Next Level Christian

Next Level Christian

This is a follow up on my previous article entitled Funerals.  I’ve spent some time thinking…  

I recently read, Going the Second Mile: Letting God Take You Beyond Yourself, by Mel Blackaby.  The premise is based on Matthew 5:41, “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”  This is one of the many directions given by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount.  Roman law required that occupied peoples were required to carry the load of a soldier or Roman citizen for one mile and no more.  As Jesus does, he takes a principle and raises the bar.  Jesus instructs his disciples to go two miles – to take it to the next level.

Again in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says take everything you know from the law and the prophets and then go one step further, treat everyone like you want to be treated.  (Matthew 7:12.)  In other words, don’t just be a rule follower, actually treat people with love and respect.  Don’t live your life based upon technicalities, live based on what you would want to receive if given the choice.  Raise the bar.  Go the second mile.  

Paul talks about going from a baby Christian to a mature Christian in 1 Cor. 3:2.  Likewise, the author of Hebrews uses the same analogy to describe the maturity of the believer:

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  (Heb 5:11-14)

I remember when I first became a Christian, God convicted me about the language I used.  Honestly, I had a filthy mouth.  He and I worked on that until I finally reached the point that I didn’t even think curse words, much less say them.  It was my first major battle with my old self as a baby Christian.  After several decades as a Christ follower, I no longer struggle with some of my previous sins, but God never ceases to call new ones to my attention!  I strive every day to exchange my base nature for the righteousness of God.  Some days it’s a win.  Some days, not so much.

Alas, a proper walk with God doesn’t end after getting rid of a few bad habits.  There’s always more.  Studying God’s Word shows there is always more to learn.  Worshiping God reveals he is always there for a fresh encounter.  Teaching about God affirms my beliefs and unveils truth to others.  Serving God by serving others grants me the honor of acting as God’s agent in the here and now.

No matter how much I do, or how disciplined I am in my walk with God, there is always a voice in the back of my mind saying, “But wait, there’s more!”  [Think late night infomercial.]

Just like living on milk can’t satisfy a toddler like it does an infant, neither should occupying a seat in a church satisfy a person who has been a Christ-follower for some time.  Getting rid of a few bad habits and attending church every Sunday, maybe even Wednesdays too, shouldn’t be enough.  Praying, journaling, and reading my Bible every day shouldn’t be enough.  Even teaching a class or leading a ministry shouldn’t be the pinnacle of my service to the Lord.  The bottom line is:  Jesus has raised the bar far above ordinary existence for his brothers and sisters.

What does that mean for us as believers?

It means that we must live the way Christ lived.  It means that we must go the extra mile because Christ went every mile for us.  It means that we must love others with a love that we deeply desire for ourselves.  We have no choice but to live a life of sacrifice, because true love requires sacrifice.  Remember the cross.  Remember, not only did the Father sacrifice his one and only son on the cross, he sacrificed himself on the cross that day.  True love requires sacrifice.

It means level up brothers and sisters.  Don’t be content to stay at the beginner’s level.  Up your game continually.  There’s no retirement plan.  Comfort isn’t an option.  “But wait! There’s more!”

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.  Phil 3:12-16

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