Years ago I got some bad gasoline at a gas station and it really did a number on my old Ford Taurus I drive. My mechanic said that there was water in the gas. He said the gas wasn’t pure and it was in danger of destroying my engine! YIKES! I said, “What do we do?” He said, “Well, we’re going to drain the gas and put on a new fuel filter and then run a new tank of gas.” I said, “Ok, but I just filled up…do I have to waste the entire tank of gas?” He said, “Yep, it’s no good.” He said, “That’s why your car isn’t running right.” My car was totally ineffective, if you will, because of bad gas.
That little exchange was brought to my mind earlier this morning as I was reading Ephesians 2. Take a look and notice the italicized and colored words:
2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10
See the words in red show past tense. Paul was saying, “Hey, look why are you still living as if you were lost?” He said, “But, God…” I can just hear Paul imploring the Ephesian believers to stop acting like the pagans they once were because of what God did for them. What did He do? He saved them? Because of their good works? No. Absolutely no! Yet, Paul teaches that we were created in Christ Jesus for good works. God prepared before we were even born that we should walk in them. Walk in what? Good works.
I believe the body of Christ has been rendered mostly ineffective in showing our good works to the world. Why? Because we are just like the world. This is why the Church is reaching fewer and fewer people. The world sees us as hypocrites. We act just like them. Many continue to act like the pagans that we once were. Hence, the effectiveness of the church has been marginalized and severely compromised.
G. K. Chesterton says, “It’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting. It’s that it has been found difficult and left untried.” I’m afraid, we modern Christians, (and this includes me), have divorced what we do from who we say. As followers of Christ, we should have a desire to live a lifestyle of sacrifice, service, and suffering for the sake of our Lord. We should desire a lifestyle of “good works.” It is not sufficient for us merely to espouse the right doctrines or to feel good about ourselves because we go to church.
For many believers we’re kind of like what Wilbur Rees captured in his little poem, “I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God please. That’ll do for me.”
So we’ve become satisfied with just a little bit of Jesus. We’re ok with a part “Christian” and part “worldly” point of view. We have compartmentalized Jesus in our lives. We just treat him like a flu shot. He’s just Hell insurance…that’s really all He is for some. But, the problem is…Jesus isn’t in the insurance business…He’s in the heart occupying business. Does He have yours?
We watch TV programs, go to movies, listen to music and talk to friends that push worldly garbage in our faces all the time. You have to remember that everything you watch and everything you listen to is coming from either a Godly or worldly point of view. What are you pumping into your mind? Many Christians know more Hollywood movie characters than Bible characters. We know more of and have memorized more of the names of our favorite ball team’s roster than we know of and have memorized the Word of God. Yet, we say we love Jesus and we are His followers. Are we?
What are you pumping into your mind every day? It’s either Godly or it’s not…cut and dried…black and white…that simple. So, let me ask you: What’s the worldview of your favorite movie or song or TV show? What’s the worldview that your children are getting from watching “innocent” little shows on “Nickelodeon” or PBS or the History Channel or Discovery Channel? Would you imagine a cartoon character that walks around in his underwear being marketed to people 50 years ago like Sponge Bob Square Pants?
Yet, Christians (yes that’s us), we are immersed in this stuff aren’t we? Have you ever thought about this: Lot’s wife was “almost” saved…but her heart was still in Sodom when she turned back and looked over her shoulder? She was still longing for Sodom. Many are like Lot’s wife…they come to church…they talk the Christian talk…but, their heart is back in Sodom. Sin is pulling them away. Lot’s wife had slowly given her heart to Sodom…but, it didn’t happen overnight. Satan comes at us and slowly takes us down. He’s crafty and subtle. It reminds me of the story of how Eskimo’s kill wolves who are eating their rabbits…
Eskimos have snow rabbits that they raise for food and for selling. They keep them in pens and from time to time wolves will break in and kill them and eat them. The Eskimos are wise to this and they take a double-edged knife and bury it in the ground by the handle and put rabbit blood on the blade and it freezes. Late at night the wolf comes and smells the blood, starts licking it, eventually licking so hard and ravenously that he cuts his tongue and ultimately bleeds to death.
I’m afraid that’s many Christians today…slowly licking a knife that Satan has stuck in the ground to render us ineffective. I’m afraid we’re not even aware of it? Have we been tricked by Satan into treating God like a vending machine at Wal-Mart. Do we just want to put in a quarter and hope we get back what we want? Have we cheapened our walk with God by just serving Him for what He can do for us? Do we just want $3 worth of Jesus? Do we just want His blessings…but, not the sacrifice that goes with being His ambassadors?
The problem we have is that far too many Christians are concerned about being “happy.” We say…well all I want is just to be happy. Do you know what, (this will be hard to hear), but the truth is if that’s how you feel, then you have not died to yourself and you will never experience joy, fulfillment, purpose and meaning in your life as long as you and your “happiness” is on the throne of your life. God made you for His glory…not yours. It’s all about Him…not YOU! And the hard truth is: until you put Jesus Christ on the throne of your life…you will never have joy…you will never have meaning…you’ll remain empty and you will float through life aimlessly like a ship without a rudder.
Many of us have water in our spiritual gas tank and that’s why we are so ineffective. We are stumbling blocks to people all around us because of our lack of holiness and our desire for purity. I’m convinced we need to die. We need to die to ourselves…our pleasures…our comforts…our security and our lack of holiness. Jesus said, take up your cross and follow me. He calls us to take up our cross! A cross means death! Have you died to yourself? Really? Truly? Listen, Jesus is either first or He goes to the back of the line. He’s a gentleman…and He simply stands at the door and knocks. Paul implored the church at Rome:
12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Romans 8:12-14
Are we being led by the Spirit of God? If so, we will kill the evil in our lives. We must mortify and destroy the sin! God cannot and will not fill our lives with His presence and His power if there is sin in our lives. If we regard iniquity, or sin in our lives, the Psalmist tells us that God will not hear our prayers.
Jesus is pursuing us. He is determined to pursue us because He knows the greatest joy in our lives will come if we allow Him to rule and reign in our lives. It’s Jesus and Jesus alone that must fill our tanks. We’ve got to get the “water” of compromise and rationalization about our sin out of spiritual tanks…out of our lives so that we may be effective witnesses for Christ.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
By the way…I know two lovely young ladies that are birthday ladies. Taylor turned 16 (my niece) on Wednesday and Katy will be 17 this Tuesday! Amazing how time flies…