November 14, 2011

Keep It Simple

In Acts 10, we find the story of a man named Cornelius.  He is a military man and a Gentile (not a Jew).  Here is how he is described in verse 2:
He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.
The story continues about God working in his life and the Apostle Peter's.  Big things happen: God shows Peter that the Gospel is for the Gentiles, not just the Jews (a MAJOR paradigm shift) and Cornelius' family receives the Holy Spirit and is baptized.  The story is famous in Christianity and many applications can be drawn.  Today I'd like to focus on that second verse.

Cornelius' family feared God.  How did that express itself in the way Cornelius lived?  He was generous to those in need and he prayed regularly.

Seems so simple.  But these simple behaviors are the expression of a life that was surrendered to God.  He trusted God enough to share what he had.  He trusted God enough to talk with Him regularly.  The base-line reality of Cornelius' life was a trust in God.

From there, God did some amazing things through and in his family.  All of Christendom knows His story.  But it began with the day-by-day life of faith, nothing flashy or dazzling.  Trust and obedience ... reminds me of a song I know.

*     *     *

I have wondered a lot lately what being a Christian should look like.  Is there a mold?  Should we all look the same?  Is my life too void of amazing supernatural works, indicating that my faith is too weak or, worse, not authentic at all?

When I look around me and try to determine what it means to "be a Christian," I'm going about it all wrong, aren't I?

Lord, forgive us for seeking an experience or recognition, rather than seeking You.
Lord, forgive us for comparing ourselves with others, rather than asking You what You have for us.

We need to look to the Lord Himself, the one who's calling us to be His, to know how to live with and for Him.  This year as I've read through the gospels a couple of times, I've been jarred by how simple the call of Jesus is.  All He said to the twelve was, Follow me.  In his teaching he fleshed out the call - it would require their all - but that never changed the simplicity of the invitation to follow Him.  He's the vine, we are branches.  Being a Christian at it's most basic level, is connecting to that vine: daily, intentionally, whole-heartedly.

He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.

So my word to you today is KEEP IT SIMPLE.  Cornelius put one foot in front of the other WITH the Lord, praying regularly and giving generously.  He sought God, not a chance to get his name in the Bible.  God does move among His people as we walk by faith.  But usually, it's not glamorous or profound.  Today most of us will do our jobs, eat our meals, talk with family and friends, and so on, without any radical supernatural events.  How long did Cornelius live obediently in relationship with God before and angel showed up and he met Peter?  And I'll bet he continued to live the same way afterward!  Most of his life was like ours: work to do, family to care for, the needy to tend to, etc.

Jesus said, Follow me; repent and believe the good news!  Jesus calls us to Himself, not an experience, not human praise, not someone else's experience.  John Stott says it this way:

Faith has absolutely no value in itself; its value lies solely in its object.  Faith is the eye that looks to Christ, the hand that lays hold of Him, the mouth that drinks the water of life.

THAT is the Christian life.  God may have in store for you a story that is recorded on paper, encouraging future generations of Christians.  Or not.  Either way, KEEP IT SIMPLE because that is the nature of the call.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. 

   And what does the LORD require of you? 

To act justly and to love mercy 

   and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

As you "do life" today, ask God what that might mean at different moments, with different people, and in the midst of the various tasks you have to do.  And may He bless you as you simply walk with Him.

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