The dangers of becoming a "professional" Christian

Yesterday was my sabbath, the day I chose this week to rest from everything that feels like work and to refocus on the LORD.  Because I have the privilege of serving full-time with our church, I work on Sundays.  Though it’s usually a blessed day, it’s far from a rest day.  So this week, I chose Saturday to sabbath.

As I drove to the grocery store on my chosen day of rest, I saw two young men on the sidewalk, dancing as they walked to the beat booming from a cell phone that one held (their version of a “boom box on your shoulder,” I suppose).

I heard a whisper, “Tell them about the destiny I have for their lives. Call out the treasure I’ve deposited in them. Invite them to use the gifts I’ve given them for Me.”

I smiled and waved as I drove by.  I did this so quickly, I didn’t see if they even noticed.

“Hmm… not exactly what I had in mind,” Holy Spirit whispered.  I drove on.

Down a busy road, I saw a minivan parked in an industrial lot with kids peeking out the open doors.

Two adults stood outside with a sign: “Help us get home. God bless”

The whisper: “Stop. Hear about their need. Bring a taste of My Kingdom.”

Wonderings of a calloused heart: “Scammers who go from city to city? A family truly in need? I’ll stop to find out, if they’re still there when I get back from grocery shopping. After all, it’s my sabbath.”

I never found out, as they were gone by the time I drove home.  I even excused myself, thinking: I would’ve stopped if I’d had a friend with me.  I sensed a sadness in my heart but shook it off to continue on with my sabbath observance.

Today, as I drove from the church building to the beach for our student event, I passed a worn-down house with a woman standing outside in the sun wearing a thick hoody and jeans.  The temp was in the high 80s.  Her face looked, in a word: “hopeless.”  I didn’t have a full word of encouragement to deliver to her, but I was prompted to stop and had one word: “HOPE.”

Was that her name?  Was that what she needed to hear?

I slowed down as I drove by.  While I stalled like a child delaying bedtime, she began walking toward a side door and entered the house.  I deliberated turning around to knock and share some “hope.”  I didn’t.

At our beach event, the sister who shared an anointed message spoke on stepping out in faith and listening to the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to work through us to speak to and touch others.  Ouch… “I’m listening, LORD.”

I returned to that house after the beach.  When I knocked, I learned firsthand the importance of timely, immediate obedience.

A man gruffly asked, “What do you want?”

“This might seem out of the ordinary, but I felt God…”

“Not interested.”

I didn’t get to see the lady who needed hope.

Holy Spirit, draw her nearer to Jesus and bring other Christ followers into her life who will share Your hope!

Jesus worked miracles on the sabbath, and it triggered the religious crowd (Matthew 12:9-14).  He didn’t stop to touch everyone or fix every problem.  But He did stop every time His Father asked Him to (John 5:19).  No matter what day it was.

Followers of Jesus do need regular rest (Mark 2:27-28).  But, we take no break from obeying Abba, from following the promptings of His Spirit.

Following Jesus is not my “job.”  I refuse to become a “professional” Christian.  If you minister to others for your livelihood, you might be tempted to think of your service as your source and yourself as a professional.

I am not a “professional” Christian, however.  It is not my day job to follow Jesus.  It is not even my duty.  It is my honor and privilege.  He died for me.  I live for Him.

“Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe.”

I willingly choose, in response to His love, to live for Him.

I need to repent.

I am not a 9-to-5, punch-in/punch-out “Christian.”  I live on mission.

I am not part of the religious crowd.  I live in relationship with Holy Spirit.

I am not a duty and obligation, “have to” kind of guy.  I get to serve the most wonderful Master!  Living for His glory is my joy!

I’ve learned recently from a friend that repentance is much more than feeling sorrow over my sin or even just asking for forgiveness.

In Acts 26:18, Paul retells the mission that Jesus gave him:
“…to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”

Paul says he obeyed this calling by preaching “that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds” (v. 20).

All the facets of verse 18 fulfilled in preaching repentance!

Peter shared that repentance brings times of refreshing from the Presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19).

I’ve discovered: repentance is turning from sin to face Abba, declaring, “This old pattern is not who I am. I embrace You! I believe what You say about me is true!”

We are called to live lives of repentance.  We are ambassadors of His Kingdom, ministers of reconciliation, those who run with the good news of His love!

Lord Jesus, tenderize my heart.  You died and rose again, so we can live in relationship with You, be filled with Your Spirit, and demonstrate the reality of Your resurrection.  You rose from the dead and so nothing is impossible for You!

I am a student, a learner, an obedient follower, walking in the footsteps of my Master, led by His Spirit.  I rest: daily and weekly.  I can’t fix everything.  I’m not the savior or messiah.  But I do know Him.  And I follow Him.  What He says goes.  As a disciple of Jesus, I will obey Him without question or hesitation.  I love Him, and I trust His heart that much.

I am not a “professional” Christian.  I am following Jesus.  How about you?

 

Unintended curriculum

The speaker shuffled his notes and feet uneasily. Impressionable young eyes stared back at him—some clouded with pain, others glowing with life.


He cleared his throat and told a “funny” story from his youth of a time he’d been intoxicated. The speaker went on to present a well-polished sermon. At the end of this youth meeting, a gray-haired woman waited patiently to address the speaker.

When her turn arrived, she gently questioned, “Were you trying to teach the kids that being drunk is fun?”

“No!” he snapped. “I was teaching from the Book of James.”

Shaking her head sadly, she sighed, “What about your opening? You had ‘em laughing intensely about being drunk.”

“That was just my opening illustration! It was meant to be funny. Didn’t you hear me qualify afterward that being drunk is a sin?”

“Let me be clear. I’m not saying you should hide the fact that you’ve been drunk before, but that story was merely intended to make the kids laugh. It made light of a serious issue in the lives of those learners.”

The true rarity in the story above is the woman’s wise, gentle rebuke. Thoughtlessness on the part of speakers is widespread and can be deadly. 

As a young student, leading the Bible club at my public high school, I read an article on unintended curriculum that confronted my attitude toward using my words. The article questioned, what do you teach without meaning to? What do you lead hearers to infer and what conclusions do they draw from your words? Our curriculum includes both our content and our attitude.

To avoid any unintended curriculum here, let me clarify. I’m not saying we shouldn’t share stories of past sin or present struggles. Growing to be wise and confident in self-disclosure is actually a mark of Christ-like maturity. However, always avoid speaking with an attitude that glorifies sin, sickness, or Satan. The shifty, shiny speaker in the story above neglected this for the sake of humor. As a result, his hearers were fed attitudes that may have led them into temptation and the very lap of evil. 

I have liberty to tell stories and to answer any sort of question. It’s a matter of what I say and how I say it. I often ask myself, “What will listeners hear and learn from what I speak out?” In group settings, I tell stories that lift up Jesus and speak truth clearly. In one-to-one conversations, I aim to communicate with a respectful spirit.

Afterward, I ask the Holy Spirit to convict me of any sin. He is faithful to do so. That’s part of His mission (Jn. 16:7-11). And I’m grateful for it. In fulfilling His mission, the Holy Spirit empowers us to fulfill our great commission. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for convicting and holding us accountable. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for sending Your Spirit in power. 

The Lord judges teachers more strictly, because our words hold the power of life and death for listeners (Jm. 3:1; Prov. 18:21). Oh, let us speak boldly and wisely. Whether an aged saint is present to confront us or not, every time we speak, let us do so with knowledge that we are held accountable for what we teach both intentionally and unintentionally.