BY: DAVE GARNER
APRIL 24, 2008
For several years I struggled over what to call myself when someone asked if I was a Christian. In response I gave assorted answers, anywhere from yes, or I’m a follower of truth, kingdom child, a believer, to Spirit Filled. All seemed too inadequate to describe how I felt in my heart, and for that matter still does. Maybe I should have called myself a messenger, kingdom son, a child of God, or a disciple of Christ. Maybe I should probably get with the flow and become more modern and say I am an energy unit radiating with the life flow of the creator, or a light being wrapped up in a human body. I am very sure that I do not want the burden of having to carry any of the modern day organizational labels or categories.
I found out very quickly if I answer yes to being a Christian the next question usually to follow is “What flavor of Christian are you?” Almost like Baskin and Robbins. Are you a sherbet or a chocolate chip, a raspberry, or some kind of nut concoction, and if a sundae, what kind of topping do you prefer? “What kind of Christian are you,” they ask; Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist, Assembly of God, Charismatic, etc., etc.? Usually I say no to all the above, and then I wind up with the label of being a Non– Denominational or Independent, Separatist, loose cannon or, if not one of these, then something else. I was even called a Scriptorian one time and a Bible thumper another. That really hurt. Is this someone who follows scripts and thumps on a Bible?
A long time back I declared myself as coming out of the Pentecostal realm, but after reflecting upon it I do not think I have a complete understanding of what being Pentecostal really is, so have I really come out if I don’t know if I ever really was in, in the first place? There are so many different types of flavors to choose from that it could really give one a headache if one thought about it to long. Should I describe myself as a Charismatic since I believe in the gifts and moving of the Spirit? No, I am not sure what a Charismatic is and I don’t think many of them do either. There are many big name TV ministers out there who claim to be Charismatic. Maybe they really are and I just don’t know the difference between charisma and the moving of the Holy Spirit.
Many times I reasoned within my own mind, having a tug of war with whether I was boasting, if I said “Yes”, to being a Christian, or if I was denying Jesus Christ if I avoided the term. Did I want to be identified with the millions of people who call themselves Christians? When I was young, after hearing so many different opinions about what a Christian was, it was hard not to want to define myself as I wanted to be something, but the older I become I find myself asking, does any other name besides His really matter anyway?
Our society requires that we must have a label of some kind, something by which everyone identifies and measures themselves as in comparison to what the other folks are, “He, she or they are so and so, and I am thus and so.” I am in a quandary concerning who I am, or who I should be; should I be like them or should I be like me? But, what if I don’t like what I am or what they are? I concluded that after I made a decision to be whatever I was, then I was confronted with a much bigger problem. I now must be prepared to describe, in short form, what I believe to justify why I call myself what I call myself, especially if I am asked to explain a little bit about what I believe. I believe that, other than being persecuted, hung upside down and burned, beheaded, fed to the lions, tortured and what not, those people from our past really had it made. They just said they were “Followers of the way.” Hmm, does this mean then that they really were Christians? The problem with this though, in some cases, the persecuted and persecutors both called themselves followers of Christ. Now I really am in a fix, for if I call myself a Christian, I might be taking a chance on being identified with those who killed the real Christians or be identified with one of the heretics, who claimed to be a Christian, but really wasn’t, or even worse… be labeled with those awful people who followed Jesus Christ.
I began to ponder on this dilemma within my own heart. To some it probably is not much of an issue, but at one time this was a big issue with me. I didn’t want to be identified with the traditional view of Christianity, but neither did I want to make anyone doubt that I was a follower of Jesus Christ, and I definitely did not wish to take a chance of slighting my Savior. I realized that when I was asked by anyone concerning my faith, there was this tinge of anxiety or unrest that would rise up within me, nothing major or anything, but enough to let me know that there was this void of uncertainty, to be or not to be, leaving me dangling between the “am I” or “am I not,” and unable to identify with neither. As long as I don’t know who I am, than can I ever really be truly anything?
This brings to mind the time that I was really complaining to God about having to work in a factory when all I really wanted to be was a minister and preach the gospel. When I got hired on I remember telling the lady who hired me that I would not be a long time employee, that the Lord had called me into the ministry and as soon as the opportunity offered itself, I would be gone. Mind you, I had been prophesied to about the ministry the Lord was taking me into so many times I could not count. Thirteen years and some months later, I had come into the factory door to begin the work day, and I was standing over to the side waiting for the line to clock in to get clear. It had been some bad weather and I had had a hard time getting to work, I was having problems with my superior over some issues that were beyond my control and I was just plain unhappy with my job, God and the world. I was murmuring and complaining to God about my sorry condition and I remember roughly pushing a stack of pallets with my foot and saying “God, you said I was to become a minister, and yet here I am clocking in once again to go to work in this go nowhere job. I thought you said I was going to become a minister.” I had already been carrying a minister’s license for over ten years and had already performed several marriages and funerals, but I was destined for more than just this and I knew it.
