Just after the 9/11 attacks, thousands of young men and women enlisted in our country's Armed Forces. Indignant at the savagery of terrorism, these young Americans were determined to do their part to assure this would never happen again. Meanwhile, another story at the time got quite a bit less media attention. There were also people in the military in 2001 who went AWOL when our nation's leaders invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. I remember one young man telling the press that he didn't sign up to fight. He joined the military so that he could gain valuable skills, build a solid resume, and get money for college. But now that he would be required to put his life on the line, he was quitting...even though it meant facing military justice.
In a spiritual sense, American Christianity has a lot in common with that reluctant soldier. We have many of the outward signs of historic Christian faith, but underneath our "uniform," our commitment to God's Kingdom is weak. We follow Christ because we have determined that it's the smart play. Jesus forgives our sins and assures us of eternal bliss. He protects and provides for us, and if we play our cards just right, He might even give us the stuff we've been dreaming of. In reality, we are using God (or attempting to do so).
But the biblical description of following Christ is focused on God's Kingdom; all other things take care of themselves. True Christianity doesn't seek to use God; it is determined to BE used BY God.
This Sunday, we'll begin a six-week study of Ephesians that I'm calling "God's Plan for the World." What is God up to in the world, and how can we be involved in His work? We'll take a look at the plan He had in mind before He created the first atom (or the first Adam!). That plan is what life is all about; it's exciting to think of, to anticipate, and to be involved in. It is my strong belief that when we commit ourselves wholeheartedly to His plan, then we start to truly live.