Some time ago, I attended a seminar at church where I was asked to classify myself as seeker, new believer, maturing believer or fully devoted Christ follower. Even though I felt I strived to be fully devoted, it seemed somewhat boastful to mark that category. I marked “maturing believer.”
Since that time I have often wondered if a person can be fully devoted in this life. If so, when do they know they are fully devoted. Where is the line between maturing believer and fully devoted?
Most anyone who has studied the Bible would agree that Paul was a fully devoted Christ follower. He says in Philippians 3:10-12 (NIV):
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
This past weekend, I participated in a retreat at Country Lake Christian Retreat in Underwood, Indiana. The experience was far more than I had anticipated. It was cool and wet but I headed for the trails as soon as possible. It is a walk I will never forget.
This retreat center is perfect for those who are refreshed by being outdoors but like the conveniences of a nice lodge. The lake is beautiful and surrounded by gazebos and hammocks (in warmer weather). The trail is perfect – easy to follow and cleared just enough to comfortably enjoy the sense of being in nature.
Being my first time on this trail, I wasn’t sure what I would find. What I found was beyond physical description. There are prayer stops along this trail. At one point there is a cross that stands 15-20 feet high in a small cleared spot right by the water. There are three very large rocks that allow the visitor to sit in front of the cross with the lake in view behind the cross.
Now, I am not typically real emotional about things like this. I always enjoy the beauty and feel refreshed but this experience was different. As I approached the cross, something was happening inside of me that I had no control over. As I looked up at the cross, it was as though I was there nearly 2000 years ago when Christ was crucified. The emotions within me were overwhelming.
I noticed another cross on the ground at the edge of the water. As I walked past the standing cross, there was a power greater than anything I have ever experienced. I wasn’t sure whether to pause or run. I hesitated. “What is that?” I asked. The response was as clear in my mind as if Christ was standing there speaking to me, “this is the power of love.”
I continued on to the small cross where others had placed small rocks, perhaps as a symbol of laying their concerns on the One that has victory over everything in our life.
The power of love overwhelmed me again as I passed back by the standing cross. I sat on the large rock and wept. It was as though God was cleansing me of all the self-reliant, self-seeking, control-desiring actions in my life. At that moment, I embraced the desire Paul expressed in scripture above.
Like Paul, I do not claim to have already obtained all this, but I can now say with assurance that I am a fully devoted Christ follower. That assurance does not come from my striving or doing. It is not a confidence in my abilities or even my desires. It is an assurance in Christ and Christ alone. His love has and continues to change me. I am fully devoted not because of what I’ve done, but because of what He is doing in me.
I desire to never go against His good, pleasing and perfect will with a new determination. Will I mess up again? Yes, I most definitely will. But my sorrow will be forever different. My gratitude of his grace, mercy and forgiveness will go beyond simple words of “thank you.” My understanding of striving in relation to his abilities has become a little clearer.
Seeing the power of love on the cross, knowing the power of the resurrection (which I don’t claim to fully know yet) and being offered the life of the Spirit makes all the“concerns” of this world seem minor. I can’t change the world or even one person. Only the power of God’s love can do that. It’s not my job to strive to “be good” or even “do good”. All I need to do is participate in the very nature of God by keeping my eyes focused on Him so that His Spirit can change the world through those who make up the body of Christ on earth today.
Oh God, thank you for the power of your pure love.
© 2005 Lisa Biggs Crum