Jesus, second coming, Theology

Ready: The No. 1 Hallmark of a Healthy Christian


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Your Spiritual Spring Clean

“I will agree with something Godly, righteous and true, nod my head, allow my heart to rise, even say ‘amen!’ out loud and then…do nothing.”

Last week I encouraged you to go away, get alone with God and begin a conversation with Him about how you might begin to convert thoughts and ideas from this series into practical steps towards actually changing your lifestyle. I suggested you share your thoughts with your best friend – someone you can trust completely – so that these blogs might catalyse lasting change in your life with ramifications rippling into eternity.

Did you do actually that?

If you did, please do leave a comment below because we’d love to hear how your spiritual spring clean is going. But if you just agreed that this would be a good thing to do and then did nothing, I’m not going to lie, I’m not at all surprised!

Before you stop reading in discouragement or outrage or both, I say this only because I understand my own human nature to often do the same: I will agree with something Godly, righteous and true, nod my head, allow my heart to rise, even say “amen!” out loud and then…do nothing.

Strangled Seeds

“Only a tiny minority of seed actually produced fruit for the Farmer”

This difficulty that we all have to actually put our money (deeds) where our mouths (faith) are – measured by this one incognito ‘homework’ task from last week – demonstrates the overall need for this blog series.

Jesus talked about the human experience of the struggle for fruitfulness through the parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8: the Word of God is sown liberally and graciously and yet most of the seed is strangled and choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of this world, trampled underfoot or eaten by hungry birds. Only a tiny minority of seed actually produced fruit for the Farmer.

“Your choices to do nothing in response to what God is talking to you about are sinful…as are mine”

You can call it what you want but, let’s get real, the life-giving seed of the Spirit of God that is meant to prime our fruitfulness for salvation and beyond, the marriage between our faith and deeds (James 2) within lifestyles that literally speed His return (2 Peter 3:12), are often killed by our sin. That’s right…sin. The flesh, Satan or the world. Either way, it’s sinfulness that chokes the seed of the Farmer – the very seed that He sows to cultivate end-time fruit within Christian lifestyles that speed the return of Christ.

Your choices to prefer the cares and riches and pleasures of this world that dissuade you from following His promptings to change, are sinful choices. Your choices to do nothing in response to what God is talking to you about are sinful.

As are mine.

The Blessed Tonic

“We are the blessed ones who mourn over our sin because we’re the privileged few, a tiny minority throughout history, who get to mourn over sin, period.”

You’ll recall that this blog series was meant to hang off Matthew 5-7 and Jesus’ beautiful Sermon on the Mount. I think that’s happened in part but not as fully as I had meant it to. However, if I had to give you just one thought from recent months of thought and prayer, specifically thinking about how our chosen Christian lifestyles relate to His second coming, it would be this:

Matthew 5:4:-

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted

As I have read, studied and believed this verse, I have been deeply encouraged and supernaturally comforted.

Why?

Jesus is specifically teaching here that blessed (forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace) are those who mourn over their sin. You know, just as we were saying about last week’s task, the kind of sin that causes our faith and deeds to often be divorced from each other leaving us lazy and unproductive; species of sin that tie us up within cycles of addiction; types of sin that render us double-minded like Paul in Romans 7 as he warred with the laws of the flesh and the Spirit.

The No. 1 Hallmark of a Healthy Christian

Jesus says that blessed are those who mourn over their sin because they will be comforted. Yes, we will be gloriously comforted when He finally comes again but also comforted now because we are the blessed ones (Psalm 16:3) who mourn over our sin because of the work of His Spirit within us. We’re the privileged few, a tiny minority throughout history, who get to mourn over sin, period. Jesus wants you to see this reality in your heart now as a direct, indispensable work of His grace and as a sure sign-post to the eternal kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who are irritated by and tolerate their sin? No, blessed are those who are mournful, sad, distressed, disturbed, depressed, angered, by their sin.

You are highly favoured when you mourn like this over your sin because you are blessed by Him to be spiritually animated against the ways that it leads you towards laziness rather than faith, towards gulping mouthful after mouthful of dust rather than His fresh, brimming water and dribbling on your pillow rather than speaking words of eternal life.

What is Wrong With You?

