“If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face.” A.W. Tozer
Who out there is really pumped up about the idea of living a “nominal Christian life”? Does that get anyone’s fire burning? Ok, now let’s think about the opposite. Who would like to have a life that is “radiant with the light of [God’s] face”? I think for most of us that is an easy answer: we would choose to be radiant. I think every one of us has a longing inside to be brilliant, to shine brightly with a sense of value and worth that is beyond ourselves. As a child, no one ever dreams of becoming average; we dream great things for our lives. However, when we become adults, some of us start to believe that a nominal life is our reality. That can be especially true in our walk with God.
I experienced this a few years ago after recommitting my life to Jesus. At first I was on fire and full of the joy of the Spirit. I couldn’t get enough of Bible study and I loved doing things like sharing my testimony. I truly felt alive and used by God. However, as time passed, this started to change. I felt like I was going through a dry spell and that God might never use me again. In my mind, I imagined the ways that God could use me, and when those things didn’t happen, I felt disappointed. I also prayed diligently for certain things to change in my life, but they never did. I became frustrated and confused. I felt like I was wandering around in the wilderness, stumbling around without purpose. Consequently, I started to distance myself from God, and I resigned myself to the idea that God’s plan for me wasn’t so big.
This kind of mindset started me on the path to living a nominal Christian life. I still loved the Lord and was committed to him, but I just settled into average. I didn’t put in too much effort into being involved at church or acting on what I was learning in God’s Word. My dreams for doing great things for God’s kingdom shifted to more realistic, practical ones. I told myself that I would be content with a normal, stable, and predictable life. I would be happy with that…I thought.
But I wasn’t. I felt quite unsettled. I felt God pressing down on me, telling me to stop living a life that didn’t function on his full power. I felt him urging me to get off my seat and step into real living. The book, Touching Godliness by K.P. Yohannan, helped to set my heart back on its right path. The following quote especially resounded in my heart: “Our commitment must be to put aside reason as our guide. Instead our hearts must humbly seek to learn on bended knees.” I realized that I had not done that. Instead of submitting fully to God’s plan for my life, I had just been using my own logic to determine what I could (or could not) do for the Lord. That is not what God wanted.
He wanted more. He wanted my whole life, and he wanted it to be pliable in his hands. This question from Scripture popped into my head: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand” (Jeremiah 18:6). I started realizing what a privilege it would be to let God take my whole life and make it into what he purposed it to be. I realized that there would be no safer or more joyful place to be than inside the well-designed parameters of his plan for me. So I started to let go of my own ideas of who I should be and began desiring above all else to make myself pliable in His hands.
I finally could see that “a life radiant with the light of His face” was within my reach. It is within reach of any of us who will fully submit to the God who is alive inside of us. Galatians 2:20 says, ““I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” My life was no longer my own; it was Christ’s. And if I wanted to be radiant with the light of God’s face, I needed Christ to shine through. I needed his will to take over mine. Only then could I see things through his eyes and obey completely, even when I didn’t understand.
Christ lived the perfect example of submitting completely to his Father and obeying him perfectly out of love. Everything he did in his earthly ministry was totally in obedience to the Father, even when he must have been tempted to act otherwise. In John 14:31, Jesus says, “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” In John 8:28, he says, “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father has taught me.”
If we as Christians can wrap our minds around such radical obedience and ask God to make Christ’s devotion our own, then we can be on our way to living the life God intended us to. We will never be perfect like Jesus, but each day we can become more and more victorious in our submission to him. And the more we do that, the more we will fulfill our God-given purpose on this earth, and the more brightly our faces can shine light into this dark world. And once we experience this, there will be no returning to a nominal life.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.” Isaiah 60:1-2