One question that arises from time to time when talking with people is this: Where does the vision to go overseas and work come from?
This is a very good question! As I listen to people, it appears to arise in different ways. One of the more common ways is by being intentional in reflectively and prayerfully reading his Word and by being intentional in obeying what we learn. As we do this the more opportunity he has in taking our desires and interests and reshaping them so they become more like his (Romans 12:1-3).
But, in thinking of this, we need to stop, step back, and look at our motivation as to why we are even Christians. Why do you and I identify as a Jesus-oriented person?
I don’t know about you, but my initial motivation to follow Jesus was for “fire insurance” – to avoid hell. I admit this was a very ignoble way to begin my journey; but, it was where I was. Amazingly enough, it didn’t matter to Jesus. He accepted me and poured out his Spirit upon me. In that moment I immediately became a new creation in Christ. Miraculously, my whole internal system changed – my thoughts, motivations, and so much more. I was no longer concerned about fire insurance. From that moment on I wanted to know him.
A friend of mine started his journey at a completely different place. I don’t think I have ever met anyone who thought so deeply about getting baptized as he. His parents were serious disciples of Jesus; so, I guess he had their genes.
What he was worried about was if he was making the decision to dedicate himself to Jesus and be baptized to please his parents. This concern paralyzed him.
As we talked about it, I didn’t know how to help him resolve his dilemma. So, I prayed.
Then, I looked up at him and asked: “Do you want to love Jesus?”
He said: “Yes, absolutely.”
“Well, then,” I said, “if you want to love the Lord, just go ahead and do it.”
The lights went on in his head and he started beaming. He had been so focused on not making this decision to please his parents that he didn’t realize that he really wanted to love the Lord.
He was baptized a week later.
I tell this story so that we can stop and self-reflect on our motivation for being a Christian. Why do we identify ourselves with Christ?
No matter what motivated us to come to the Lord in the first place, he expects that our initial motivations will change. We are to move from thinking about what we can get out of him to following him because we love him.
The story of the woman wiping Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-47 highlights this point:
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. A woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind Jesus at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.
Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him— that she is a sinner.”
Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
This woman came to Jesus out of her deep remorse for what she had done. She left responding with love to the forgiveness, acceptance, and love that she had received.
This is what Jesus is asking from each and every one of us. He is asking us to respond to the love he has given to us with love. Love to be love has to be freely given.
Is it the desire of your heart to respond to Jesus with love?
If so, take a few minutes to talk to him, to voice your desire to love him with your whole heart, to follow him wherever he may lead, to do whatever he may command. Be honest with him and voice any misgivings you may have, about how you have failed to do so in the past and your insecurities about how you will do in the future. As you voice to him your intent, your misgivings, and your insecurities, allow yourself to be surprised by his love, just as this unnamed woman was. Allow your mind and your heart to receive and be immersed in his unending wellspring of grace, mercy, and love.
As you do this, and as you follow him day by day, you will discover how able he is to take our hearts and our interests and make them like his, so much so, that we find ourselves caring for those around us – those we had never even noticed before – and for those who are geographically distant from us. It is then that the desire to be involved in what God is doing in his world arises, and takes us down paths we never could have imagined taking.
We have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.
1 John 4:16