People don’t say it much any more, probably a sign of the times. Back in the day, however, when my wife Vicki and I would visit churches, some kind saint would often praise us for the sacrifice we were making on the mission field. While I would always thank the person for their comment, it also invariably left me uncomfortable. Time and again I felt the urge — to which I never gave in — to ask, “And what sacrifice are you making for the Lord, where you are?”
If the saints of God were indeed sanctified, consecrated, and devoted as the name “saint” implies, it would be a fine question to ask, causing no discomfort, confusion, or consternation. If our people understood and practiced true discipleship, the question would be a natural part of a spiritual conversation. But it is not, generally, a conversation that is held among us, nor can it be.
Some people I could ask that question of, because they would understand it and could answer it. But not many. I am privileged to know some of the finest and most dedicated servants of the Lord. Some of them serve full-time in the Kingdom of God, and others hold down jobs to support themselves and their families. Both hold in common, however, a commitment to further the Good News of Christ. They are more than Sunday church-goers and home Bible readers. They are out sowing the seed of the Word of God. They are sacrificing their time and energies to teach others. While others were becoming experts in their games or building bigger barns, they were investing themselves in learning Scripture and applying themselves to bringing lost people to salvation.
Such, however, is not a typical dedication of life among us. It is not. We all see it, I suspect, or praises for our sacrifice on the field would not be forthcoming. Most accept this situation and like it, apparently, while others are bothered by it. I do not know what is necessary to change it, though in my own teaching and example, I show the simplicity of Christ and renounce all authority except that of Scripture, which is the full authority of Christ. I seek to strip away from my faith everything that is non-essential, to reinforce what is necessary, and to pass that on to converts and brethren whom I teach. God will judge whether I am building on the strong foundation of Christ “with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw” 1 Corinthians 3.12.
In 2014 we began a new work where we live. Still, it is necessary on a regular basis to remind those closest to me of the bad habits and addictions of the brethren. I do not refer to tobacco, drugs, or alcohol, but rather to the materialism, the denominational spirit and language, the clergyism, the ritualism, the biblical ignorance and laziness, the worldliness, and the authoritarianism prevalent in many places. And not only among the Sadducees or Pharisees in our fellowship, but what people call the mainstream. What a relief that God is sovereign and Christ is Lord! For they know hearts and works as no man can know, and judgment will be righteous and holy. Before the Master each one will stand or fall, Romans 14.4. But the Word continues to call us to true repentance, to genuine transformation, to sincere service, to unflagging zeal. And so shall we speak, as long as the Lord of life gives us breath.
Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness in honoring one another. Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer. Romans 12.10-12.No, I tell you! But unless you repent you will all perish as well! Luke 13.3, 5.Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much—homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10.29-31.
The editor is carrying through on a decision he made long ago. He is grateful to have been called by God’s grace.