small, plastic coated piece of paper with my summary of my personal mission statement, “The purpose of my life is to make God look good.” Under that statement are four phrases or rules of life that give “teeth” to what making God look good mean. So here’s what it looks like:
The purpose of my life is to make God look good.
If you like them, I’d invite you to adopt them as your own. They keep Jesus’ marching orders and mission for my life, simple, memorable and alive.
I’ve also given copies to my children and older grandchildren. I want them to know the man, by the grace of God, I aspire to be. You too, may want to print them off and head down to Kinko’s to have them plastic-coated for your children, grandchildren or those you’re mentoring.
I’ve blogged previously on what I believe it means to “Make God look Good”. You may want to read that blog. I wouldn’t want you to think that God needs me or anyone else to make him look good. Nevertheless, he expects all believers to do just that!
I’m probably old fashioned. My wife Susan and I expected our children and now our grandchildren to behave in public, especially in restaurants. It’s probably a pride thing because their behavior was a reflection on us. When they misbehaved it felt like every eye in the room was on us. “What kind of parents must those children have?”
Reality shows are huge. It seems that all you need are a half dozen self-centered girls, guys or both, living together, completely oblivious to their outrageously bad behavior and you have a hit. Don’t they realise that we’re looking at them in total disgust? I’ve thought this. “If that were my child, I’d change my name and move to Alaska!”
When God watches you and me, are there times he too is tempted to change his name and move to Alaska?
Because if you think about it, when Jesus left the earth he didn’t just leave behind his teachings and the Holy Spirit. He entrusted his reputation to us! When we take on the name, “Christian,” we take on the obligation to guard Jesus’ reputation. And non-Christians assume that the way we live, is what Jesus actually taught. When we live true to Jesus’ teachings, we make God look good. When we don’t- well, you get the point.
So, each week for the next four weeks I’ll briefly expand on how each of my four rules of life work in real life (or ought to work!). But for now, just meditate on them and ask the Holy Spirit to either convict you of their truth or give you other insight into what it means, in practical terms, to follow Jesus daily.
Following Jesus in Real Life
There’s a question I’ll occasionally ask the men I’m spiritually mentoring, especially if they exhibit a lack of contentment, healthy relationships or seem “stuck” spiritually.
“What are you trying to keep secret that needs to be brought into the light?”
Everyone has secrets. Some secrets are simply embarrassing. We’d prefer people not know because they’d make us look foolish, or naïve.
Other secrets are about others – we’re keepers of other people’s secrets. We hold them in trust for them either because they’ve asked us to do so, or because we don’t want to dishonor them by letting their secrets out.
I don’t think Christians should worry if these are their only secrets, unless the secrets we keep for others keep them from getting help they desperately need. But other secrets may be toxic or cripple you spiritually, relationally or emotionally.
Does your family have a secret? I don’t mean your, “Aunt Clara got pregnant out of wedlock,” type of secret which is simply embarrassing and best left quiet. Is there a secret in your family that is so dark that it still cripples relationships decades later?
“Would the people who know you best consider you a Christian or a follower of Jesus?”
I still remember the stunned look on Dave’s face when I asked him the question over breakfast ten years ago. To give him a chance to recover a bit, I took the time to clarify my question. “What I mean Dave is this: based on how you live and what you’re passionate about, would your wife, your children, co-workers and fishing buddies – would they consider you a Christian or a serious follower of Jesus? And by the way, you don’t have to answer that question to me today. I’m not your spiritual authority. But, Jesus already knows the answer. The question is, do you?”
I’d known Dave for a few years, but not well. He was forty something, husband and father of three, attended a conservative church in town, and was involved in a men’s Bible study – a typical Christian. Our kids went to school together and we’d talked a number of times at school functions, but not in depth.
His reason for wanting to meet that morning was to ask if I would spend some time with him to help figure out some moving parts in his life. His relationship with God was flat. The company he was working for was in turmoil. He and his wife were struggling. The usual mid-life stuff. I’ve mentored many men in our community, so it was no surprise that he would ask me to help him sort things out. But, obviously he hadn’t expected to be hit by this truck.
Dave’s first question after he’d regained his composure was, “What’s the difference between a Christian and a follower of Jesus?” A fair question, but I wanted to hear his answer first. So I asked him to take a crack at it.