Satan would ask you this question when you struggle to produce fruit, to make good choices and to convert aspirational agreement with God into the actual action of faith. But Jesus would say, “Look at what is right with you!” as He points at your supernatural mourning over sin. This is the topsy-turvy world of the Kingdom as the devil limps around outside as an angel of light trying to convince you otherwise.

What I’ve just written in the section above this one is very, very, very good news! It’s actually distilled gospel joy pressed down, shaken up and running over! That we get to be concerned about the slow progress of our heart, our leadership and the world-wide church are such amazing graces to us from Jesus that we almost miss them. Friends, this waking reality I’m trying to describe of the sadness of being in the world but not of it ‒ conversely to how we might sometimes feel – is the very symptom of healthy Christianity! This blessed mourning over your sin is the number one identifier that you already are (and that you’re primed to be increasingly) living a lifestyle that’s longing for and speeding His soon return. 

And make no mistake, this mournful heart condition that He forms in us, of longing for the things of Christ to be seen and established in our lives and over all, is not void of joy. It is a deep work and fruit of the Holy Spirit of God in sanctifying our lives to hate sin, kill sin and lead others towards vast pastures of joy.

This is all that we might witness the fullest manifestation of His Kingdom that Planet Earth has ever seen as we produce the ‘much more fruit’ of John chapter 15 before He returns! This is what it means to have our lamps ready and filled with oil. (Read Matthew 25)

Write To Us

I want us to be encouraged as we honestly think about your lifestyles and whether or not they’re genuinely ready for Jesus’ return.

I don’t want us to be discouraged.

Equally, as David Sliker says, “We can not continue to live our lives as if He is not returning”.

So, I’d like to set you one more home-work task: after you’ve completed last week’s practical take-away, please write to us here (in a public blog comment or private email) with how you feel God is speaking to you about your lifestyle and about the mind-blowing reality of His return.

You might feel excited, confused, unsure, anxious, nervous,  lonely, frightened, convicted, courageous, emotional, bold, indecisive or just wanting to take the first step in explaining to someone else that you feel God nudging you out of your normal place of comfort. You may have had a dream or a strange encounter with someone else…

The point is that you *start a conversation* with someone about this undeniable interaction between the promised return of Jesus Christ and the nature of your lifestyle as a believer.

Let’s bring our deeds and our faith together.

Peace and grace,

NF

 

 

 

4 Comments

  • I think mainly my thought on His return is that panic of will He find me faithful, have I done all that I can do bc this life here sows into eternity…

    I didnt do the homework, I don’t think i managed to finish reading the post but i have been reading when i can and found this post reassuring that i am not complacent 😊

    • That’s really great! Thanks for reading and commenting. It’s good to be thinking about Him coming, isn’t it? And the very fact that we are reassures us that we’re part of those who’re watching. The ‘homework’ was nothing more than talking to your best mate about the relationship between our lifestyle and His return 🙌

  • Thanks Nick. The verse that springs to mind is James 1:23 about looking in the mirror and then forgetting what we look like.
    I agree it’s easy to be full of good intentions about what we should/want to do differently, especially when immersed in the Bible, prayer, a good sermon … but as soon as we move from that into daily life, immediately forget, fall down, mess up, repeat old patterns.
    The challenge is not to let those failures discourage or prevent us from persevering. Perseverance and motivation of the heart are key, rather than success rate I think.
    I’m currently reading ‘Continuously Revival’ by Norman Grubb. I highly commend it to you. It’s very short, but brilliant. You’d enjoy it. Not in print now but available as a free download: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=Y2hhbmdoaXMudG9wfHJ1YnlwZXRyb25lbHxneDoxZTM2OWIyYzY2MzBiNjc1
    Chapter 5 ‘Cups Running Over’ deals with the problem and effect of sin. Its devastating, joy-sapping effect, and our tolerance of it.
    I’ve been preparing a devotional on this for tomorrow so have been reflecting on it a lot and praying that I would become increasingly aware of my sin and, more importantly, increasingly uncomfortable and intolerant of it. I want my cup to be ALWAYS running over, not just on mountain top occasions. The prospect of that spurs me on.

    • Cheers! This is brilliant: “Perseverance and motivation of the heart are key, rather than success rate I think.” – I couldn’t put it better myself! That’s what we want as well – a cup always brimming – rather that the fits and starts of life. Lifestyle review/change I think is key to realising this. Thanks for the recommendation – I’ll check out the free Grubb download. Hope the devotional went well!

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