“Have you retired from actively, aggressively serving God?”
Hearing that question and sensing the challenge in it, I believe the person being asked, more often than not, is immediately overcome with 1.) energy-sapping fatigue, or 2.) crushing guilt for “putting his hand to the plow” and then “drawing back”, or 3.) maybe even anger, remembering again the hypocrisy, politics, empire building and greed he saw in the church.
The purpose of a question like that is generally to get you to evaluate your life as a Christian, an important part of being a believer in Jesus Christ. Are you a Sunday-only, passive, “retired” Christian? Honest self-awareness is a rare commodity among God’s children. However, the implication of the above question is that this is “bad” and you should come out of “retirement” by being more actively involved in whatever church or ministry the questioner is promoting. Is that true?
I believe this implied challenge to get believers to “serve the Lord” more diligently does just the opposite: it makes the Christian retiree remember again just exactly why he retired!
It generally takes years of trying to serve God before earnest Christians decide they’ve had enough and quit. For whatever reason, one of the above-mentioned ones or some other one—known or unknown—continuing in the battle is no longer for them. They may continue to go to church but they are spectators, no longer active, eager participants.
If this little vignette is true of you, Hallelujah and congratulations! You are right where God wants you to be: completely retired from serving Him. Furthermore, as long as you want to stay retired, by all means, do so, because a sovereign God is working out all events and circumstances in order to accomplish just what He wants, including your retirement (Ephesians 1:11). Do you believe that verse?
He is also actually working inside you to change your want-to’s to conform to His want-to’s for you (Philippians 2:13). How about that verse?
He will also ultimately be completely successful Himself in completing His job of making you holy (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24; Philippians 1:6). What about those two?
If those verses are indeed true, how can you not be free to do just what you want, including staying retired?! However, there are some very strict rules you must follow to be successful in your retirement—“Essential Rules for Christian Retirees:”
1.) Don’t ever read your Bible—until you can’t put it down.
2.) Don’t ever go to church (stay home and watch football)—until you can’t stay away.
3.) Don’t ever tell anyone else about Jesus (witness)— until you can’t keep quiet.
This is crazy talk to the believer living in a negative film, as we have discussed over the past few weeks, because he is seeing everything just the opposite of God’s reality! God’s positive-film reality is being free to do whatever one wants to do, including freedom to remain permanently retired from serving God in any way.
However, . . .
What if you begin to discover a strange, unfamiliar, inexplicable feeling for those around you that you cannot explain? What if you find yourself spontaneously feeling compassion for them, even those you have not even liked in the past? What if you actually have an overwhelming urge to communicate to them that they are worthwhile and adorable to God, and, strangest of all, that not only does He love them, but you love them too?!
What if you begin to experience actual joy as you go through your day, completely independent of any circumstances? Jesus calls it “full joy” in John 15:11? What if you are so full of joy you cannot contain it, and “full joy” becomes “overflowing joy,” and it seems to affect all you meet!
What if you find yourself overcome with contentment, a sense of well-being, completely satisfied with who you are, where you are in life, and what you have, not resignation because “it is God’s will for me” but actually complete satisfaction? This satisfaction is what the Bible calls “peace”—“peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7)—and no one can understand or explain it, because it has nothing to do with what is occurring around you.
When these occurrences pop-up, unconsciously, unsolicited, with increasing regularity, you have changed paradigms. You have moved from living by the law, in a negative film, to living by faith in your utter, permanent, unchanging forgiveness secured by Jesus’ death at the cross.
There can literally be no other possible explanation. The love, joy, and peace discussed above, along with six other equally rare heart-attitudes, are listed in Galatians 5:22, 23. They are called the “fruit of the Spirit,” and God has a total monopoly on producing His fruit.
Only God can generate the genuine article, and He will not compete with you when you try to do so yourself. When you finally retire, give up, and completely quit trying to manufacture your own phony, imitation love, joy, peace, etc., and learn to trust your Daddy for everything, He roars in with the real articles, without even your knowledge that He is doing so. “Is this what those familiar words mean? Wow!”
Can you see that living by faith in God’s forgiveness and unconditional love for you, and not by trying to keep God’s rules that you can never keep, brings new life? By all means, stay retired—if you possibly can. However, don’t be surprised, however hard you try, if you find it impossible to do.
Next week, I want to view several familiar Scriptures to demonstrate reading the Bible, not in negative film by the law, but through the lens of faith in God’s positive reality.