Not long ago a friend of mine participated in a short term mission trip to Guatemala. He shared with me the key verses for the trip which were the focus and purpose for going. The verses are found at I John 2:15-17….”Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever”.
In my Bible at home, I have written next to these verses “Precious Promise!!” and so they are. I have thought much about these verses as I have examined my own motivations in personal, family, business and recreational activities. The more I read these verses, the more I see a “call” to evangelism. I am finding as I get older that the burden for those who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior is being felt by the grip of my heavenly Father’s hand way beyond just my heart. His grip has descended to the depth of my soul.
Oswald Chambers, in “My Utmost for His Highest”, provides a challenge of equal importance. In this devotional titled “His Commission to Us”, Oswald Chambers starts with the verse John 21:17, “Feed my sheep”. The passage refers to the very private moment that Christ had with Peter after His resurrection, a moment of restoration for Peter after his denials. Oswald Chambers continues “The love of God is not created – it is His nature. The goal of the indwelling Holy Spirit is not just to unite us with God, but to do it in such a way that we will be one with the Father in exactly the same way Jesus was. And what kind of oneness did Jesus Christ have with the Father? He had such a oneness with the Father that He was obedient when His Father sent Him down here to be poured out for us”. After reading this, I wondered if we, as Christians, grasp this truth. Do we seek that same “oneness with the Father” that Jesus Christ had? Do we really seek with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our strength, and with all our minds this oneness with the Father?
Does the desire for that oneness with the Father turn our hearts from a love for the things of the world? Does that oneness take us to Guatemala like my friend? How about the mission field of my own family? How about the mission field found at the office? Where else does this “call” take us; this desire for oneness with the Father?
But Oswald Chambers wasn’t finished driving home his point. He states further, “The Lord’s next point (to Peter) is – Pour yourself out. Don’t testify about how much you love Me and don’t talk about the wonderful revelation you have had, just ‘Feed My Sheep’. If I love my Lord, I have no business being guided by natural emotions – I have to feed His sheep. We will not be delivered or released from His commission to us”. So a clear choice must be made, dear friend. Will love for the things of the world take over your life or will you deny the things of the world and feed the Lord’s sheep?
I can see in these words an all-inclusive, primary purpose for life and living, with a secondary purpose worthy of thought and consideration. How do I go about the task of “Feed my sheep”? Can I pass this off as a command and instruction for only those called to a full-time ministry behind a pulpit or a mission field? To think in such a manner is evidence of a less than casual relationship with Jesus Christ. To the one who thinks in this way the question must be asked, “Do you know Jesus”?The primary purpose of life and living, if you truly know Jesus Christ, is to break your independence with your own hand and to surrender to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus, proclaiming as Paul in I Corinthians 2:2, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”. You see, the primary purpose of life is to bring glory to God in everything.
Now ask yourself the following questions. If it is true that people read others like a book, what is being read about me? Is my life, my deeds, my language, and my thoughts demonstrating nothing but “Jesus Christ and him crucified”? Is there seen more of a “love for the world” or is a love for Jesus seen? Who can live such a life? As Oswald Chambers indicated above, no one can who is living and guided by “natural emotions”. But Paul also had the answer to this question and it is found in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me”. Paul gives us the solution! You and I cannot live like Christ commands but HE can live that life in me. It’s that “surrender thing” to the supremacy of Jesus Christ. And in surrendering to Jesus Christ, God receives all the glory for the things done in this life.
Now what is the secondary purpose worthy of thought and consideration? Each of us, as Christians, must find a niche in life. Again, think through these questions. Is my relationship so close to the Lord that our fellowship will allow Him to give me the discernment to “see” that niche? Will the spiritual gifts and talents He gives be used to His glory? (It comes back to that “surrender” thing again!) As I work at my niche, do my co-workers first and foremost see Christ and Him crucified in my demeanor, actions, and words? In fulfilling the work within my chosen niche, how is that work performed? Can diligence be seen? How about vigilance? Excellence? Enthusiasm? Joy? Kindness? Self-control? Humility? Untiring devotion?
It is unfortunate that the “world” will refer to one possessing these traits as “committed, focused, bull-dogged, and driven”. Yet as Oswald Chambers points out, the Lord’s words to Peter, and to us as Christians, were to “pour yourself out”, most likely demonstrating the above mentioned traits. So if as a Christian these same characteristics are demonstrated in your life and niche, which the world so quickly identifies as self-exalting and self-sufficiency, how or what can be done as a Christian to overcome the temptation of falling into this trap of self-importance? How can I, as an individual, pour myself out yet refuse to be solely interested in testifying about how much I love Jesus Christ? How can I refuse to just talk about the wonderful revelation I have had of Jesus?How can I avoid being “passive” in word only and be more “active” in deed without being seen as a lover of the world? How can I be concerned only with the command to “feed my sheep” in the midst of many responsibilities?Perhaps an answer can be seen in the stars, created by God Himself.
I love to run in the early morning hours, while it is still dark.Most every morning when there are no clouds, I seek out the Big Dipper, a group of stars that are part of Ursa Major, the Great Bear! The Big Dipper is almost always easy to find. As I find and look at the Big Dipper on those mornings, I am reminded that our God is a mighty God who has everything in order and under control, and has even named these stars and knows their positions. But how about finding the Little Dipper, part of Ursa Minor, a group of stars much more difficult to locate? If you draw an imaginary line upward from the two outside stars farthest from the handle of the cup in the Big Dipper, and draw that line about five times longer than the distance between the two stars, you will locate the North Star. What do we know about the North Star? It is the brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere. But this star, this brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere, is also the first star in the handle of the Little Dipper!
So what is the lesson here? From the world’s point of view, the one who is about his or her niche with diligence, vigilance, commitment, focus, excellence, enthusiasm, and devotion must surely be a “Big Dipper” in the course of human events, well known and easily recognized. But the Christian who pours himself out, demonstrating those very same characteristics but doing so “crucified with Christ”, seeking no self-promotion or recognition, is satisfied being the “Little Dipper”, with the bright Star of Bethlehem, “the bright Morning Star” (Rev 22:16), receiving all the glory, for His name is carefully and worshipfully proclaimed in word and deed. The world may not understand the reality or truth lived out within the Christian’s soul but that makes it no less real. Christ knows. It comes back once again to the matter of breaking your independence with your own hand and surrendering to the supremacy of Jesus Christ.
This matter of surrender is a battle of immense importance. It is not fought or won in the external world. As Oswald Chambers states in another of his writings, “The battle is lost or won in the secret places of the will before God. The Spirit of God apprehends me and I am obliged to get alone with God and fight the battle out before Him. Until this is done, I lose every time”. Please grasp this, dear friend. When finally the surrendering is done, you and I can begin, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to fulfill the command to forget the things of this world. You and I can, with joy, be poured out as we feed His sheep. To God be the glory.
So what are the sobering questions to answer? Has the grip of God grabbed my heart and soul? Am I willing to be broken bread and poured out wine before the Lord? Have I removed from my life every iota of interest in the things of the world? Do I see and understand the eternal need of those living outside of Christ? Do I desire to be obedient and hear the Lord one day say “Well done”? Will I answer Christ’s call to “Follow Me?” Then the “love of the world or anything in the world” cannot be allowed within my mind, soul or spirit. This is what the Scriptures mean when they tell us “to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27-28). This can only be done through total surrender to Jesus Christ. And with this commitment to Christ, the eternal reward is clearly “seen” and claimed, enabling each of us to live abundantly, poured out yet filled, serving as the Little Dipper with the brightest Star receiving all the glory, honor, majesty, attention and notice.