Some of the most miserable people I know are “burned out” Christians. They begin their new lives in Christ as shooting stars, full of life and joy. They share the gospel with great joy and brighten up every room they enter as the Holy Spirit empowers them. However, as the weeks turn into month, some new Christians become bitter and discouraged. Their cheerful commitment to the Lord turns into dry obligation. Some become outwardly hostile towards other Christians and church activities, while others slowly drift away from Christian fellowship and their life in Jesus. On the other hand, other new Christians enjoy steady growth and continued delight in serving the Lord. I have watched these two types of Christians develop over the years and have tried (usually in vain) to help the struggling ones find peace and renewed commitment to Christ. As I have prayed and studied regarding this problem, I have come to the conclusion that the answer is very simple: the spiritual life of a Christian hangs on a single commandment.
In I John 3: 22-23, we find these words, “And whatever we ask, we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment that we believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another just as He gave commandment.” This simple two part commandment is the very essence of the Christian life – we trust Jesus with our lives and we love other Christians. Obviously, the outworking of this commandment can take a lifetime to achieve, but with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God as our guides, we can live in trust and love.
Could you imagine a group of Christians, whether a church, a ministry group or even a family that did everything they could to live by this commandment? There would be no church fights. There would be no control issues because of manipulating or “guilting” of others. There would be no posturing for position. Backbiting and gossip would cease. Every person involved would serve and love their brothers and sisters above their own interest. The Word of God would take precedence over denominational or personal preferences. People would serve the body of Christ and share their faith with others because they wanted to not out of obligation. Plus, we would receive what we asked from Him because we kept that commandment.
If we consider the life of Jesus during His time on the earth, we can see that this is the way He lived. He trusted God explicitly, even in the face of the cross. He ministered in gentleness and love to people as they sought out His miracle working power. He trained his disciples by actively engaging in ministry with them as their living example. He issued specific but simple invitations to those in the crowds to follow Him in a deeper way. Many men and women took up that challenge while others chose to hang on to their self-life. He didn’t berate, patronize, manipulate, or try to convince those that rejected him of the error of their ways – He just loved them.
In light of what I’ve written above, I am going to conduct a 30 day test in my own life. I am going to do my best, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, to operate my life and ministry on this commandment. I am going to actively trust Jesus in all my affairs. I am going to commit to a lifestyle of loving other Christians (particularly those that hurt or disappointed me), not just as an obligation due to my job as a pastor. I will continue to speak the truth of God’s Word, but only in love, never in condemnation. After 30 days, I figure things will be so good that I’ll just live this commandment from now on. If it sounds good to you too, why not try it with me? The results should be amazing!