(with an Apologetic Takeaway)
In order for believers to make the optimal choice of living genuine Christianity—instead of phony Christianity or hypocrisy—we need to allow Christ to live His life through us (Gal. 2:20). That’s the premise of Chuck and Nancy Missler’s book The Choice.1 When we love the Lord, experience His love, and become cleansed vessels for the Lord’s work (as the Missler’s point out), we can pass Christ’s life and love along to others—as well as the life-saving Gospel.
This blog post, highlighting God’s love and nearness, will hopefully encourage more believers to do that very thing.
Consider the Parable of the Monks and the Monastery
I recently read a parable pertaining to this topic. I hope it grips you spiritually as much as it gripped me. It is about Catholic monks, and while I’m not advocating that we join a convent or live a monastic lifestyle, the lesson of this story is valuable.
A monastery of monks, deep in the forest, had existed for hundreds of years. The head of the monastery was called the Abbot. One day a young man asked the Abbot why the local villagers visited the monastery. The Abbot replied, “They come here seeking answers to questions like Where do I find meaning? and How do I get the most out of life? Then we minister to them.
But over time, the monastery changed. A couple of the monks became cranky, and they closed their hearts to God and to each other. Other monks became jealous. Then the poison of gossip crept into the monastery. The monks were losing their joy and not behaving kindly to one another. Eventually the monks grew impatient with the village guests.
What did I do wrong? the Abbot wondered. For hundreds of years, people had come to the monastery longing for a glimpse of God, and it thrived. Now they didn’t receive any visitors at all. The Abbot became wrapped up with guilt and shame.
The Abbot tried everything to revitalize the monastery, but nothing worked. Finally he told the monks he was going on a three-day journey thirty miles up the mountain to see a wise old hermit who lived there. Hope rose in the Abbot’s heart with every step.
He found the hermit standing outside a cave. As the two of them sat together and drank tea, the Abbot described the situation at the monastery. He then asked the hermit three questions:
1) What wisdom do you have for us?
2) How do we rejuvenate the monastery? and
3) How can we best serve the people who come to visit us?
The hermit replied, “I will respond to all three of your questions in one sentence: “Go back and tell the brothers… ‘The Messiah is among you!’”
The Abbot walked down the mountain pondering the hermit’s words. Eventually, the full meaning took root deep in his soul.
When he approached the monastery, he cried out, “Gather everyone into the chapel!” There he relayed his conversation with the hermit, concluding with the hermit’s wise advice: “Go back and tell the brothers… ‘The Messiah is among you!’” The monks gasped. To their astonishment and embarrassment, they had forgotten to make “the main thing” the main thing in their daily lives.
Immediately the monks took that powerful truth to heart. They looked at each other differently, thought of each other differently, and treated each other differently. They showed renewed kindness, respect, and love for one another. Compassion and forgiveness returned to their hearts.
As the monastery flourished, the villagers returned, bringing friends with them. They all lived together in happiness and harmony, for the monks had begun living with the glorious awareness that the Messiah, who loved them and died on the cross for them, was in their very midst!2
We too can be gloriously aware that Jesus the Messiah is in our very midst.
Jesus told His disciples, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). Whenever believers get together, Jesus is right there with them. If you are a Jesus follower, He is always with you individually as well. So at any time, you can say, “The Messiah is with me!”
Sensing the Messiah’s continual nearness and knowing that He loves us supremely leads to our loving Him more and more, in return for His deep love for us (1 John 4:19). It leads to moment-by-moment choices to relinquish our lives so Christ’s life can shine through us. Being a “real Christian” means knowing how to surrender ourselves to God so He can live out His perfect life through us.3
How often are you aware that the Messiah is in your midst?
It can be easy to forget the amazing and comforting truth that Jesus is always with us, especially because we don’t see Him face-to-face yet. Can you answer all of these questions “yes”?
Is Jesus with you when you answer your emails? When you go shopping? When you negotiate a business deal? When you eat dinner, feed the baby, or talk with your spouse or friend? The marvelous truth is “Yes, He is!”
The Scriptures promise believers that Jesus the Messiah is always in our midst.
Jesus told His disciples, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). That promise applies to His followers today too. At the very moment you first believed in Jesus, the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ) came to dwell within you (Romans 8:9, 11). And Ephesians 1:13–14 tells us the Holy Spirit is the seal upon us, the down payment that guarantees our inheritance until redemption.
The Lord assures us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). When Charles Spurgeon, the well-known 19th-century English preacher, taught on that passage, he used the word never five times, emphasizing that “God will never, never, never, never, never leave you nor forsake you.”4 Hallelujah!
Who is this magnificent Messiah who’s always among us?
Here are a just a few of His powerful titles:
- The Lord Jesus, the divine Son of God, and the Lover of our souls
- The long-awaited Deliverer, who was predicted 300 times in the Old Testament
- The One “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8)
- The “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8)
- The One who loves each of us with an everlasting love
Jesus the Messiah loves you with “agape” love.
He loves you on your best day, and He loves you on your worst day. His agape love for you is pure … unconditional … sacrificial … unsurpassable … continual … and unfailing (1 Cor. 13:4–8). In fact, the Lord’s very essence is love (1 John 4:8, 16).
Love is the reason God created people in the first place. He desired to have a love relationship with us. Romans 8:38–39 tells us that nothing can “separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 3:18–19 tells us that Christ’s love—its width, length, depth, and height [which is the shape of the cross!]—passes our knowledge. (See also Romans 5:8 and John 15:13.)
Jesus’s mission of love when He came to earth is powerfully stated in my Study Bible this way:
“[The Messiah dying for us] on the cross was the ultimate deed of servanthood. He died for our sin so we wouldn’t have to. Now we can have eternal fellowship with God instead of eternal suffering and death.”5
What does it mean to pass along God’s love and life to others?