So I clocked in and started walking toward the main hall that led to the break room. Every morning after everyone clocked many of them headed to the break room to put their lunches up or get a cup of coffee, so just about the time I got to the hallway where I could see in all directions and see the employees walking down the hallway, I heard the Lord ask me, “There are over two hundred people in this plant, are they not mine too?” When are you going to start ministering to them? If you aren’t ready or willing to minister to them, what makes you think you are ready to go out and minister out there?” I was dumbfounded. I heard the words of Jesus so plain, “If you are faithful in the little things, I will make you ruler over many.” I was so ashamed, I had been so busy complaining, selfishly wanting out of that plant that I had made it my own personal prison, and I had blinded myself to any ministry that I could have had, had I been content with who I was within my own heart and willing to submit myself to fulfilling His purpose right there in that plant. I said Lord, I want to be a minister. When will you let me be the minister you called me to be and when will I be able to do what you called me to do? And I heard the Lord say, “When you believe that you already are one!”
The truth was, even though I carried a minister’s license that said I was a minister, I was not truly convinced that I was one on the inside; otherwise I would have already been ministering to the people around me. I had become too self–focused. I felt like I was standing alone in the midst of a sea of unbelief that was just about to swallow me up. I honestly did not know that there was another Christian inside the building. After getting over the shock concerning what the Lord said to me, I walked over to my assembly line and a young man was standing at his work station reading his Bible. When he saw me approaching, he quickly closed his Bible and apologized for having it out during work hours. I was stunned over the fact that he felt the need to put the Bible away and secondly that he even felt the need to apologize to me. Again, I was ashamed. Not only did I not know that he was a Christian but my own employee did not know I was a Christian… and even more he was afraid I was going to chew him out for having his Bible at his work station… even though it was still five minutes before time to go back to work.
It was then I realized that I had allowed myself to be caught up in the trap of never being satisfied with me or my circumstances or what God could be within me right now… at this very moment. I had lost sight of the present blessings of God and I could no longer see anything good or productive around me that was beneficial to me. I found myself always looking for something better to come in the future. I was always, just like so many other Christians, waiting for me to become good enough… so God would release me into the perfect circumstances, providing for me the perfect people, sufficient money, more this or more that, so I could become all that I wanted to be. I had become blinded by the ‘some day’ syndrome. Some day I will find a people that I can freely minister the gospel to, find true fellowship with, who will listen to me and with whom I will be able to share the love of God… all of which I could have been doing all along. I had allowed disappointment, pride and ignorance to blind me to all of the possibilities and opportunities to minister the gospel all around me and before me.
It turned out that there were several Christians in the plant that I could have been fellowshipping with the whole time… had I opened my eyes to see. In my heart I was focusing upon everything that was wrong and everything was working against me, including God, therefore I could not see what was plain before me. I can do only as much as I believe I can do and I am only as much as my faith allows me to be. I could have been doing what I so desperately wanted to do the whole time, but I felt myself on a higher plain then the lowly people around me. I suppose within my heart, I didn’t see these people as being good or important enough to receive what I had, and I had become hardened enough in my feelings that I no longer saw them as individual souls with individual hearts with whom I could share my love for the Lord. They had become faceless, unimportant in comparison to who I was and my high calling in God; and they were just another part of the condition that was holding me prisoner of that which I desperately wanted to walk away from.
The truth is… the only person I have to convince that I am who I say I am… is me. Either I believe or I don’t believe. Either I believe that Jesus died for the sake of all men, everywhere and the Gospel has been made available to everyone, from the least to the greatest, and is able to set all men free, or I do not. It was really quickened to my spirit that if I could not find Him where I was at, then I was dead sure I would not be able to find Him in another place. Just as much as the word is able to open up the heavens for me… into the presence of the Father, so also is it able to reach in and change the heart of each and every individual around me. I just had to have enough faith in His Word to believe that He was able to do all that His word said He would do.
The proof is in the pudding, either I was or I’m wasn’t, and it was certain, up until that time, that I wasn’t. Either I have the love and true adoration of God within my heart, which will flow out, no matter where I am, or what condition that I am in, or I don’t. I have entered into the realm of being self–focused, self–contained and self– involved. “By their fruit you shall know them.” “A good tree cannot produce rotten fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce good fruit.” More and more I am realizing the importance of bearing the fruit that lifts up my Father and witnesses of His presence. The words that Paul the Apostle wrote down awakens within me more and more each day. When I keep my eyes upon Him and keep my mind focused upon whatsoever is true, honest, of good report, just, virtuous, lovely, pure, and if there be any praise… then I cross over this invisible line of infinite possibilities of blessings that separate the believer from the non-believer. When I keep focused upon these things, they cannot help but flow out of me, light up the darkness, and positively affect those around me. I am, right now, a follower of Jesus Christ. I am, right now, at this moment, a believer in Jesus Christ. And even though I have a personal dislike for the pronunciation of the English translation of the Greek word “Christos” into the English equivalent “Christ,” because it hides the original meaning of “the Anointed One, or Messiah,” and has a tendency of getting separated from the life of Jesus, I am absolutely… with all of my heart… lock, stock and barrel, a whole hearted Christian. I no longer have to strive to become a Christian or a minister; for I am that which I am… no matter where I may be… an ambassador for the spreading of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and anointed to minister the Gospel of life and truth… called of God and forever in His service.
CHRISTIAN [Dave Garner] 4-24-08 1