If you love me, you will obey my commands. – John 14:15
So, I am competing for the first time at the National Scrabble Championship in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I was actually doing pretty well, until today. I am currently 13.5-14.5. The .5’s mean that I tied a game. Here is the thing about the national tournament; the more you win, the more you play people with similar records as you. The cream rises to the top so to speak. Here is what I have found out; some (like me) like playing the game, others love it.
The difference is not subtle. The game is all they talk about. I saw the 2nd edition Scrabble dictionary of the nation’s top player. Absolutely every word on every single page has a note or some mnemonic device written next to it. He is constantly looking in that book. So far, in this tournament, he is averaging 445 points against the best players in the world. I, on the other hand, am averaging 352 against the not best players in the world. He averages almost a hundred points more than me per game! I really like the game, but he loves it. He puts in hours a day, while I only put in minutes. He is the number one ranked player in North America. I am ranked 996th.
So, what is the point?
When it comes to Christianity, some people like Jesus, others love Him. The difference is not so subtle.
People that like Jesus will go to church, sometimes. They will read the Bible, occasionally. They will throw a $20 in the offering plate, every once in a while. They will even pray, if some need has arisen in their lives that they can’t do anything about. They may acknowledge that they are Christians, but their hearts are not fully committed to being His disciple. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8)
Now, to be fair, even Jesus Himself said being His disciple is hard: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Nobody wants to deny themselves the pleasures and comforts of this world, and absolutely nobody wants the image of carrying a bloody cross to their deaths in their minds. However, for the few that choose to go all in, they find that it is in this laying down of their lives that they truly find real life.
Something in me wants to put the kind of time it takes into being National Scrabble Champion someday. But, a much bigger part of me knows that it would radically dig in to my time with the Lord. The only reason I can preach Sunday after Sunday is because I do study the Bible, I do make a daily attempt to live it out, I do listen to countless numbers of sermons, and I do read tons and tons of old books about serving God; books written by people that I believe really did love Him. I know that I can’t serve both Him and Scrabble, not completely, and I’m more than ok with that. I write this not for you to feel sorry for me, but as a very small picture of what self-denial looks like. It isn’t a sad thing, but it does vehemently fly in the face of “The American Way.” You see, I told Jesus 20 years ago that He could have my life, like really have it. When it comes down to it, I would much rather hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” than to be recognized as the champion of a board game.
So, do you like Him? Or, do you love Him? Do you at least know the difference?
Here are a few notes to help you answer the question honestly:
We live in a hyper-sexualized society where absolutely every ounce of media says, “if it feels good, do it.” In fact, I just watched “Ghost” in my hotel room. The two “evil” guys laundering money and doing whatever it took to cover it up were dragged straight to Hell by demons immediately upon death. Yet, Good ole Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) floated right off to Heaven despite being sexually immoral. Surely, Christians at least know that the standard has been set by God and the standard is clear; if you are in a sexual relationship with absolutely anybody you are not married to, you might like God, or at least the idea of Him, but you cannot say that you love Him because you don’t obey His command to flee sexual immorality. (1 Corinthians 3:18)
Then, there is this whole idea that some particular group’s lives matter the most. If you claim to be a Christian, Jesus has set our standard and made it clear; If there is a group of people, or even a single person that you wish harm upon, you might say you like Jesus, but you aren’t even close to actually being like Jesus because you reject His command to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. “Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer, and ye know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:15)
If you never spend alone time with Him, and I mean just you and Him, you have to at least question your relationship with Him. Who or what are you really living for?
I am not saying that because someone sins that they are not Christian; of course I realize that we all fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) However, if there is any God given command that you do not want to obey, that should concern you greatly. Pray fervently; pray consistently; and pray relentlessly for God to change your heart and mind and conform you to His image. I don’t want to do anything for God because I have to . . .
I want to because I love Him.