This is just a thought...one point, taken from the teaching I did at the Master Builder's International Conference last week.
Been contemplating the reality of jaded Christians...oh, for about the past year or so. Many, many start well, but don't continue well. They don't leave the faith necessarily, they don't even visibly "backslide". They simply become critical, unloving, and (deep down) unbelieving.
Maybe they get tired. Most have been hurt and disappointed by life and by the church.
Well, join the flippin' club. You heard me right. Sorry if you were expecting sympathy, but you aren't getting it. You don't need sympathy, you need someone to shake you out of your self awareness.
Anyone who has been in ministry - lay or otherwise - for longer than 5 years has seen some sordid stuff. They have bumped into the weaknesses of others, even (gasp!) their spiritual leaders. They have had prayers seemingly unanswered. They have been disappointed.
If you have served God for 20 years or more, I mean really served God, which means serving others faithfully either on the mission field, or in a local church, you have lived 3 lifetimes compared to the pew-warmer or the non-church-goer. You've come up against the worst in human nature, often by just looking in the mirror.
I don't care what you've encountered or who has hurt you or what your family history is, you have not been through more than the apostle Paul, and he managed to remain fresh and free and unjaded for his entire life. How? I think partly because he made it his conscious goal. Read I Timothy 1:5 with me:
Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to vain discussions, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.
What is the goal?
1. Love from a sincere heart
2. a good conscience
3. an unfaked faith
I want to focus on number 2. The Greek application of a "good" conscience in this exact, particular verse actually means a "happy, pleasant, joyful, agreeable" conscious awareness.
A pleasant outlook. I think it would be well called a "vital optimism".
Lord knows, the love from a sincere heart and an unfaked faith would preach for fifty years, but for now, I want that vital optimism. The only way to have it is to believe the gospel. Any other functional belief system, especially one built on law and self effort, will wear thin after a few years, and you will become jaded and cynical.
(I call it "functional belief system" because there is what we SAY we believe, and then there is how we actually function in our day to day life...)
Two things the gospel addresses - two functional (and false) beliefs:
1. I must do well.
2. Others must do well.
Grace reveals both of these false foundations to be the shifting sands they truly are. As soon as the winds and storms come and beat upon these false beliefs, you will experience chaos in your soul.
No, you must not do well. You must believe in the substitutional sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He did well on your behalf.
No, others must not do well. You must love others. Faithfully. With some degree of continuity. The only "onus" is on you. The only one you are ultimately responsible for is you. What is your responsibility? Love God, love others.
Oddly...amazingly..."slap-your-forehead" epiphany - when you love God and love others, you will do well.
To subscribe to those two false yet alluring beliefs (I must do well - others must do well) is to live in a self imposed, artificial holiness, "not understanding what you say, nor the things you affirm". You will ultimately lose your vital optimism. You will become a jaded woman, unable to change your mind. Oh, you will still be able to gather followers, and you just might fake it till the day you go be with Jesus.
More power to you.
But, if you don't mind, I am going to follow Paul's example, not yours. My top three goals are to love sincerely, to keep that fresh, happy conscious awareness, and to walk every day in unfaked faith in a supernatural God.
Who is with me?