Everyone who drives has shared a common experience, getting lost. We set out with a destination in mind, but for a variety of reasons, we get off track and end up somewhere that we never intended. Life works like that too. We have goals and destinations in mind, but sometimes we take a few wrong turns. It is no different spiritually. We begin with a desire to be close to God and live the full life that Jesus offers. Yet, it seems that we struggle to find our way home.
Here are three wrong turns that will kill your spiritual life:
1. If you give up on the church.
Last month, author Don Miller wrote a blog and mentioned that he didn’t attend church much anymore. The internet nearly broke with the volume of negative response to his post. You can read it here. I have no interest in criticizing Don Miller. The important reality is that his story is a common one. The last generation of church has been devoted to the task of making it more appealing to unbelievers. The next generation of church faces the task of making it appealing to believers. A growing cry among Christians is that they love Jesus but hate the church.
I understand. I have wanted to give up on the church on many occasions. Conflicts, horrific music, apathy, meaningless traditions, legalism and bad teaching have all tempted me to go home and stay home. But, I can’t. And, I shouldn’t. The reasons are many, but for the purpose of this post, I just want to highlight the importance of the church on your spiritual development.
The church is a community of friends that can help you grow by teaching you the bible, leading you in worship, confronting your sin, praying for you, modeling Christ for you, serving you, loving you, and counseling you. Then, you can grow further by offering those same things to others. Even the ugly parts of church life such as conflict can be points of deep growth if you choose the hard thing and work it out like family. You might say “My church experience hasn’t been like that.” I understand. Me too, but Jesus plan is the church. Find a church that lifts up Jesus and teaches the bible. Don’t expect perfection. In fact, expect imperfection and decide to be a part of making it the community that God intends it to be. That alone will grow you up.
2. If you pick and choose your Christianity.
People have always trended toward designer religion. We choose what we like and leave what we don’t. That’s okay when it is a matter of preferences. Choose a church that worships with the music you love. Read the bible translation that best helps you understand God’s Word. Embrace the spiritual disciplines that connect you with God. That’s all good.
However, when it comes to obedience, we don’t get to pick and choose. God calls you to live out a moral standard that is in direct conflict with the culture. Popular opinion does not determine what is right. God does. We live in a day that is undergoing a major shift in morality from the biblical standard. It is common place for people who follow biblical values to be demonized. It will take great courage to follow Jesus in the days to come, but it is essential if we want to impact our world and if we want to grow close to God. In 1 John, the point is repeatedly made that light has nothing to do with darkness. You see, we cannot claim to love Jesus and refuse his commands. We can’t be close to God and live a life of sin at the same time. It just doesn’t work that way. Jesus is either changing your life or he isn’t really in your life.
3. If you leave ministry to the professionals.
The first two wrong turns are massive trends in Christianity today. This one has been around a long time, but it is still crippling followers of Jesus. A simple biblical truth is shouted throughout the new testament: You were given gifts in order to serve God. Yes, there are some people who end up using their gifts as their vocation, but this does not diminish the absolute necessity for all believers to use their gifts to serve each other and reach the world. The mission of God depends on it.
But here is what else depends on it: your spiritual life. Serving doesn’t just impact others. Serving impacts you. You grow. You mature. You learn. You change when you serve God. There is a spiritual principle that when you give, you receive. There is no greater example than in serving. You serve in order to help another, but what happens is that you develop too. Without fail, I learn more when I teach than when I listen to someone else teach. I never feel as content as I do when I sacrifice for someone else. I never experience the bond of community like I do when I serve with a group of people. Ministry is not just about what you do for someone else. It’s also about what God does in you.
If you want to grow and enjoy a rich walk with God embrace the church, surrender to all of God’s word and get serving others. It may be popular to turn away from these things, but Jesus talks about a road that was full of people and it leads to destruction. It may be tempting. It may be easier. It may be the trend, but don’t turn down that road. Jesus’ way leads to life. Stay the course.
“For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.