A few weeks back my friend Mike Lombardo and I were talking over coffee. We were talking about faith and what it means to be a Christian today. I went home and did what I do best, I wrote an essay on the subject and sent it to my friend.
This is that essay.
What the Christian Life is
The Christian life is not about duty or service or “working hard” in our ministry. It is about those things, but it’s not only about those things. Serving God is a byproduct of one thing: love. God is love (1 John 4:8); therefore, everything about God is love. He cannot do anything apart from what or who He is. Our Christian life is about gazing upon His beauty all the days of our lives and praying to Him the things that He places on our hearts (Psalm 27:4). Our work, whether it’s in ministry or the marketplace, is secondary to loving God. It’s part of loving God because as Christians we aren’t looking for outward recognition or rewards (something I struggle with a lot). Rather, we’re working at what we do in ministry or the marketplace as a form of worship. Everything is done for an audience of One, for Jesus. We recognize that Jesus is looking for one thing. He’s looking for men and women who will live for love (Matthew 22:37-40). A Christian who is living with love as their goal, loving God will all their strength, mind, heart, and soul is untouchable. This Christian is not motivated by what other people think; the examination of man is not a concern for this Christian because loving Jesus well is the only motivator. Jesus is our final examiner (Rev. 2:23), and therefore, living before His eyes is all that motivates us.
Jesus is our Bridegroom (John 3:29). This is not to say that Jesus is our boyfriend or that he’s our “lover” in the sense that our spouses are our lovers. He’s the lover of our soul. Jesus is our lover…the lover of our soul. Christians are being prepared as a perfect bride for Jesus (Revelation 19:7). Deuteronomy 32:9 tells us that “the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance.” We were created because God wanted a family and Jesus wanted an eternal companion to reign with Him forever (Rev. 19:7-9). Humans are different from angels in that we are created beings with a free will to either choose Love or reject Him. God will have mandatory obedience (Phil. 2:10-11), but He has placed the desire inside us to be voluntary lovers of Jesus (Ezek. 36:26-27). It moves the heart of Jesus when we make deliberate choices to love. Being the Bride of Christ isn’t about being less masculine or more feminine. The Bride of Christ reality is about reigning with Christ in the age to come and being in close, intimate union with Him, and being an expert about the emotions of Jesus’s heart. The Bride knows the Bridegroom. The church knows the heart of God and is about God’s business. King David was a “man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22)” and was a lovesick worshipper. John the Baptist was in love with God and fully embraced his role as the Bride of Christ. Even John, known as “the one whom God loves (John 13:23)” was called a Son of Thunder — a pretty masculine name. Being the Bride of Christ enhances masculinity (and femininity) as it encourages us to go into the deep with God and live out this adventure with Him and rule and reign with Him in the age to come. Being called a Bride of Christ is similar to being a Son of God, something which women are called. We must remember: there is no male nor female (Galatians 3:28) when we’re talking about who we are with Christ. We are lovesick worshipers, lovers of God.
The romance of the gospel is not romance the way we define romance in this day in age. The romance of the gospel is “the adventuresome love that’s filled with the spirit of abandonment. It is fearless, courageous, costly, demanding, heroic love. It risks everything; it demands everything (Mike Bickle).”
A Secret Life of Love
Everything we do is in secret. Misty Edwards, who sings some of the best worship music I’ve heard, sings that “life takes place behind the face (Garden).” So much of the Sermon on the Mount is about what takes place on the inside. When we choose humility, we are loving God. When we choose not to put ourselves up on a pedestal and announce to the world how great we are, but instead we go low, we are loving God. It’s not wrong to be proud of accomplishments, but there’s something special about living a secret life with God. Living before His eyes means that He sees everything we do for love. He’s happy when we choose to do something that only He’ll see and that we’re thrilled knowing only He saw it. Jesus is our supreme motivator. He’s the only one who has an opinion about us that really matters. This is because at the last day, when we’re standing before Him, He’s going to ask about how much we loved. He’s not going to ask how big our ministries were, how much money we made or gave away. He’s not going to care that we became doctors and climbed to the top rung of the ladder of success. Success is defined totally different to Jesus. His question will be this: “did you learn to love?” Did you love Jesus, especially in secret? Did you love others? When it was time to defend yourself because you were misunderstood, did you lash out, or did you go low and take comfort knowing that Jesus still thinks you’re awesome…and that was more than enough for you.
I could write for hours on this subject; however, this was supposed to be a quick and succinct treatise on our thoughts about being loved by God and loving God. I haven’t had a chance, unfortunately, to write about my favorite book of the Bible, Song of Songs. I’ll write quickly, I don’t believe it to be a “playbook for the bedroom.” I see the book as a portrait of God’s heart for the church. It’s God’s heart calling out to us telling us that he wants us to “run away together–into [His] cloud-filled chamber (SoS 1:4 Passion Translation).” He transports us into His house of wine (secret place), revives us, and refreshes us (SoS 2:4). We are individual gardens.I often say, “I am a garden” which comes from SoS 4:16. God calls us His “garden locked, or garden enclosed (SoS 4:12; 4:15; 5:1). It’s this garden reservoir where God dwells with us secretly. The word garden, I believe, is a euphemism for our soul. God comes to us and encounters us in our garden, which is a locked place no one else has access to except Him.