This was originally published in April 2015.
These are the speaking notes of my teaching on Intentional Christianity. With the exception of a few personal anecdotes and another passage from Major Ian Thomas, the notes are complete and should be easily followed. Let me know what you think and share if you think it is worthy.
Tell the joke where God sent the fishing boat, sub and a helicopter.
We need to take steps in our walk of faith.
What do I mean by Intentional Christianity? First of all what it is not.
- It is not a form of legalism. It is not a way to earn you way to God. Your motivation for doing this is vitally important. Your why will determine your success.
- It is not a formula to put God into your debt. This is not a name it and claim it process where God will somehow ‘owe you’.
I can tell you that our God is intentional. He did not choose you by accident. He intends to use you. Whether to use us willingly or unwillingly is our choice. God can use the ‘accidents’ of your life to get your attention, to show you the love that others have for you or to bring change in your life. We can continue to thrash through our lives, like a bull in a China shop, or we can sit, wait and allow God to direct our steps. That is the first step in Intentional Christianity. It is when we hand over the reins of our life to our God and have faith that He knows what He is doing. That means we don’t worry, we do not fight against His leading and we freely accept His will. How do we know what His leading or His will is? That comes as part of our Intentional Christianity under the when and how of our sanctification.
I believe that Intentional Christianity is a way to live the sort of Christian life your soul and spirit aches for. I say soul and spirit, though your spirit has always craved this. Your soul had to walk a time in its own strength before it realized it could not do it any longer under its own strength. Your soul needed to be convinced. Your flesh will likely never agree, though perhaps that is even possible to a certain point.
I do not have all the answers, but with your help, I might have arrived a few steps closer. For me, I have been pursuing this in earnest since 2004. I have written many papers and I have spoken publicly many times on this subject. Each time getting a little closer, yet still not grasping the full picture.
I will try to attempt to answer the following question.
1. Who is the focus of our Intentional Christianity?
2. What does it mean to have Intentional Christianity?
3. When can we focus on our Intentional Christianity?
4. Where can we focus on our Intentional Christianity?
5. Why do we focus on our Intentional Christianity?
6. How do we focus on our Intentional Christianity?
One thing I have learned recently is that the Christian walk is an exchanged life. The old man is dead, but I am supposed to be living this new life under the strength, wisdom, direction and purpose of The Savior that bought me. My life was exchanged for His. Christ is in me, but I deny that when I live my life by my ideas of right and wrong, proper and improper and possible and impossible. If Christ is truly in me, then what ever He directs me to do will be right, proper and possible.
Who is the focus of our Intentional Christianity?
All the children in Sunday School answered? Jesus
28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 30 AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31 The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
2 Corinthians 5:15
15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
Major Ian Thomas described the Christian walk through the analogy of the God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt.
1. Egypt – is equal to the unsaved
2. 40 years in the wilderness – is equal to carnal Christians. Saved, but living a joyless life of Christian drudgery.
a. They are wonderful people. You would love to meet them. They talk all the language of salvation and they mean every word they say. They are not hypocrites! They are tired, many of them – desperately tired! God knows how tired they are, but they are not hypocrites.
b. They are overwhelmed inwardly with a sense of defeat and frustration and futility and barrenness – but when you meet them, they will smile sweetly and they will mean the smile they give you. They will grip your hand and they will say, “God bless you for passing my way!” They will thank you for all the encouragement that you have given them; yet, as you thank them for the message you have just heard from their lips, your very words of thanks will hurt them, because they know what you do not know – that for years they have labored in vain!
c. The fruit that has appeared to others has fallen – oh, so often, so cruelly often – to the ground – premature, immature – only to rot and never to reproduce.
3. Canaan – this is not heaven, this is the joy filled Christian on earth.
a. Canaan in the Bible is not heaven. It is not “pie in the sky when I die.” It is Christ Himself, and right now, living His victorious life through me. Indeed, it is only the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who is capable of living the Christian life; as Romans 5:10 declares, He not only reconciles you to God by His death, but He saves you moment by moment by His life; that is to say, He died not only for what you have done, but He rose again to live in you, to take the place of what you are. His strength for your weakness! His wisdom for your folly! His drive for your drift! His grace for your greed! His love for your lust! His peace for your problems! His joy for your sorrow! His plenty for your poverty! This is Canaan.
9 But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.
Like the Jews in the wilderness, they had no idea what they were missing out on, because they had never lived in Canaan. They knew what Egypt was like and the meat and spices they had in Egypt. They knew they were tired of manna in the dessert, but they could not imagine anything better than their old lives in Egypt.
The story of Salisbury steak for the man who has never had steak.
10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
This is the Fillet Minon of our Christian walk. I for one am tired of the manna / Salisbury steak.
Steven Shortridge speaks of 4 aspects of Christianity.
1. I love myself, for my sake.
2. I love God, for my sake.
3. I love God, for God’s sake.
4. I love myself, for God’s sake.
Loving myself for God’s sake is the missing step in my walk. This is why our youth are so dissolutioned by what they see in the church. Why would they aspire for the drudgery of living in the wilderness, when the sinners in Egypt appear to be having a lot more fun. How do we sincerely, intentionally become the joy filled / Canaanites that God intends for us to be? Loving myself for God’s sake is not about living selfishly and for myself. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is living unselfishly for Christ. It is exchanging me for Him. It is believing there is a Canaan and that Jesus will lead us there if we let Him. It is falling backwards into the arms of our Lord and knowing He will catch us. It is giving up the reins of our lives and handing them to Christ. It is what I have thirsted for and have always known to be possible. Why? Because I serve a loving God and He wants me to trust Him and to live victoriously through Him.
