What fuels ministry in your life? A desire to obey? To be seen and recognized? To prove how spiritual you are? To outdo your friend? To be affirmed for your hard work?
Christians are always operating on two levels: the external and the internal. When we are healthiest spiritually is when they both line up.
The call to follow Jesus is no doubt a call to external obedience, hard work, and service. We are to love others as ourselves, do good to those in need, give of our time and money, grieve and celebrate with others, and spend time reading the Bible among many others.
In fact, The Navs at K-State is looking for students who not only do these things but want to help others do them too. We are asking students to join us in serving and giving their life away by investing in others (Mark 10:45; John 12).
This is a good and Godly thing.
But let’s be honest… we kind of like our lives don’t we? Dying to ourselves isn’t easy or attractive a lot of times. I want to use my time on things I want to do. I will serve and invest when it is convenient.
So how do we harmonize our internal struggle and motivations with our external obedience and call to follow God by dying to ourselves for others? How do we line these up?
In the end what I’m asking is this: What fuels a life of joyful worship and sacrifice for the good of others and the glory of God so that even when I don’t want to give up for the gain of others I still can?
KNOW YOUR FORGIVENESS
Luke 7:36-50 is one of my favorite passages in the gospels. A woman barges into a dinner party of a Pharisee named Simon. Jesus is there eating with him. She scandalously starts wiping his feet with her hair and tears while anointing him with expensive oil. Her radical devotion to Jesus stands in stark contrast to Simon’s lack of affection for not honoring him as a guest should be.
Jesus reads Simon’s critical thoughts and poses a question to him of who is more grateful, the student forgiven of $100,000 of loans or the one forgiven of $1,000 of loans (or something like that). Simon answers correctly that it is the one with the larger school loan.
This woman is showing love for Jesus out of the overflow of the love Jesus has shown her. She knows her sinfulness. She knows how unworthy she is. She knows what she deserves… and yet Jesus forgives her sin and sends her off in peace.
Jesus connects our devotion for him with our understanding of his love for us. Love is responsive. Although this woman’s devotion looked radical, it was just the normal response to the radical love and forgiveness she had already received! Radical love begets radical love.
This means we can trace the demonstration of our love (external signs of our devotion like serving others, reading the Bible, praying, giving, discipleship, fasting, serving with our gifts, etc…) to the root cause (our forgiveness of sin in the person of Jesus).
Where little love is expressed, we trace it back to a heart that sees Jesus love as small.
Where great/sacrifical/warm/affectionate love is expressed we trace that back to a heart that is overwhelmed with their sin but sees Jesus as an overwhelmingly sufficient savior.
This is the fuel of the christian life. We ought to constantly be setting before ourselves the God’s radical, costly love for us in the person and work of Jesus. If we do, it will manifest a life of love and devotion for God and others that can’t be faked or replicated.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
The irony about the woman and Simon is that their sin isn’t that different. In fact, Simon’s pride and self-righteousness is probably greater than this woman’s sinfulness. Although his sin is indeed great, his realization of it is small and therefore he has little love and devotion for Jesus.
Are you overwhelmed with your sin or are you getting by as if you are a pretty competent, good person?
Either way, look to Jesus as the one who will expose the ugly sin and pride in your life but came not condemn that sin, but to save us from it by living perfectly under the law, dying for our sin, and being resurrected!
At the end of the day, this contains the power to push us out into a life of sacrificial love, devoted discipleship, and attractive evangelism.
And even when these feelings aren’t there, we can act externally in love and ask God to make us feel the way we ought. We can confess our feeling of pride and love of comfort and ask the Spirit to help our heart take joy in serving/prioritizing others.