In his book, Learning to Lead, Fred Smith writes: "For a long-time people couldn't understand how a man could be an alcoholic, sober up, stay sober for ten years and then go back to drinking. Surely, he knew all the problems he had as a drunk. Why go back?
"Many psychiatrists found out why. People who give up alcohol but remain only abstainers can be back to drinking at any time. Those who move from abstaining to the joy of sobriety seldom return. Until they make the transition from abstaining to sobriety, they are vulnerable."
It is the same in the church. There are many people in the church who are merely abstainers. They are regulars at church simply because that is what you are supposed to do. To them, the Christian life is abstaining from certain activities. It is nothing more than being responsible and moral. Their Christianity is nothing more than a list of do’s and don’ts. They are always thinking of what you must give up in order to be a Christian. These are the ones who the evangelist Billy Sunday referred to when he said: "If you keep looking back, it won't be long before you're going back."
Then there are those in the church who have found the joy of Christ. To these, the Christian faith is not a burden to endure; it is a relationship to enjoy. They realize that Christ has abundantly more to offer than the world. To these, their faith does not limit them it lifts them. They have stopped merely abstaining from one way of life and have entered into an entirely new one.
Until we make the transition from abstaining from the world to living in the joy of Christ, we will be dangerously vulnerable to the temptations of this world. Our faith will always be drudgery and not a delight.
The answer is found in following Christ. In the 15th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus says we are to live in Him, just like a branch lives in a vine. As we are attached Jesus, we draw life from Him. Abstainers simply live around Christ. Those who live in Joy, live in Him.
"I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!"
-- John 15:11 (NLT)
See you Sunday,