What does it mean to have Intentional Christianity?
1 Peter 4:10
10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
To employ means to use or direct (something, such as your time or effort) in order to achieve a particular goal. That is intentional.
15 If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
To choose means to select freely and after consideration. That is intentional.
1 Timothy 6:11
11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
To pursue means to follow and try to catch or capture (someone or something) for usually a long distance or time. That is intentional
24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
To stimulate means to make (something) more active: to cause or encourage (something) to happen or develop. That is intentional.
We, especially as men, are commanded to be active. We are supposed to be intentionally trying to stir one another to love and good works. Throughout my life, I have had men that encouraged me to start men’s groups, bible studies and retreats. They then followed up by actually showing up to the events they encouraged me to lead. Others have encouraged me by showing me how my efforts are making a difference in their lives. That might not have been their intention, but I can tell you it was God’s intention to confirm to me I was doing the right thing. The right thing being that my pursuit of His purpose has His blessing and that He intentionally wanted me to achieve that good work. No accidents.
When can we focus on our Intentional Christianity?
You might think the following items would be better suited under the How subject, but you would be just as wrong as I have been for so many years. There is only one answer for How, but the When is frequent and actually continuous.
Quiet time – When we intentionally pursue quiet time with the Lord it might include prayer. It might just be sitting and listening to what He brings to your mind. It is a conduit of how God can speak to your spirit. It is a time when you are seeking for His leading. It is a time when you can say thank you. It is not mystical but practical. How can God speak to you, when most of your life is filled with noise? Between the constant ringing of the phone, your job, your family, your ministry and your life, how could He possibly get through the din? If you do not take the quiet time, then perhaps God has to put you into a bed for a week or two so that you have to listen.
Godly friends – When we are transparent, open and vulnerable to those that truly love us, God can speak to us through them. Who better in this world for God to use, but those that already love you? If I was God, and did not want to terrify you, I would use your spouse, your parent or your friends to speak into your life. They can correct, encourage and counsel you to the right path. I for one want friends that have the love and the courage to stand up to me and argue, if necessary, when I am doing wrong. It takes a strong person, to get through my thick head at times. If you do not have these sort of men in your life, YOU NEED THEM. If you choose to be a friend, choose to be a faithful one.
Prayer – I am working on this one. This is not a strength of mine, but as my friend Jim pointed out to me, I might be praying more frequently then I think I am. Though I do not have lengthy periods were I formally pray, I do shoot out prayer arrows frequently. I seek God’s wisdom and guidance in most of what I do. I don’t ask His opinion when I know I am not following His exact will. I do thank Him for His grace and mercy, frequently.
Reading the Word – This has been a strength of mine, though I have left it from time to time. I have been frequently in The Word over the years and my fruitfulness during that same period of time is no accident. God prompts me when I read. satan frequently tries to distract me when I read. Mostly I just ignore him when satan does that, but sometimes I have to pray to banish him. God’s word is our strongest tool in learning about Him. Why do we need to learn about God? How can you love who you do not know? How can you freely serve who you do not love? How can you serve Him when you can’t hear what He desires? This is often the easiest place to hear God. If all I have shared of the When, are roads to hear God, then The Word would be the super Highway.
I put these under the When can we focus on Intentional Christianity topic, because this is when we are being the most intentional. This is when we have intentionally set everything else aside and we are seeking our God. This is when God can speak the most into our lives. Really, the short answer to When is always. This is an all day state of mind we need to achieve. This is what we are to be encouraging each other towards.
Where can we focus on our Intentional Christianity?
The short answer to Where, is everywhere. At work, at home, at church and out in the world. Please understand; your job, your church and your world is no accident. You are here or there for a purpose. When we actually allow Christ to live through us, all of a sudden we see ministry opportunities in front of us. It might be nothing more than a smile, a helping hand or telling someone you truly love them.
You might be at that job, or in that situation, for a long time or a short time. When God makes it clear you are to move, you will. While you are there, perhaps you are there to learn or to teach. You could be there to receive or to give, To build up or to tear down. To lift up or to be lifted up. If you believe that you serve an Intentional God, then He is leading you. Open your eyes and see the world as the Christ within you sees it. If you are willing, then He is able.
Why do we focus on our Intentional Christianity?
There could be so many answers to this question. Here are a few;
1. Because you love Christ and you want to please Him.
21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
2. Because you have been gifted to serve.
1 Peter 4:10
10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
3. Because we all want joy.
11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
4. Because it our purpose.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
5. Because the need is greater today than any other day.
2 And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.
6. Because we know we should.
17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
How do we focus on our Intentional Christianity?
There is only is only one how. That is through love.
8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
This was my missing ingredient for years. God brought men into my life to teach me what it means to love. It was uncomfortable for me and it was not something I even knew I needed. But God did. He was intentional about what He was doing in my life.
6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
I suspect we are all deficient in love. We do not understand it. We do not know we lack it.
1 John 3:11,16-18
11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;
16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
We do not know how to demonstrate it. We do not know how to communicate it. We do not love enough.
1 Peter 4:8-10
8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
We do not understand the power of love. We do not know what it would look like to be surrounded by love. We do not trust that love is enough.
1 Corinthians 13:8-13
8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.