Are you having the desired effect?

December 31, 2022

What effect do you want to achieve?

The military when posed with a problem and finding a solution will get their officers and NCOs to think in terms of effect.

What effect do you want to achieve? Is it to neutralise? To destroy or maybe to deny the enemy a course of action? They force you to think in terms of activity which will lead to an outcome.

Ideas have consequences

In a similar way we live in a world of ideas. Some good, some bad but how many of us take the time to think about the implications of our ideas? Christians like to test their ideas by discussing the fruit that they will bear. We believe that our faith and the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit should be richly visible in our lives - Paul refers to this as the fruit of the spirit in Galations 5 v 22. “ Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” Do we always reach these lofty ideals? - sometimes, but often not because of the ongoing spiritual war. We are distracted, tempted and waylaid. This means that bad seed is planted and the result could be a harvest of bitter fruit. See Isaiah Chapter 5 to see what God has to say about that.

Will there be a harvest in my life?

Over this last year, I have been thinking hard about my own life and if there is likely to be a harvest at the end of summer. For sure there has been a mix of good and bad seed planted. The good was the upbringing I received and the early direction from parents and grandparents, The bad seed was embracing the individualistic culture of our time, believing that God was rather more interested in my happiness than my holiness. If anything, I became a deist, not trusting that God had a plan for my life and if He did - it would be zero fun. When death would bite, I wanted the admission ticket to heaven, but I also wanted some of the more materialistic aspects of life. I threw myself into the late 90s and early 2000s thinking only of me, me and me. I know that my experience is not unique for many “evangelicals”. Many of us have come back to the fold but we deal with heaps of regret as we think back on the prodigal years. How did we drift so far off track? What were we thinking? In my case it was “issues of the heart”, fear of missing out, trying to fit in, ungodly company, love of money, small compromises which became big compromises and personality flaws which were exaggerated by short term thinking.

Here I am 15 -20 years later with at least 2 pivot points getting me to where I should be - it is important to point out that I have never experienced a Damascene conversion or seen bright lights - I have been on my hands and knees crawling through scrub and bramble to reach that narrow path again because I know want back on it. This has involved a lot of repentance and continual mortification of sin. With the clarity that only midlife brings, I have been able to shine a light on the darkest recesses of my heart and there is a slow dawning realisation of what happened. There are 2 parts of the Christian message - Justification and Sanctification. Justification is about getting right with God. Sanctification poses a much more challenging proposition - How then shall we live?

Believe! yes! Now what?

I’m prepared to take full responsibility and I’m explaining this from my perspective but I struggled to find any red meat in living what I understood to be a Christian life. Intellectually, it didn’t challenge me - it got me to this point of “believe” but it left me there. Surely there had to be more than being “nice and kind”? Other Christians I met seemed very-satisfied. They had the golden winning ticket, and they talked in a curious Christian vernacular like members of a closed secret society and then there were others like missionaries I met in Africa, doing what seemed like the right thing but it held no interest to me. I knew there was truth in the message but I just couldn’t work out how to fit in - so I drifted and filled the big hole of my curious mind with productivity books, a prosperity gospel, pursuit of leisure and many other selfish pursuits.

The secular and sacred divide

On one hand - faith promised joy but my life had little.  I was trapped in a way of thinking which separated the world into 2 different spheres - the Secular and the Sacred- never the twain met. Faith in a box on one side, while adopting whatever views were current in my professional and social circles on the other. My life had become splintered and segmented.

Any part of me that claimed Christianity felt wholly inadequate and on the secular side I had a deep sense of disillusionment with my material success. Who knew that Jesus was onto something when 2,000 years ago when he said - “you can’t serve two masters”? Here is the exciting news - Chistianity offers an integrated philosophical worldview and you aren't supposed to live a fragmented life. All of Christ for all of life -Jesus is king over every area of our lives and not just Sunday morning.

I have done much work to get my head around this over the last 12 months but if you are a Christian reading this, if you are feeling what I have been feeling. We need to question what we believe, how we believe and why we believe.  

"Chistianity offers an integrated philosophical worldview and you aren't supposed to live a fragmented life. All of Christ for all of life -Jesus is king over every area of our lives and not just Sunday morning."

An integrated approach

What I now understand is that Christianity, correctly applied offers a complete undergirding for a fulfilled life. Being meek and mild is not necessarily part of the deal and the movement is only getting started. Sorry, my dispensational friends, this show has a long time to run.

I’m finding great illumination in reading some of the reformed confessional statements of the 1600s: The Westminster catechism and 1689 Baptist confession stand out as important contributions - They are grounded in the truth of the Scripture and speak with such clarity and confidence about living out an integrated way of life that bears good fruit and causes us to live for the glory of God.

Jesus put us here to do a job - Matt 5  13-16. We are to be salt and light. We are here on this earth to create an effect by shaping the culture and by God’s grace we can do it if we ‘crucify’ our personal hunger for success, power and public acceptance.

You are not too late

Just like saving for a pension - you are never too late to get on board! - even if you think you missed the boat on this, if you are still breathing, there is time - and as the adverts say - “you can do it from the comfort of your own home”

Remember what God said in Joel Ch 2:

               25 And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.

               26 And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.

Ask any Christian who finally gets it, when the penny finally drops, and he will tell you we follow a supernatural God of restoration and action - a God who hears the prayers of his people and a God who saves and we have seen it with our own eyes.