Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?
- 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
“Some people have received Christ but have never reached spiritual maturity. They have been in church all their lives, and yet they have never become mature Christians. They are still considered ‘spiritual children’ and ‘babes in Christ.’ They know little Scripture. They have little desire to pray, and bear few of the marks of a Christian in their daily living. To say, ‘I will resolve to do better. I will muster all my will power and revise my way of living,’ is noble, but futile. A corpse could as well say, ‘I will – through sheer effort – rise out of this coffin and be a living man again.’ You need a power outside yourself. You cannot get over the habits and chains that are binding you. You need outside help. You need Christ. The Bible tells of a bridge of faith which reaches from the valley of despair to the high hills of glorious hope in Christ. It tells where we are, but beyond that – it tells where we may be in Christ. Now, of course, you will not be completely mature until you are in the presence of Christ, but you should be growing every day as a Christian.”
- Billy Graham, Day by Day with Billy Graham (devotion for March 12)
You have heard the expression that one out of every three in the pews is not a true believer. So, when you look to your left and then to your right and you see that those folks are definitely heaven bound, you might want to take a careful look in the mirror when you get home. I love math humor like that. As statistics go, your pew could be filled with true believers, but the one in front may not have a single one. I have heard the same joke about one out of three people is insane, so… I always keep a crazy friend in case that subject comes up.
No, in the past, maybe long past, I have talked about the living dead in the church, the zombies. These are the people who have never made a commitment to Jesus Christ, but they count on that church membership to impress God, if that time ever comes. Some may openly admit that they do not even believe that Jesus existed, much less that He is the Son of God and that He rose from the dead. Yes, I have had conversations with these people, while sitting next to lifelong members of the church. They are the classic type zombie, the living dead. They are still living in this life, but they do not have the life-giving belief in Jesus.
But the type of people that Billy Graham talked about in this devotion are a different sort of zombie. Could we call them the “deadly alive?” It does not have the same ring to it, but we can use that as a working moniker until someone comments with something better.
The deadly alive are as Billy Graham suggests, alive in that they accepted Jesus, but they show no signs that they did. They are so lifeless that they might attract flies, but they would not attract a non-believer who looks upon them and says, “Hey, I want some of that!”
I have known many of these, and I might include myself in that category at times. Whenever we take our eyes off Jesus, we fall into the deadly alive category, but some have grown comfortable there. I have mentioned these as having faced a small trial as a new believer and they crawled into their shell. They became defeated before their newly created life had a chance to get started.
Maybe some of these people have great testimonies, but the testimony is a figment of their imagination. They might be a member of the living dead, with a good, though highly suspicious, story to tell. And sadly, they have convinced themselves that the story is true.
And Billy Graham points to the solution, but does Graham’s solution not seem strange? If they need Jesus, but they already have Jesus, is that really a non-solution?
The late Bill Bright and his folks at Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) have a little blue pamphlet for the person who is not living a Spirit-filled life. The classic yellow pamphlet shows two circles, one with you on the throne and the cross, representing Jesus, outside the circle. The other circle has you off the throne and the cross on the throne instead. In other words, we are in control of our lives and to get Jesus in our lives, we abdicate the throne to Jesus and serve Him. But the blue pamphlet shows us back on the throne and Jesus, the cross, off to the side. Sin has entered our lives and we have decided our way will get us out of the rut. It will not, just as the example of a dead person claiming life and rising from the grave under his own power.
We must confess our sins and surrender our will to that of God’s will. Just as we professed when we became a Christian in the first place. And we should tackle those things that Billy Graham said this type of person was not good at, like praying and studying the Bible.
It is odd. The living dead in the church have clouded their minds and wrapped their hearts in so much insulation that they feel wonderful. They may occasionally think that something is wrong, but after a couple of extra visits to the church, the feeling goes away.
But the deadly alive know that something is wrong. They know they have been defeated. Jesus is inside them, along with the Holy Spirit, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit will not be silent. And that defeated feeling is what is so unattractive to the onlookers. And the believers among those onlookers are praying for them. They can see the pain and the signs of defeat.
The concerned onlookers notice, but each time they ask, the response is, “Oh, I’m fine.”
We should not live “fine” lives as a Christian. We should live empowered lives, filled with Joy, Hope, and Love.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.