Return to the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus.
Are you devoted to a cause or the person of Jesus Christ? Modern Christianity has made devotion to a "cause" (missions, helping the poor, church planting, etc) appear like Christianity. But careful friends! There is a difference between God's purpose for having sent Jesus and what we think it's all about.
Luke 14:26 - If any [man] come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
This particular bible verse has always challenged me and continues to do so. If our closest relationships in life clash with the claims of Jesus Christ, He says it must be instant obedience to Himself.
Discipleship means absolute devotion to a Person, our Lord Jesus Christ. There is a difference between devotion to a person and devotion to a set of principles or a cause. The Lord Jesus, during His walk on earth never proclaimed a cause. But He did proclaim personal devotion to Himself.
There are many today who started off by faith in the Lord, and then grew in maturity and moved on into missions, helping the poor, caring for the needy and in the process have become devoted to the cause, rather than staying devoted to the Person. The cause is necessary indeed. But friends, the cause should never replace our devotion to the Lord Himself. The cause is but a fruit of our devotion to the Lord. Our devotion to the Person of Christ must manifest itself through the demonstration of love.
Throughout the gospels, we see our Lord Jesus proclaiming devotion to Himself.
Whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Whosoever believes in Him, not whosoever demonstrates selfless love and cares for the less fortunate, though that is commendable.
All you who labor and are heavy laden, come unto Me and I will give you rest. Here we see again, our Lord calling us into a relationship with Him.
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. Here again, we see the Lord extending an open invitation for us to abide in Him, the person of Jesus Christ.
Apart from Me, you can do nothing.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. Wow! What an awesome promise and what a profound invitation.
All through the gospels, we see our Lord inviting us into a personal relationship with Himself, the person of Jesus Christ. Most of us start off here, but then somehow we get caught up with the "activities", such as missions, humanitarian aid work, outreaches and other causes. Most causes are very good indeed, but then the busyness of it all and the sense of achievement it can give subconsciously causes us to be more devoted to the cause than to the person of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 2 is a powerful example of one such church.
Rev 2:1-5 "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; "and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. "Nevertheless I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love. "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent.
The church of Ephesus looked admirable. They labored, they displayed patience, they displayed hatred towards the evil, they discerned false teaching and false apostles and they labored for the Lord's name. But in all of it, they seemed to have drifted away from their first love. They were more devoted to the cause rather than have an undivided devotion to the Person of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
That is a great picture of many churches today. With a myriad of ministries under their belt, they seem to be doing a lot and all for the Lord's name sake. They proclaim to be laboring for the Lord. But in all of it, sometimes they seem to have drifted away from their first love. When you see a busy church, plenty of activities, conferences, seminars, prayer meetings and outreaches, but doesn't seem to be producing disciples of Jesus Christ, who in turn produce disciples, then it's probably time for introspection. There is a strong possibility the church has become more devoted to the cause than the Person of Jesus Christ.
Friends, watch out for those little foxes that try to lure you away from your first love. Our lives ought to be all about our love for the Lord first and foremost. All other things we do ought to be a manifestation of our love for the Lord.
Look back in retrospect and examine yourselves friends. Are you now finding yourself rejoicing in a sense of achievement because you went on a missions trip or did an outreach and saw many respond to the gospel? Are you now spending far less time in prayer and bible reading and personal time with the Lord due to busy schedules?
You may be getting devoted to a cause. Sit back and slow down friends. Nothing, absolutely nothing, no matter how successful it may seem is more valuable than your personal relationship to the Lord. Everything is worth sacrificing....everything is worth "hating" (using the Lord's language in Luke 14:26) in comparison to discipleship. Bless you friends.
I was radically transformed by the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ back in 1997 in a most unusual way and unusual place. Read my testimony here. Over the years I have come to realize a few basic truths that have altered my life.
True freedom is freedom from self-centeredness. Dying to yourself, your wants, your desires and to what gives you pleasure for the sake of others is more liberating than you think.