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Living half a life?

November 2011 | by Owen Batstone

Youth Feature

Living half a life?

I recently heard a lady sing about losing her lover. How does she cope? She answers that she’s ‘learnt to live half a life’. Unfortunately, that phrase is an insightful summary of the spiritual condition of many Christians.

A lot of us feel spiritually empty. We exist rather than live. Behind our Sunday smile we’ve lost our relationship with Jesus, and, where once that bothered us, we’re getting comfortably numb, learning to live half a life without him

Unaffected

I think of church last week. Most of us weren’t affected much by it. If we spoke about it at all, we probably critiqued the speaker or pianist. Few would say they met Jesus, and fewer still would be bothered that they didn’t.

Some people strolled in having only been awake for 20 minutes; others made more of an effort, dressing nicely for friends, but (in similar fashion to our week in general) meeting Jesus was not on our agenda.

Some of us noticed God’s absence, but quickly named his sovereignty as the reason for this, instead of admitting that we’ve learnt to live half a life.

Then I think about our private lives. The majority of my Christian friends and I are having very quiet quiet-times (if we’re having them at all!). We read and pray; nothing really changes our soul. We accept it. After all, ‘it’s the day of small things’ and we get on with our real life.

If Jesus ever possessed our heart, mind and soul, it isn’t now. TV or idle chat has become more interesting, and we’re OK with the status-quo. Everybody’s doing it.

We quite happily let yesterday tick by, living half a life. No expectation equals no disappointment.

Inevitably, this has affected our public lives. Most of us, instead of looking like shepherded sheep, are living rather sheepishly in public, as if without a Shepherd.

Dead to the world? Not hardly. We have the same jokes, lives and idols as the world, and we’re ready at hand with 100 sound responses for anyone who dares challenge us.

When preachers tell us to seek the Lord more and change, we tell them it’s easy for them to say. Besides, it’s their job to seek him.

Yes, it’s easier to block those thoughts out — half a life is less bother. Yet, deep down, we know it’s every Christian’s job to seek God.

Honesty

At this point many readers will be tempted to turn the page and find an article on grace. But before you go, I urge you to admit that you have slipped far from really knowing God as you should.

I want us to see it, because then Jesus Christ can become important to us again. If we see how far we’ve fallen, we can see how greatly he can save.

Avoiding conviction cheapens grace and makes us unappreciative and lukewarm towards the grace giver. Grace only becomes real when we really know we need it.

That’s so often been our problem. Our half-life begins with paying lip-service to being sinners, while secretly believing that we’re ‘remaining faithful’ to God by keeping consistent quiet times, church attendance or leading youth groups.

What need is there of Jesus for the person who thinks he is doing all he can? I believe most honest Christians will look at their walk with God this week and confess they haven’t remained as faithful as they should, chiefly because they’ve been content to let ‘consistency’ replace a living relationship with Christ.

If our meeting times with God were faithfully kept in the sense of depth and love, they would turn our lives and a whole lot of other things upside down. God can be known, not just read or known about.

Promises

Look what’s available: ‘One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple’ (Psalm 27:4).

‘That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you’ (Ephesians 1:17-18).

‘That you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height, to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God’ (Ephesians 3:18-19).

‘That I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death’ (Philippians 3:1).

These verses show us that Christianity is a relationship which extends far beyond our quiet times. They dispel the myth that automatically assumes that ‘those closest to God are the unnoticed back-benchers who quietly plod on’.

Too many of us are aiming for this character model instead of aiming for a blazing abundant life. Thank God for the quiet natured, often elderly, drinks serving, toilet cleaning invisibles of the church, but this model must not become an excuse for apathy.

Challenge

Instead, I would fully expect a Christian who walks with Jesus to be noticed in today’s indifferent climate. An overflowing life stands out among half lives. They may not be leaders or in the limelight, but their prayers would stand out in prayer meetings.

Their speech will be holy, passionate, Christ-centred and their hearts broken and contrite.

I’m not suggesting there are none that seek after God. Elijah was rebuked for saying that he alone was left (1 Kings 19:10,14,18). I’m merely saying, ‘Christians, we’re not saved for apathy. I appeal to every believer to seek Jesus afresh, with a new appreciation for the one who can save us from apathy’.

Dr Helen Roseveare didn’t settle for half a life. Even in her elderly state she can write: ‘I find myself longing, more and more, that I should know [the Lord] more clearly, follow him more nearly and above all, love him more dearly…

‘Nothing else really counts. I must allow his love so to possess me that anything that hurts him hurts me. Equally, anything and everything that he loves, I am happy to love equally’.

For her Jesus is real. The Bible is not a list of doctrines to be agreed with, but it’s about a Person who can be known and loved.

Our question then should not be ‘Has Jesus enough power?’, but ‘Have I enough grace and humility to acknowledge what I need and to allow him to make the necessary changes?’

Owen J. Batstone