Shall we begin again?

new-work-churchby J. Randal Matheny, editor

Every disciple who begins a new work in the Lord may well feel a bit like Luke, writer of the gospel which bears his name: “many have undertaken to” do the work of God effectively and use their opportunities so that the growth that the Lord desires might occur. That many have already done so might cause one, at first thought, to soon give up the idea. The thought soon appears, “Who am I …?”

But Luke did not let himself be intimidated by the many who had already put forth the effort to write. He believed that there was still much space for work to be done in the literary field. And so God used his efforts, as he did not use many others’ writings, by stamping Luke’s work with the inspiration of the Spirit.

Luke did nothing original, one might say. Others had already done it. Possibly, an inspired gospel had already been written. Perhaps even two. But Luke imagined that there existed still a space to be occupied and used for the kingdom of God.

He was not a witness of the things that had happened. Nor, apparently, did he have an apostle nearby who had been an eyewitness of Jesus’ earthly ministry, as Mark did when, according to tradition, he jotted down the memories of Simon Peter. Luke had to research, he needed to work even harder, a Greek who was a fish out of the Jewish waters, bridging the cultures in order to make sense of the Divine Expression within the Israelite context.

You and I count our disadvantages by the dozens. The reasons are innumerable why we cannot, must not, do something new, unheard of, unprecedented — nothing that escapes the truth of God, mind you, but a new service of that ancient spiritual dedication of the first Christians.

Spiritual secrets acquired the nature of secrets, not because they are difficult to discover, or because God kept the great majority of humanity from the most profound knowledge, but because personal ambition and selfish interest have hidden them from their eyes. The apostle Paul learned the secret of contentment, Philippians 4.12. But the secret is open to the world, God has revealed it to all, and not only reveals it, but offers it freely to any who will receive it.

Other secrets exist in the spiritual realm similar to contentment, among them the simplicity of the saving work of God. This is the “mystery” now revealed, as Paul liked to call the gospel. But it continues as a mystery to many. And a segment of that redemptive mystery is the human participation in salvation and the total detachment required to live the service of Christ as the Lord lived it.

Today, however, this spiritual service has become a job. It has turned into a nice addition for a life that one considers to be complete. It is the service of convenience, of the leftover, of the extra. No longer is it the service that consumes our very existence, the project greater than any individual or group of people, alongside of which the physical life just doesn’t matter any more.

I posted recently on Twitter that, if I were to begin a periodical about discipleship, I would call it “The Daily Cross.” The title recalls the words of Jesus in Luke 9.23:

“If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

The Way requires everything of us, yes, of life itself, for the love of Christ. And our Lord sends us in the midst of the world, not only to be good people, but to proclaim, in the face of criticism, rejection, and persecution, the saving Word. Proclaim without ceasing, not a political or social message, but spiritual and eternal.

Our preachers and teachers, however, are still on the level of trying to get people to show up on Sunday to meet for an hour.

No wonder that the Lord’s church is anemic and, in some places, dead.

So there is need for disciples to take the initiative, as Luke did when he wrote his story about the Master, to begin new works that will reach a world that, until now, has yet to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Will you begin it with me?

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