Half-Hearted Creatures

By Julian Wells

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 ESV)

I have quoted John 10:10 probably as often as any other verse of Scripture, whether I was teaching, writing, or just having casual conversations with others. It resonates with me because I see so many Christians who act as though their faith is nothing more than an insurance policy guaranteeing life beyond the grave.

But the blessings of Christian faith include abundant life now- a life lived in a personal relationship with the One who gave his life that we may live eternally with him. That life does not begin at death. It starts the moment we surrender ourselves to the Savior’s loving care. And it is rich beyond measure!

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis

A Powerful Opening Line

By Julian Wells

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 NIV)

Every author appreciates the value of an attention-grabbing opening line. In Scripture we have no better example than this verse from the Gospel as recorded by John the Apostle. As one who writes for public consumption myself, I can’t help but wonder how long he spent crafting those first seventeen words. They are so powerfully poetic and yet so subtly packed with theology.

It strikes me every time I begin reading John’s gospel account just how perfect those opening words are- so perfect that John 1:1 is one of the most consistent verses of Scripture across all the various translations.

No other human author of the New Testament makes a stronger case for the deity of Christ than John, stressing that point unambiguously right up front. In addition to establishing that Jesus is God Incarnate, John also makes the case that Christ preexisted- both truths that defy human logic and rational explanation.

But the simplicity and the clarity of those truths as articulated in those seventeen opening words elicit wonder rather than controversy- not wonder in a questioning sense, but wonder in a breathtaking sense!

And he sets our hearts on course to a right understanding of who Christ is and who we are in relation to him. As A.W. Tozer articulates so clearly in the following passages from his book, The Pursuit of God, that is where a right relationship with God begins.

“Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. … God being who and what He is, and we being who and what we are, the only thinkable relation between us is one of full lordship on His part and complete submission on ours.” – A.W. Tozer

Transformative Power

By Julian Wells

“But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.” (Acts 13:30-32 NIV)

An encounter with the resurrected Christ transformed Paul overnight from the chief persecutor of Christ’s followers to his most fervent proclaimer. The reality of the resurrection transformed the disciples from cowering cowards after Jesus’ crucifixion to bold witnesses after he later appeared among them.

Christ’s resurrection was central to Paul’s preaching and is the foundational pillar of our faith in Christ. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul went so far as to say that “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14 NIV)

As Christians, the resurrection is the source of our hope, the antidote for our grief, the confirmation of the deity of Christ, and the promise of our own resurrection to live eternally with Him and one day be reunited with loved ones who share our faith.

After Paul’s first message in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch from which the lead passage above is taken, Acts 13:44 tells us that “on the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” People respond to the Gospel when it is delivered plainly, purely, and with the Spirit’s power- especially when that message is delivered by someone whose life reveals the kind of transformation that people observed in Paul after his encounter with the resurrected Christ.

Lord, like Paul, I want to experience the transformative power of your resurrection. (Philippians 3:10) May its reality and the promise of my own echo in my writings and resound in my testimony that I may be a more effective witness for you.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 NIV)

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25-26 NIV)

Hearing God’s Voice

By Julian Wells

“As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.’” (Hebrews 3:15 NIV)

There are a number of ways God speaks to us today, but his primary means of communication is through his written Word. That is why I try to start each day reading the Bible before other earthly distractions clamor for my attention.

But all too often I have been guilty of reading it just to maintain a reading plan without truly digesting what God is saying to me. Doing so results in prejudging the content to align with my preconceived interpretations and inclinations, leaving little room for the Spirit to guide me in a different direction.

We should never be so nonchalant about the best opportunity we have each day to hear the voice of God.

Years ago, after hearing a message by Dr. Charles Stanley on this topic, I recorded in the cover of my Bible ten ways we should read God’s Word to establish the ideal mindset to hear his voice. We must read it:

  1. Eagerly
  2. Attentively
  3. Trustingly
  4. Expectantly
  5. Prayerfully
  6. Patiently
  7. Humbly
  8. Purposefully
  9. Joyfully
  10. Repentantly

Remembering to adopt these postures as I read God’s Word has served me well through the years. When I do so, I rarely fail to hear God’s voice. He shows me things I’ve never noticed before. He feeds me, strengthens me, challenges me, humbles me, and gives me ideas for reflections to share with others.

If your life is too busy to read the Bible this way, then your life is simply too busy. When Christ walked among us, it was clear to all who encountered him that his teaching was unlike any before him, and yet so many missed his glory and majesty. We must not make that same mistake by allowing trivial pursuits to keep us from the awesome privilege of hearing God’s voice through the pages of his Word.

“I must honestly declare my conviction that, since the days of the Reformation, there never has been so much profession of religion without practice, so much talking about God without walking with Him, so much hearing God’s words without doing them.” – J.C. Ryle

Incomparable, Immeasurable, Unimaginable Power

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV)

As one who chooses to bring glory to God through writing, this passage always causes me to pause and reflect upon its implications. I firmly believe that the greatest personal hindrance to effective Christian ministry, whether that be preaching, teaching, writing, or any service to others, is a misplaced faith in ourselves – too much confidence in our own abilities, our own knowledge, our own wisdom, and our own strength. Such resources are miniscule compared to the resources that God stands ready to provide.

The apostle Paul understood this very well, describing in that well-known passage from 2 Corinthians about his “thorn in the flesh” how the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul went on to conclude, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor. 12:9 NIV) Paul had discovered that sometimes God has to reveal to us how weak we are, before he can use us for his glory.

In Ephesians 1:19-20 ( NIV), Paul describes God’s power as “incomparably great” and proclaims that it is “like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” How often have you stopped to consider that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at your disposal? Why would we ever neglect such readily available and limitless divine help – not just for Christian ministry, but for the daily struggles of life?

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21 NIV)