The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. As a pastor I don’t want my congregation living in a constant pursuit of emotional and spiritual highs. I want them consistently walking with God and deeply abiding in Jesus. I want the Gospel to motivate them to worship, resist sin, and make Christ known among. I hold out this hope for them and myself.
But I also want to avoid spiritual cruise control. I want to bypass mere emotion and keep the fires of my affections (inner motives, cravings, glories) stoked for Christ and the Gospel. I am currently preaching through 1Peter. In chapter 2 Peter says, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Pet. 2:2-3). Many interpret Peter as saying something like “Long for the Word of God the way an infant longs for milk.” Sermons on this text exhort Christians to increase their efforts in morning devotions and their study of the Bible.
But I think Peter is saying different. He is saying to long for Jesus, not simply the Word (of course I would never disconnect those two). He is not saying “Get in the Word.” He is saying “Crave Jesus the way an infant craves and needs milk!” The very next verse, says “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” They have tasted Jesus and Peter is exhorting them to keep on tasting Him (See: Ps. 34).
So how do you discern if you are craving Jesus or just coasting through the Christian life? Here are a few symptoms:
Limiting dialogue with God to a devotional time
You give Him the first part of your day, but rarely seek Him or run to Him for refuge during the day. Just ask yourself: If I related to any other person the way I relate to God, would that relationship be worthwhile?
Boasting in avoiding sins of the flesh
Many measure their spiritual life by how frequent they engage in visible or fleshly sins like lust, drunkenness, sensuality, cursing, fits of anger and rage, splurge spending, overeating, pornography, etc. If they avoid these sins, they assume they are being holy. But they neglect the relational and often hidden sins of unforgiveness, avoidance, bitterness, jealousy, exclusion, and self-promotion.
Passive prayers and reactive prayers
You pray on an as needed basis. There is no preemptive assault on temptation or future needs. I am guilty of this with my children. I tend to pray brief short-range prayers about their safety, health, and growth. But I must also pray long-range and offensive prayers for them.
You’ve been able to mostly dodge visible sins, but the motivation for doing so is to maintain a steady flow of God’s blessings. You are afraid to sin because God might allow a little discomfort in your life, a little pain to creep in. You feel pressured to perform well in order to remain on God’s good side. Many Christians use their morning “quiet time,” or lack of, to determine where they stand with God that day. This is a miserable place to be!
See Others Sins To The Neglect of Your Own
Part of celebrating the Gospel is being aware of your own sinfulness. We should not of course live in a perpetual state of naval gazing and inwardness, but we should be aware of how dark our hearts can be. Unfortunately we too often see the sins of others without examining our own hearts before God.
While you cannot control what opportunities arise to share the Gospel, you can guard your heart against being indifferent to a lost world. Christians who never wrestle with how to get the Gospel to a non-believer likely do not have the Gospel coursing through their veins.
Now that we’ve diagnosed what it might look like to coast through the Christian life, where do we go from here? What might be put in place to help us long for Jesus and crave Him more? To be sure, recognizing these things is half the battle. Being aware of how quickly passivity and apathy sets in is at least a step in the right direction. From here you can ask God to do a work of grace in your heart to want Him, and need Him, more. You can beg the Spirit to awaken you to the beauty and power of the Gospel. You can ask Jesus to stir your affections for who He is and what He is doing in the world. You might consider reading through a particularly weighty book or perhaps spend some extended time in prayer and meditation. Maybe you’ve emotionally checked out during public worship gatherings and you want to make being “there” a priority.
This will certainly look different for anyone depending on schedule, personality, and stage of life. But we must recognize that we always need more of Jesus in our lives. May we taste and see that He is good.