We’ve all been there. Spoke folks ends, you get home. You’re still on the spiritual high that Spoke Folk gives us all. You’re excited for a life at home with God. You’re committed to do the habits all that you can. You’re committed to stay in touch with other Christians. And then, two weeks later, nothing discernible has changed at all. This is obviously problematic.
It means that the hard work of ministry of all those on Spoke Folk is going to waste, you’re not becoming a missionary in your home town. In fact, you’re not only not being a missionary, you’re actually being an anti-missionary. In the time leading up to tour you told people about it, and when you got back they asked you about it. They know you’re a Christian and that you did this thing, but now, when nothing changes, it confirms their suspicions that Christianity is just a way to feel good sometimes, a team-building exercise gone too far, and you lose opportunity to reach them with the gospel. Most tragically, it means that we are missing out on the incredible blessing of real, lasting relationship with God. So, what’s going on?
Calling a Spade a Spade
Well, let’s start and be honest with ourselves. Part of what we like so much about Spoke Folk is the high that it gives while you’re there. There’s something special about the combination of being physically tired, emotionally drained, and spiritually challenged. It makes you feel extra alive! But there’s an old phrase in Christianity, “What you win them with is what you win them to.” So if we win you to Christianity or to recommitting yourself to Christianity with a Spoke Folk high, we’ve only won you to Spoke Folk, not God. And we want to promote God-saturated, Spirited-filled, eternity-minded Christians who take to heart the possibility of relationship with God and can’t stop leaping for joy!
Perhaps you’re someone who was won to Christianity or you re-committed yourself because of the Spoke Folk high. You wouldn’t be the first or the last. But if you were won with that high, you were only won to Spoke Folk. We want to be won to God, we want a better glimpse of the person that we worship and for that to move us to deeper, more intimate, full, joyful relationship with him. We don’t want to be moved to fall back into our old sin-ruled life until next year when we can go on tour and get the Spoke Folk high again. So, watch yourself on tour. Don’t be won by the high, be won by God. But for now, before touring starts up again, it’s time to dig in deep. There is an ocean of joy in the glory of God waiting for you, but if you are going to have a relationship with God you’ve never had before, you’re going to have to do something you’ve never done before.
What being a Christian Means
Maybe it’s best that we go back, all the way back, and review what being a Christian even means. Take a second and answer this question in a few short sentences: What does it mean to be a Christian, and how do I become one? If you couldn’t answer that question clearly for yourself, if you feel in need of clarification there, if you feel vague on what being a Christian means, please adjust your glasses and keep reading closely.
Previous to salvation we were sinners. We didn’t just do bad things, we were by our very nature bad. Our default setting since the Fall in Genesis 3 is sin all the time. We naturally hate God and everything he stands for. This is why, left to ourselves, we will never ever choose God. We only choose the bad. Our naturally sinful hearts are incapable of choosing our maker because we naturally hate him. Instead, God works a miracle in our hearts and releases us from this sinful heart. Some theologians call this quickening. It lets our hearts see him and a glimpse of how incredible He is. Then, freed by God’s grace, we are drawn irresistibly to him and something crazy happens. Our fundamental allegiance to ourselves and sinfulness dies. Instead we are fully, totally, completely, outrageously, dangerously committed to God above absolutely everything else. Before our greatest treasure was our own pleasure, but now our greatest treasure is God himself. We don’t worship the things God created, we worship the creator himself. We are no longer in a sordid affair with the gifts of God, we are happily married to God himself. He becomes our greatest desire. We drink deep and satisfy ourselves from the gushing well of God himself instead of trying to be satisfied from leaky buckets. This is our new man. This is fundamental to being a Christian.
So, when we come back from tour, as I know I have, and we fall back into our sin-loving habits and lose our God-treasuring habits somewhere along the way, this is something to be concerned about. Christians, most basically, are more committed to God than anything else. Christians love God more than anything else. He is their greatest treasure, bar none. He is their biggest delight, no if’s, and’s, or but’s. God and God alone. Jesus makes this super clear in Luke 14 if it wasn’t clear enough from the 10 Commandments or Deuteronomy 6:1-2.
So it’s time we asked ourselves, is that me? Am I the kind of Christian who’s counted the cost and am more loyal to God than my mom, dad, wife, kids, friends, comforts, and favorite sins? Do I love God more than I love everything else? Because that’s what it means to be a Christian. It means God, by his incredible grace, set you free from a sinful heart so that you could love Him incredibly. It is the gift of Christ crucified that justifies you and sets you free from sin when you accept God as who He is, worthy to be your greatest, biggest, most favoritest treasure. If it’s not you, ask him! Beg him! Call someone you trust! Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), text me (612.354.0869), or facebook message me. Do whatever you have to, but don’t wait. God is too good to go a second without. You’re missing out terribly, and the stakes are too high on this one.