When we choose by faith to initiate God’s love, we put our own circumstances and feelings aside and allow His Spirit to flow through us with God’s love and life. We can be His arms and legs in serving others—as instruments of God’s grace and forgiveness. We can reflect Jesus’ life and show forth His agape love.
Galatians 2:20 powerfully presents the key to our passing along God’s love and life. The apostle Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (emphasis added).
Some Christians don’t pass along Christ’s love and life.
Today there is a shortage of love in the church, which turns off many unbelievers to the Christian faith.6 It can also block someone’s salvation or diminish the impact of a Christian ministry. Here’s an example from the Missler’s book:
An unbeliever named Megan was engaged to the love of her life. She gave up her job to move to the city where her fiancé worked. However, two months before the wedding, their engagement fell apart. Megan moved again, took a new job, and made new friends who were Christians. They criticized Megan and gossiped about her, causing her to feel unloved and rejected. Their behavior displayed phony Christianity when what she needed was Christian brothers and sisters to encourage her back to emotional security.7
And here’s an example from my own life. I call this illustration “A Penguin with Paddles.”
As a young believer who loved the Lord, I was enthusiastic about wanting to serve Him. So I tried ridiculously hard to start a certain ministry—but with my own efforts. In effect, I was asking the Lord to come along and help me do something good for Him, without asking or conferring with Him about the matter!
Like a penguin standing on a giant iceberg with two paddles in hand, I foolishly and furiously tried to steer the Christian ministry forward. Yet the massive mound of floating ice stood still. Finally I reached the point of exhaustion, realizing the futility of my efforts. After all, the Creator of the universe, with just one breath, could direct the ocean currents to move an iceberg. So I surrendered my paddles—and my ministry goals—to the Lord.
Actually, how effective would any ministry be if I were to take the lead without the Lord’s guidance? Surely it would not be authentic Christianity. We can get in God’s way by trying to make good things happen. By doing so, we’d be building our spiritual lives on the sand instead of on the rock (Matt. 7:24–27).
Zechariah 4:6 says, “‘Not by [our] might nor by [our] power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord.” He desires to accomplish His work through us as His instruments. If we ask God for His wisdom on how to fit into His plans, He will give wisdom to us generously (James 1:5), step by step. Then God’s life and love will flow through us in ministry, and our God will be glorified!
Here are three wonderful results of passing Christ’s life and love along to others.
- We won’t get cranky with people or act harsh or unforgiving toward them or mistreat them (the traps the monks in the monastery fell into). Instead we will show God’s kindness, respect, and love toward others. In doing so, we will bear fruit for God’s kingdom and run our races with endurance to win (Heb. 12:1–2).
- God can accomplish countless victories through Christ in our lives, such as unconditionally forgiving someone who has deeply hurt us—which is especially hard to do when we feel justified by the world’s standards. We can make a faith decision to forgive and watch things turn around. Then we’ll be living the abundant life (Luke 10:28). That is real Christianity!8
- We can be effective in evangelism. The Missler’s book tells the story of an imprisoned German pastor. God used his life to reflect His love to a sadistic prison guard who enjoyed inflicting pain on the pastor. Because the pastor loved God, he chose to be an open vessel of God’s love to that guard. Eventually the guard’s behavior changed radically, and he admitted that he saw the face of Jesus in that humble pastor [and presumably was born again]!9
Consider this Missler quote concerning evangelism: “God’s life through us is the only thing that will bring our families, our friends, and our relatives to Christ. It is us conveying His lovingkindness that’s going to draw them—regardless of our circumstances, or how we feel, or what we think.”10
If you’re not genuinely and intimately experiencing the Lord’s personal love for you, here are two main reasons: 1) either you doubt God’s deep love for you, or 2) you’ve built a wall of frustrations and hurts around you.11 The Missler’s pose these important questions:
- Can you tear up that long list of justified hurts and wrongs others have done to you?
- Can you unconditionally forgive that person who has hurt you over and over again?
- Can you lay aside all those things and choose to yield yourself to God?
Of course we cannot love that way naturally, but God can do it through us supernaturally! If we yield ourselves to God—our negative thoughts, emotions, and desires that are contrary to His—and become open vessels for His will to be done, He will love the “unlovable” people in our lives through us.12
Considering that our magnificent Messiah is indeed with you, and that He shed His blood on the cross to redeem you, will you begin making those moment-by-moment choices to live real Christianity and impact the world for Christ?
AN APOLOGETIC TAKEAWAY:
When we “esteem others better than ourselves,” as we are exhorted to do in Philippians 2:3–5, unbelievers often take note of our selfless conduct. For people don’t naturally behave that way. Such supernatural work through our lives by God is an apologetic for the Christian faith. When we reflect the humble attitude of Jesus Christ—who came in the form of God as a Servant—it points to the reality of God’s existence, and to the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit in us. It serves to confirm that we do, in fact, have a personal relationship with the living God.
1Chuck and Nancy Missler, THE CHOICE: Hypocrisy or Real Christianity (The King’s High Way Ministries, 2001). 2An adaptation of Matthew Kelly’s parable in HOLY MOMENTS: A Handbook for the Rest of Your Life (Blue Sparrow, 2022), 1–11. 3Missler, 13–16. 4Charles Spurgeon (https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/never-never-never-never-never/#flipbook/ ). 5Introductory Commentary, Life Application Bible: The Living Bible (Tyndale House Publishing, 1988), 1445. 6-7Missler, 107. 8Missler, 15, 126, 133. 9Missler, 24, 109. 10Missler, 132. 11-12Missler, 133.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version®. ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.