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Is it Possible to Serve God Distinctively in a Culture whose Overarching Message is that What one Has is not Enough?

Quotes

  • You cannot fulfill God’s purposes for your life while focusing on your own plans (Rick Warren)
  • Your limitations are not simply obstacles to your success—they are also indications from God of the path your life is to take (Michel Quoist)
  • “As C. S. Lewis said, Christ “wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but he also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim.” (Quoted by Jim Denison)
  • What is needed desperately today is prophetic insight. Scholars can interpret the past; it takes prophets to interpret the present. Learning will enable a man to pass judgment on our yesterdays, but it requires a gift of clear seeing to pass sentence on our own day (A.W. Tozer)
  • God put so many misfits and insecure people in the Bible and then accomplished beautiful things through their lives (Scott Sauls)

 TEXT

Luke 3: 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” . . . 14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

It was while reading the book of Jeremiah, whose conception was God determined because of the mission he had to accomplish, that the articulation of what I see as foundational left me with a question. The grievous sin or wrongdoing that made the children of Israel be uprooted from the Promised Land was forsaking God and using idols to replace the God-gap thus created. That is the same complaint God had against the church in Ephesus- forsaking the love they had at first. God expects genuine, authentic and true love that opens our hearts, gives meaning to life and becomes the lens through which one connects meaningfully with others and the world. So the question is the practicability of having this pure, undefiled love of God while living in a culture that defines success as having more. Most of the New Year messages, motivational talks and friendly advice from those older and experienced seem to be based on the assumption that ‘What you have is not enough’. To be ‘blessed’ you need to plant more churches, win more souls, have more investments, and get more accolades and so on. The messages communicated in the church, schools, and family meetings are that the models/heroes of the society are those who have accumulated more.  So the question is whether it is possible to serve the purpose of God when one’s definition is determined by culture?  Might there be a subtle distinction between loving God exclusively that gives one insights to meet other needs and loving the Lord while using self-effort to meet the needs that one considers to be good for all?

UNDERSTANDING THE RULES THAT GUIDE THE MIND TO ACT

Articulation of purpose beyond profit – While Christians may know what is stated in the scriptures, it is possible to unconsciously be living by different rules.  Remember the rich young rules, who not only knew the commandments but had kept them from his youth (Matthew 19:16-22). “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:20-21). The disappointment that the young man expressed may explain how different Jesus’ view was from his.  The rules that govern the kingdom of God cannot be superimposed on a mind deeply informed by worldly rules.

Acknowledge the impact of history on how people think – The prevailing systems in many countries have been shaped by thinking that can be traced to the industrial age. The system is about putting power in the hands of a few people so that they can control others. Fear of not belonging or being like others replaces the need to explore and go to territories unfamiliar.  The rules of the kingdom of God begin by being given power to become a child of God (John 1:10-13). That power is to make one examine the assumptions that govern the status quo that denies people their dignity, self-respect and dependence on God. The impact of such people as Peter, Paul, Hudson Taylor, William Carey, John Wesley, Mwangi wa Nyarari from Murang’a who evangelized Meru, and many others, was possible because they stuck to the word of God and not the prevailing system.

Excellence is appreciation of God’s revealed character – There is a distinction between the world’s judgment of excellence and that of Christians. The world’s excellence is based on recognition and reputation. While that of the Christian is something that is born in one’s heart. Excellence is “caught” by the believer as an inner personal conviction rather than “taught” as an outward behavior. And most importantly, Christians who exhibit excellence do not seek the praise of men but the glory of God. God reveals His character by His word. That is what serves as a blueprint to establish excellence of character in our lives. For a person to have character that reveals excellence, he/she has to live by principles that are rooted in the word of God.  Such a person will refuse to obstruct the Hand of God in the life of another. “Unless you learn to focus on the grapes of Canaan, you will be continually tormented by the nightmares of Egypt.”  (Randy MacVicar). That is what John the Baptist was telling the soldiers, that their work should be undergirded by godly character. Seeking more money from those they serve, just as bribery does, was undermining their work. Productivity results when there is repentance from depending on the beliefs sustained by worldly cultures to working with distinction and excellence because every work is viewed as assigned by God.

Serving God out of deep love and obedience is what gives contentment and excellence in one’s daily operations.  That requires alignment of the inner being with the will of God.  That distinct love of God is so critical that it determines the eternal destiny of the people. “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2: 1-4). That first love in John’s message of repentance and productivity that negates the mindset of “what you have is not enough’. Everyday choices of a believer should be based on who one is, a child of God. That then means the emphasis is being rather than doing.   Repent, have a change that is motivated by loving God and view life from God’s perspective.  God loves people and wants them to know that, to enjoy health and wealth that He enables them to make. Is it not encouraging to know that is God’s intention as repeated by Jesus Christ that Christians should have abundant life?(John 10:10b). That is why there is a need to test if one is acting on the profession of faith because of the passions of flesh or the mind that is being sanctified by the word of God (Romans 12:1-2).  A sanctified mind gives love out of the overflow of the love one is receiving from God.  The desire to push self to achieve goals is based on the bigger picture that yearns for that time when “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”(Revelation 11:15). In summary, your definition of success determines what you pursue and how you pursue it. It that definition is not as given by God, it will not be possible to walk the Christian well. It your defining of success is when you please the Lord, the everything you do will be guided by that desire. That means a Christian has to have a clear mind-set of running everyday filled with the Holy Spirit and refusing to be run by systems and cultural beliefs that are not examined. Are you prioritizing what is on your schedule as led by the spirit of God?

Reconsider your definitions. We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to God and mankind (Martin Luther, Jr.)

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