I recently was apart from an internet exchange with several professed Christians where one person was issuing a seemingly stern rebuke to others for partaking in secular TV shows, books, and movies of any kind for any reason. The logic went like this; Jesus is coming, we need to be serious, we should fast, prayer, study, and not waste a second on any distraction.
I agree, Jesus is coming, there is no time to waste, you will find few with the degree of zeal I often call for from people of faith to engage, but the problem with the above attitude is it self-sanctimonious and it assumes the truly devoted Christian is a fasting, praying, studying machine, who is concerned only with their own degree of holiness. It ignores such statements of Jesus as, “Occupy until I come.” (Luke 19:13), “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” (Luke 7:34) And, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17).
The Ineffective Christian is no different than yesterdays Jewish leader in the day of Jesus who were fearful of being touched by a Gentile for fear of being made ceremonially unclean. They locked themselves up from the rest of the world, they judge it, condemn it, label it. They’d go up to the temple, in word, deed, attitude, and mindset, to cry out, “’I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector!’” (Luke 18;11). Such people keep the little ones from Jesus, all the while claiming to be a part of this elite disciple of Jesus (see Luke 18:15-17).
Walking with Jesus surpasses duty because it means knowing Him. Jesus is more than a list of rules; He is the rule of life. He is a friend of sinners. When on earth He did not stay on the mountain praying to the Father 24/7 rather He came down to the valley of sinners yet sinned not. I wonder what He exposed himself to in the company of harlots, drunkards, and greedy tax collectors? The problem with Christians today is they live not like their Savior because they have declared themselves too holy to be incarnate with their world like Jesus was.
The Apostle Paul penned words of such profound meaning that we have not even until this day began to unpacked nor grasp them. Consider the following:
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV)
This is where it gets hard, so forgive me, this may sting a bit; The Ineffective Christian is one who cares more about his or her status, reputation, and self-righteousness then gathering people for the coming Kingdom of God. Yes, time is short, so get off your Holy Mountain and get into the Valley where the real need is before it is too late.
Amy Grant, who has had her own issues over the years, in her youth penned this basic absolute spiritual paradox;
I’d love to live on a mountain top
Fellowshipping with the Lord
I’d love to stand on a mountain top
‘Cause I love to feel my spirit soar
But I’ve got to come down from that mountain top
To the people in the valley below
Or they’ll never know that they can go
To the mountain of the Lord
The scriptures are full of examples of Jesus going to the mountain tops to pray, and we likewise we must do so too but the real action happened when He came down to be with the people. Prayer, Bible study, and personal piety ought not to be ignored for they are of the utmost importance for those who follow Jesus, but if you never come down to the valley where the people are your life will lack action, purpose, and above all the very power of God. I have come to the very heart-felt sobering understanding that sometimes our lives lack power in part because we are not in connection with the people for whom Jesus wants us to pass the power unto.
I recently came across this thought in researching Christian balance;
“There are persons with a diseased imagination to whom religion is a tyrant, ruling them as with a rod of iron. Such are constantly mourning over their depravity and groaning over supposed evil. Love does not exist in their hearts; a frown is ever upon their countenances. They are chilled by the innocent laugh from the youth or from anyone. They consider all recreation or amusement a sin and think that the mind must be constantly wrought up to just such a stern, severe pitch. This is one extreme. Others think that the mind must be ever on the stretch to invent new amusements and diversions in order to gain health. They learn to depend on excitement, and are uneasy without it. Such are not true Christians. They go to another extreme. The true principles of Christianity open before all a source of happiness, the height and depth, the length and breadth of which are immeasurable” (1T 565).Listen, fellow believers, don’t get swallowed by the world, don’t live for its idols, and don’t chase it’s ways, for they are empty and it is all vanity as Solomon said, literally a vapor passing away. Don’t exclude yourself from real life so far that you are not of any earthly good. Piety is a good virtue; you do need to be faithful, yet so is being relational also a good and needed virtue. If you are so heavenly minded that you have zero points of connectivity to the people around you, then I humbly suggest to you, that you are out of balance, and in danger of being The Ineffective Christian.
A wise poet once said, “I know there’s a balance see it when I swing past.” (Between a Laugh and a Tear). Find the balance… And don’t be The Ineffective Christian.
Testimonies To The Church, Volume 1, p565. Ellen G White.