Go for the Testimony "Christian By Birth, Disciples By Choice"

What’s your story? I mean really. For you, why Jesus? Can you remember the very first time you heard his name? If not, maybe you were born into a home that didn’t know him. More likely, you were born into a Christian home. Or one that tried to be, or thought it should be. For most of us, Christ has been in the atmosphere of our lives from our childhood. ‘Member swingin’ your legs in a pew somewhere, maybe even here, when they were too short for your feet to touch the floor? (And mama motioned, “No.”) How about moving from Sunday School class to class with somebody holdin’ your hand? I remember! How about sittin’ in youth group tryin’ to keep your eye on Jesus, but sneakin’ a peek at the cute girl/boy a few seats away? You get the picture. It just feels so natural, easy, fitting. But then, maybe something happened. You got turned off by church folks, or turned away. You had a “do” with the preacher or some other leader. ‘Went off to school, into work, marriage, just life, and Jesus kind of faded. ‘Still in the atmosphere, maybe, but not a real, compelling presence, guiding, challenging, shaping, pointing the way in your everyday life. Is that your story?

Or do you remember some crisis. Some terrible trial when you cried out for help and Jesus came. Some very quiet moment of deep reflection, maybe. No dilemma or desperation, just an inspiration. Maybe he spoke to you one day, seemingly out of the blue, but so clear-as-a-bell you can swear you’ve heard his voice.

What’s your story? For you, why Jesus? Maybe you really haven’t got much of a story. You barely heard as a child or teen. Or those closest to you said “no” to him, or by word or example, kept you apart from him. And now you’re here, wondering, seeking, with kids of your own to guide, maybe, and wanting to walk with him, but not just sure how to do it.

However you’ve come to hear and see him, this is only the beginning. The other matter matters most: walking in his way. This means grasping that love is a verb, not a noun; as much action as emotion. As much right being as right knowing. In short, there comes a time for recognizing, that while many of us may be Christian by birth, we are disciples only by choice.

O, the glory of knowing his name right early. Like Samuel, in the life of Hannah, a child, “lent to the Lord!” If you’re a parent or grandparent (by any means), aunt or uncle, let me urge you to help those special children in your life experience that sense of twoness, one hand in yours, one hand in Christ’s. In fact, there’s no adult here of any age who can’t claim a neighbor’s kid. ‘Or by the myriad means of church (and non-church) groups, some child of this world, to connect in some way to the Hand of Heaven. If your own childhood brought you to God in Jesus Christ, make sure you spend a little thank you time with God everyday for those who made it so. And then commit to passing on the blessing.

Hannah’s little Sammy never knew a day he didn’t belong to God. Can we say that for ourselves? Our young? Look at the process. #1. No accident Hannah brought Samuel to the Temple, the place where God was known to dwell. #2. She entrusted him to Eli, literally, God’s man, God’s person. She put her beloved in the hands of another who knew God. True, there was an actual program, even in that day, for training kids in religious life. But the real thing, #3, is the relationship, the one-on-one with someone who knows how and where to walk with God. And #4, Hannah insisted on bathing Samuel in hope-filled prayer. She never read the words. But Hannah would have understood completely, Jeremiah’s words for troubled parents in the most troubling of times. It was when Israel lay in ruin; nothing looked like the world parents grew up in. Parents were strangers in a foreign land and time. (We’re not exiles. But you don’t have to be much over 30 to look at this world, our culture, our news, from kid-carnage in schools to language options on your phone line to wonder where we’re living now.) Listen to the prophet’s advice, “Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward him in the life of your young children.” Popular Christian writer Stormie Omartian may not have everything right, but she’s spot-on here, “When we watch him, walk with him, wait on him, worship him and live in his Word, we will win the battle for our children.” Not before. Not at all. So-help-us-Hannah, let’s do for our kids as she for hers. (#s 1-4.)

Oh, yes, may God-in-Christ be in the air, even from our birth. But there’s a deeper depth, a higher high. There comes a moment for all of us, even those who kinda grew-up-in-church like Samuel, when we have to tune our ear for God. He calls our name. And we answer. Others of us come from different backgrounds to hear God calling us. We’re like the fella in that Philip-story Linda read. Busy in our jobs and lives. In a scurry-hurry. Multi-tasking while we drive our chariots. This guy, a government worker, literally, on his way home come Friday afternoon, was at least reading his Bible on the way outta the city. (We descendants of his drive Rt. 95 ‘most any afternoon, with one hand on the wheel and our mind on some other world, likely not heaven.) We’re folks who’ve got a desire to know and believe, but we need help. We too need to answer when God calls our name. And we need to see there’s nothing to stop us from stoppin’ our chariots, gettin’ out, and headin’ for the waters to decide for Jesus, right here on the spot!

Here’s the thing. No matter how we get to this moment, carried by our mammas or sprung from our chariots upon reading the Word, discipleship, following Jesus, living/being more and more like Jesus, demands a deep-down, fundamental decision from us, followed by those daily decisions that bedevil us week in and week out. DON’T BE FOOLED. Even after, long after, we decide for Jesus, we still have to decide with him, every day. I admit Beverly’s the stronger Country-Western fan at our house. But I have to say the brother’s got good advice who sings, “If you’re going through hell keep on going; don’t slow down, if you’re scared don’t show it…. Face that fire, walk right through it…. You might get out before the devil even knows you’re there.” Deciding by faith is continuous. But living in faith will often require us to alter our course, our ways, to walk in the way that leads to life.

Long before Jesus, Samuel got it right when he heard the Voice and answered, “Lord, I am your servant. Your servant is listening. Speak to me about where you would like me to go and what you would like me to do.” (I Sam. 3:10) Have you asked that in your life? Will you ask that as you enter the week to come? That ole Ethiopian in the chariot got it right in the days of Paul. Once he understood that Jesus is the promise of God for Life, he did not hesitate. What about us? Instead, he asked the question, “Is there anything to prevent me from living with Jesus, living like him?” He spied a watering hole, and literally leapt at the chance to begin the Christian walk with his own baptism. Are you and I ready to take a similar leap from our own chariots? The ones that carry us on such a busy round, attending to our own affairs so much more than to God’s affections? Pray and think before you answer. You won’t be quite the same again! Did you know there are some 58 times in Scripture, all in the NT, the words “each other” or “one another occur? None of them are for spiritual sissies. All of them require of us, as people and as a community to live in ways radically different from the world at large. Just a few samples:

1. Forgive one another. (Col. 3: 13) How can we? With Jesus help.

2. Admonish each other. (Col. 3: 16) That means improve each other, not tear each other apart.

3. Confess your sin to each other. (Jas 5: 16) How many of us wanna do that? We’ll need a radical new trust!

4. Love one another as I love you. (Jn. 13: 34) Jesus commands it. God expects it. We struggle to attain it.

As long as we are satisfied with Jesus in the atmosphere of our lives, we’re unlikely ever to enjoy the stratosphere, the upper reaches of this life, much less the next. I can think of little more blessed than virtually to be born into the Christian faith. But I do know one thing. To decide to walk the disciple’s walk, to strive to be like Jesus. God prepares us for it, wherever we are trained up from our birth to pursue it. By the spirit, God moves us to desire it, or we would not be here, regardless our beginnings. And in Christ, God sustains us through it, “with [us] always, even to the end of the age.” (Mtt. 28: 20)

Born into it, or seeking after it, all of us are invited to answer. This is the question: Why Jesus, for you? You’ve heard the witness of others. How do you reply? Come on and respond today. And then tomorrow, and the day after, and all the remaining days of your life, go for the testimony! Live your life in Jesus Christ!

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