It has been 28 years since I made my choice to serve Christ, to be guided by Him. In those years, I have worked mostly in small congregations. Sometimes we were smoothly working in love and good works, sometimes torn asunder in strife. Sometimes we were actively evangelical, joyously adding souls to the Lord; sometimes we were sadly stagnant, losing souls to the world. I, personally, was always in there working, sometimes for the Lord, sometimes for Satan.
A few years ago, I moved to a congregation of about 150 souls, a fine prosperous congregation with kindly but hard hitting preachers, and friendly, competent elders. The song leader was exceptionally gifted, and the people sang with the joy and enthusiasm in their voices that surely reflected the love in their hearts of the Master. The classes were among the best I had ever attended, with unusually good participation and lively discussions, making Bible teachings relevant to the world we live in. Everything I could need seemed to be here, and I settled down, feeling loved, comforted, edified.
With the passage of time I became aware of a vague uneasiness that at first I refused to acknowledge. The congregation was largely middleclass and not strongly evangelistic, only a few souls were added each year. The excellent classes were helping me cope with my world, but were not causing me to bring in lost souls. I was stagnant. I prayed about my uneasiness, asking the Lord for guidance. Eventually, I saw clearly that I was simply lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, comfortable, fallen asleep in the Lord. I had lost the desire to reach out to lost souls, to teach Christ to them. I wanted only to take care of ME. I knew I would die, for Christ would spew me out of his mouth.
Looking about me I knew that others were dying also. But how could this be? We all LOOKED so healthy! With my eyes opened by a compassionate Savior, I saw what I think is the true reason: We had, many of us, transferred our affection from the Lord to the church, from the head to the body. Our efforts were now spent in loving and comforting each other, rather than loving the Lord and bringing the lost to him. Many of us came happily to the worship of God, putting on our Christianity like choir robes when we entered the building. And we took off our Christianity like choir robes, hanging them up on pegs, when we left the building. Oh, we took our good morals with us, and our Bibles so that we could study for the next class. And we took our membership lists so that we could call one another and encourage each other in our status quo. But we left Christ at the building. I say these words to point the finger at no one, for no one is more guilty than I. It is my hope that perhaps some others will recognize themselves in this description, and that we may turn from the path that leads to death and return to the narrow path that leads to life eternal.
How to do it? Return to our first love. But how can we rekindle that fire for the Lord? For me, the start has come in setting aside an hour each morning, very early, before I get caught up in the cares of the day. During this time
I take a short passage of scripture and reflect upon it, meditate upon it. I had forgotten how to meditate! This is also a time for prayers, and I keep a list of those for whom I need to pray. For myself, I pray fervently: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners will be converted unto thee" (Psalm 51:10-13). I pray also that he will be my guide in EVERYTHING in my life, be truly my Lord. In the quiet of this time I have learned to listen. I think that many others, like me, have prayed for guidance and been too busy to listen to the answer!
I feel stirrings within me that say the Lord is working on my heart, and I find that pretty frightening. After all, there has been a certain peacefulness in knowing that I have done about as well as most other Christians, my life being an example to non-believers. Oops! That sounds like I have been guilty also of joining the number of those who "measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise."
So I will now measure myself only by the scripture and I am seeing how negligent. I have been. But God is patient, long suffering, not willing that any should perish, and he is leading me in the right way because I have asked for guidance. I am convinced that the key to success in the Lord is giving him permission to be truly Lord, master of EVERY area of my life. Once again I am seeing Jesus as my personal friend, guide, savior. As I open my heart to him, he is cleansing it and renewing my spirit to do his will. The fire is being rekindled and the warmth will cause the words of life to flow from my lips to the waiting ears of lost and dying sinners.