I am, so what’s going on?
Perhaps you’ve evaluated yourself and found something like this: God really is my greatest treasure, but for some reason I keep falling back into a worldly life. I really do want him more than anything, but I can’t figure out what’s going on! First, take comfort in this. We will never experience full joy in God completely until Jesus comes back. We just won’t. So for now, the struggle for joy is victory. Sometimes the best we can do is to want to want God, and if that’s it, try all you can at it! Don’t let up, push in, do everything you can to fan the flame on that fire. Engage your heart fully, then keep reading.
God has specifically supplied us with six “means of sanctification.” That’s the fancy way of saying six ways to love God more. And just for clarification, that’s what we mean by worship, loving God a lot and telling him so. So all of these six things should end in heart-felt, God-honoring, passionate worship. I want to mention these six as part of my prayer that if you were even partially won by the high of Spoke Folk your relationship with God would grow in the coming days, weeks, months, and years as you lean in to these specifically appointed ways of finding more joy in God. That’s the goal, joy in God and spreading that joy to everyone.
1. The Bible
Yes, I’ll say it. The Bible is a way that we grow more joyful in God. When we listen to good preaching, participate in good teaching, and do good study of the Bible we interact more with God’s self-revelation. God has reveled things about Himself in the Bible, and now that we treasure God more than anything we should want nothing more than more revelation about him. So find good teachers and preachers and listen to them, but also do really good study (more on this one next week). If you don’t know where to start, here are 3 suggestions:
God’s listening. He’s watching. He tells us to ask him when we need help. He tells us to ask for wisdom in trials (James 1:6), and he tells us to ask for help when we are suffering. Pray all that you can. Remember that you are totally dependent on God and ask him for lots of stuff. Make lists and pray down them every day for fifteen or thirty minutes. Give him the time. And keep track of the prayers that he answers, there is nothing more encouraging and trust building than seeing God answer your prayers. Lean into prayer until you feel it with your heart. Don’t be content to whisper to the air. Connect with God in your soul and really talk with Him.
3. Baptism & Communion
When Jesus left he gave us two things to do as a church: get baptized and have communion. So if you haven’t been baptized, talk to your pastor and do that. Let yourself, with your sin and God-hating be buried in the water like Christ was in the tomb and burst forth into the light of loving God and finding ultimate satisfaction in Him as a new, resurrected man. And find a church and have communion. This brings us to the next one.
4. Church Life
If you aren’t a part of a church, find one. Find one and get involved with those people. Relationships are really messy, but instead of staying out of them for convenience, roll up your sleeves and embrace the awkwardness of new relationships and do the work of building good relationships. This is how the church produces men and women groomed for loving God, they spur each other on in that same love. There are no lone wolves of Christianity. Faith is meant to be grown in community, that’s the soil it gets nutrients from.
5. Redemptive Use of Trials
In the world we will have trouble. Suffering comes. Bad stuff happens. But Christians are told to rejoice in suffering. We have a choice when we meet trouble. We can treat it as a faith building opportunity, or we can hunker down and see ourselves as victims. News flash: we believe in a God who sets everything right at the end and redeems absolutely everything for Christians. We aren’t victims at all. So stretch your faith in trials. Give your love for God wings.
6. Dedication to Good Works
We love God more as we do what He commands. We reach out to the down and out, we clothe the naked, visit those in prison, give to the poor. We set injustice right and we promote human flourishing. Go love the world. Don’t act like Christianity is a monastery where we separate ourselves and don’t interact with people. Go love the world and spread the best news ever about the God that you delight in more than you delight in anything else! Love is costly and inconvenient, and God showed us that more than anyone.
I know this has been long, so if you’re still with me here at the end, I’m honored you care enough about me and trust me enough to read all this and give me your time, and my prayer is that you take it to heart. Work to love God more than anything. Join me in fighting up the mountains of joy in God and pulling others up with you. This is what it means to be Christian. And when you take stock of your spiritual life, if you’re disappointed, do more of those six things. Do all of them that you can, I promise they won’t let you down.
That’s all for now, next week we’ll try to look more closely on how we find joy in God in Bible reading. I hope you’ll join me on the journey of joy in God!