The Heart of the Beginner
The Heart of the Beginner
Becoming a Christian is easy.
It's the growing up bit that's difficult. Some can handle it, some can't, whilst others remain stuck in place. The first group; the ones who are able to take the Father's pruning (Jn. 15:2) grow up to be the Pioneers, and bear much fruit for the Kingdom.
These are the ones we most admire. The ones who are able to take their eyes off circumstances and fix them firmly on an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God. They are the ones who give the devil a real run for his money, tearing past the gates of hell (Matt. 16:18) to snatch souls right from its very jaws (Jude 23).
The second group; the ones hopelessly defeated. Tired and beaten, they trudge their way to their pews. Never really expecting an answer and lying prisoner to their own minds, their only desire seems to be just hanging in there till they make it to heaven. Never realizing that eternal life and the blessings begin right here. These are the Dust-collectors.
The third form the Settlers. They start out pretty well. They have and still do have ministries. But there's still one important difference. They can't seem to move forward. Most of them are well-meaning folks. Somehow, somewhere along the way, they've lost the winning edge.
My own Christian walk has been a mixed one. Signs and blunders included. Meeting the Lord Jesus was the single most exciting and satisfying moment of my life. Particularly coming in from a prodigal-like experience, having lost a large chunk of my youth to New Age.
Like most novices I started out at a blistering pace. Pursuing the Lord whole-heartedly and unashamedly (Jer. 29:19). Mountain-top experiences, powerful moments of prayer, writing, sharing, learning, leading others to the Lord. Time didn't matter. Personal comfort didn't matter. Money didn't matter. My ego didn't matter. Nothing mattered. Except the Gospel.
I didn't know much. I didn't have much. But everything was precious. Today five years later, I can't say it's the same. Yes, there's more knowledge, the quality of my life is better, they're more friends, and strength, success, insight butů the boldness seems to have gotten lost along the way.
The Bible's very clear about it. While God does want us to grow in knowledge (Hosea 4:6), His desire is that we constantly have the heart of the Beginner. The heart of one who loves Him with all their heart, mind, strength and soul (Lk. 10:27). Oblivious to human praise. "The eyes of the Lord roam over the whole earth, to encourage those who are devoted to him wholeheartedly." (2 Chr. 16:9)
While God pours Himself entirely into the Christian who loves Him wholeheartedly, He's pretty hard on believers who begin to take their faith lightly. Saul lost his kingdom and finally his life (1 Sam. 31). Samson, once invincible fell into the hands of his enemies (Judges 16:21). Even David, the man who followed God's with his whole heart (1 Kings 14:8) grew complacent, fell into temptation and suffered plenty for his mistakes.
The New Testament parables are also rife with telling examples. Five of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1) didn't make it into the Kingdom, the one who buried his God-given talents (Matt 25:25) lost everything, whilst the lazy servant at the Second Coming (Lk. 12: 47) got a severe beating.
Jesus goes even further in the book of Revelations. He reveals to the Church of Laodicea (and to us) that the lukewarm are literally in danger of being spewed out of His very mouth (Rev. 3:15). And whilst He praises the Church of Ephesus for their endurance, He holds one thing against them; they lost the love they had at first for Him. The Lord considers this so seriously that He says to them (and us), "Realize how far you have fallen. Repent and do the works you did at first. Otherwise I will come and remove your lamp-stand from its place, unless you repent." (Rev 2:5)
The writer to the Hebrews similarly cautions us that if those in the Old Testament did not escape judgment (Heb. 12:25), how much more we, if we ignore the greater and complete revelation (Heb 1:1-2). For to whom more has been given, even more is expected (Lk. 12:48).
God looks at our hearts and He wants to see fire. Fire is what He wants to use. Not deadwood. About three years ago, attending the Fire Conference by Reinhard Bonnke in Pune, I heard words that have had a deep impact on me ever since. Bonnke was approached by a man, "Mr. Bonnke, I've burnt out, washed out, what can I do?" Bonnke's reply was far from what was expected, "Brother you aren't burnt out, you just have to come out of the freezer!"
That's the message I've begun to tell myself these days. That all preaching, writing, spiritual gifts, apologetics, scripture memorization isn't worth very much without a living, burning fire for the Lord within. The Lord is not really impressed by the number of verses we can quote but rather by our humble willingness to live them in fervor. "You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through themů but you do not want to come to me to have life. (Jn. 5:39-40).
Neither are spiritual gifts the ticket to holiness. Or God's continued favor. They are what they are - simply gifts. Given unconditionally and irrevocably (Rom. 11:29). And all the prophecy, deliverances and mighty deeds performed in His name won't get us into heaven, if He isn't really Lord in our hearts (Matt. 7:21-23). "If I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing." (1 Cor. 13:2)
The blessings of Deuteronomy 28 are exciting. But as Christians, we could get caught up in all the good stuff that's coming our way to carefully read the 'contract'. And that's in verse 1 itself. That the blessings apply to those careful to observe the commandments in their lives and not just with their lips. Faith in itself, if it has no works is dead (James 2:17).
Success as a Christian depends on constantly cultivating the heart of the Beginner. Without it, we fall into the trap of becoming experts. An expert believes he knows a lot (or maybe it all). He can get pretty stuck up with his own ideas, dogmatic to the point where he can no longer see or expect to see God working in new and fresh ways.
He usually sees just one or two views. Both his own. For too long, I've sinned in thinking myself an expert. Mentally tearing apart another's theology or writings, always ready with a counter-argument. Ready to reveal great and awesome truths. The price of being a Pharisee has been heavy.
I admire the Beginners. Only the truly great possess the heart of the Beginner. They, in spite of their knowledge and experience still possess the child-like quality of hearing and acting on the Lord's Word. Not wasting their time being critical. But rather focusing on the good they see in the other. Where an expert can see just one or two options, the Beginner is completely open to the Lord's way of looking at things. Which can at times be very different from what we would expect (Is. 55:8).
There's the story of the famous expert who spoke and wrote much about Christianity. Quite impressed with himself, he traveled far to meet a saint. Reaching the holy man, he immediately proceeded to tell of his great achievements and discoveries. The saint simply asked him if he first wanted some tea.
Pouring the tea, he kept it up until it filled the cup, ran over, and then even began spilling right onto the expert's pants. The expert moved back. At this point, the saint spoke lovingly but with a wearisome sigh, "Son, you know a lot. In fact too much. So much that you can no more hear the still small voice of the Lord (1 King. 19:12). Empty yourself once again unto the Lord. Repent and He will surprise you with what He has in store for your life (1 Cor. 2:9)."
"For the Lord only blesses the heart of the Beginner."
(- Vijay Martis is a 28 year old Christian writer, evangelist and advertising professional living in Mumbai, India)