Are You Ready?: Part 3
In Part I, we discussed the general concept of “getting ready” – preparation, training, practicing.
In Part II, we evaluated our current state of “readiness” – how prepared we are for the specific things to which we are called.
Do we, as long-term believers and professed followers of Jesus Christ, really understand what is required? Are we ready and willing to live accordingly? This isn’t a matter of ability – inherently, a true believer understands their spiritual condition and sin nature, which makes it impossible to live worthy and righteous lives. It is a question of surrender – are you willing to yield position, relinquish control, renounce self, give up rights, forfeit comfort, lay down desires – and fully submit to His calling?
The process of “getting ready” begins at the exact time and place of the believer’s salvation: a profession of faith in Jesus as lord and savior. But, that’s also where the rub comes. If said profession is only an emotional response or a cry of desperation in a time of need or coerced by some means or in any way is something less than fully genuine, the resulting actions (or lack thereof) in the following weeks and months will reveal it. It is impossible for a profession of faith to be genuine without real change. Does that statement imply immediate perfection (or ever, for that matter)? Of course not! Ask any mature believer – it isn’t easy! But there is change – noticeable by the believer and identifiable to those around them. Far be it from me to judge a man’s soul – but if life afterwards is exactly the same as before – what changed?
But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:20-24
With any behavior, especially those that have been practiced for a significant period of time and certainly for those that are instilled at birth, change can be difficult. We are by nature sinful and a true believer will struggle against that predisposition for as long as they reside on this planet. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” – Romans 7:18-19. “Getting ready” for the specific things to which we are called as believers requires intentionality. It doesn’t simply happen by itself. It definitely isn’t an accident. It takes concerted effort, concentrated energy and focused determination.
“But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” – 1 Timothy 4:7-8
It starts with actually understanding what you believe. Get some clarity on what should now impact your decisions, guide your steps, change your attitude and influence your behavior. And just a heads up: this has huge implications and major potential for danger. God’s Word is crystal clear and is not open for interpretation. It says what it says. And whether you like it or not, the direction it gives and guidelines it prescribes are to be adhered to. Not massaged, not manipulated, not added to or taken away, not applied out of context. When His Word says to do it, that’s what it means. When His Word says to not do it, that’s what it means. If you’re unsure, you don’t get a pass – you can’t claim ignorance – seek counsel from a Bible believing and God fearing brother or sister in Christ.
So, there’s the first step: know what you believe.
As you begin to more fully grasp what God desires for you and has planned for your life, it’s important to integrate that knowledge into your daily living.
“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:21-25
For most of us, the initial embedding of the Word of God into the very fabric of our being can be painful. There is high likelihood that some areas of our lives must be done away with because the people or actions are not in accordance with God’s standard (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). Other areas may not be able to eliminated but still require us to live differently than we used to (1 Peter 1:13-16). In both cases, the prospect of these modifications can be daunting and the execution of these changes can be agonizing. It may mean ending relationships. It may mean walking away from a career. It may mean giving up something that’s been a part of your life for years. But in the end, Scripture is abundantly clear that believers are called to a different standard of living (2 Corinthians 6:17, Romans 12:2, 1 John 2:15-16).
And just to head off any confusion that may arise – this change in life pattern isn’t a prerequisite for salvation – it’s directed by God for a specific purpose. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus explains:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
That’s the second step: live what you believe.
As you start to grasp the foundations of your faith and begin to intentionally live according to those precepts, your life becomes more and more a reflection of Christ Himself. In doing so, you will be presented with opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus. It is imperative that you are:
- Prepared to share (1 Peter 3:15)
- Sharing correctly (2 Timothy 4:2)
- Sharing without shame (2 Timothy 1:8)
These mandates speak to the heart of “getting ready”. The free gift of salvation isn’t just for you – if your profession is genuine, “you” no longer exist (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) – you are called to go and share it with the lost and hurting. In order to be effectual in those endeavors, it goes beyond simply anticipating the point in time when you may have to present your testimony. When Peter writes of “always being ready”, the implication includes not only being ready, but also being capable.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
The Bible warns against its improper use. The Bible cautions against adding to or subtracting from it. And the Bible tells us that non-believers will reject its truth and seek after distortions that satisfy their sinful desires. Make no mistake – the enemy will present with much eloquence and confidence. It may seem that the “truth” being exhibited is reasonable and feasible, all the while being perversions of the actual truth, disguised to deceive and destroy. He’s been doing it since the garden, succeeding daily in subjecting souls to his rule and deceiving Christians to the point where they become unfocused and distracted away from the gospel centered call. In order to combat those deceptive attacks, we must be armed with every available weapon (Ephesians 6:10-20).
Once prepared – both in terms of willingness and ability – our witness must be on display for all to see.
Do not misunderstand: we are called to be salt and light from the minute we make our profession. There is no specified probationary period, no training regimen, no certifications to be earned. When Christ called the fisherman to be His disciples, they immediately left everything and followed Him (Matthew 4:18-22). But we are also called to be ready at a moment’s notice to declare our beliefs, contend for our faith and stand boldly without shame for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So finally, the third step: proclaim what you believe.
At the end of the day, it’s not about our ability or our worthiness – neither is sufficient. It’s about our willingness to surrender and seek to be used by Him for His glory.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:15-16
Believer – do you truly know what you believe, are you living what you believe, are you proclaiming what you believe? What needs to change in your life to allow for the proper focus? What areas require intentionality and consideration? When the time comes and the opportunity presents – ARE YOU READY?
In Part IV, we’ll compare and contrast the two options: remaining in our current state versus a new life of discipleship.