Allow me to provoke you to consider something about the Kingdom today. Most followers of Jesus are clear concerning our mission as the people of God. We are called to advance the Kingdom of God by proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, and compelling people to acknowledge His lordship over their lives by faith. In essence, as followers of Jesus, we have committed ourselves to Him and have also committed ourselves to His purposes in our generation. I have spent the majority of my public ministry seeking to motivate people towards these commitments to Christ and His Kingdom. Over the last few years I have come to recognize that there is a lingering issue that seems to consistently act counterproductively to my ministry. Here is how I would phrase it:
Many have committed but have not yet been convinced. This is not a new challenge. It was something which occurred with the very first followers of Jesus.
“This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.” – John 2:11
His disciples believed in Him? The challenge for spiritual leaders is not to cultivate committed disciples but, rather, convinced disciples. In the above verse, we know that it refers to at least five disciples. It is likely that there were actually many more at this time. They had heard enough from the mouth of Jesus and others who witnessed of Him, they had attached themselves to Him in some level of faith and hope, they had forsaken some things to follow Him…but it was not until they saw the miracle at Cana that they actually became convinced of who He was. They were committed based upon what they heard Him say but they were not convinced until they saw what He could do. I believe this dilemma still occurs today.
Many are committed to the goal of the mission who have never been convinced of the goodness of the Master. In John 2:11, we find the compelling phrase, “And His disciples believed in Him.” The disciples had committed to follow Jesus but were not confident in Him until they saw the miracle of the wine-water in Cana. Apart from eye-opening encounter with Jesus, people will continue to struggle with fear, doubt, uncertainty and skepticism about the desire of God. It is the reality of many that they are outwardly committed but not inwardly convinced. Once a disciple is convinced via experiencing personal encounters with the power of Jesus, they will become believing believers. Feel free to disagree with me, but I am confident that one of the greatest needs among Christians is the need for personal encounter with the living God. Apart from authentic spiritual experience with Him, there is the danger of our regarding Him as the potential God. What do I mean by this? I think it could be expressed this way:
“God could potentially speak to me, but He does not. God could potentially heal me, but He won’t. God could potentially rescue me from my situation, but I doubt that He will. God could potentially save my loved one, but I cannot conceive of that ever happening. God might potentially salvage my marriage but it will take a miracle. With God, there is the potential for me to overcome my self-created mess that I am in, but I am probably gong to be punished for a long time first. He was a great God in the Bible and that same Bible promises that everyone will see His greatness again at the Second Coming. Until then, however, it is a safe theological position to acknowledge that God could potentially be great to me here and now, but that is not likely to happen in a significant way. Yet, I want to honor Him as the God of great potential. I hope to experience it myself someday, because I hear that others have.”
I know that sounds extreme but I think that it accurately expresses the typically unexpressed vibe that many Christians are living with today. Perhaps it is shorter to express it as, “I know God is able but I am not convinced that He is willing.” Do we or do we not have the expectation of becoming believing believers? Has the sovereignty of God become our cop-out doctrine which is used for the reason why we are not experiencing mighty moves offered to us by Him? I am thinking that most of us who are already believers would be powerfully impacted from a water-to-wine experience. It began the process whereby the first followers of Jesus moved from being basic disciples to becoming breathtakingly devoted. What they saw Jesus begin to do in the miracle of Cana eventually migrated them from being spectators into participators. They would later do the same works that they saw Jesus do. Though these men were not ultimately transformed until after the miracle of Pentecost, their thinking about the Son of God began to change when they saw the miracle at Cana. Maybe now is the time for our thinking to begin to change also.
Simply hearing and believing the truth about Jesus can make us His followers, but witnessing and experiencing the power of Jesus will take us into a whole new realm. My advice is for Christians to pray for this to happen in our own walks. Let God define the what, when, and how of the moment which will breed confidence in your heart about who He is and what He will do. No longer serve the potential God. Worship the actual God. He will look like He does on the pages of your Bible. If you are committed as a disciple, but not inwardly convinced that He is as gloriously good today as He was in Scripture, then seek Him for some new wine to fill your clay pot. My expectation is that it will change your whole level of anticipation about what God will do with you.