I have never been clinically diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), but my wife will argue that I suffer with bouts of this disease at select, predictable times (like when it comes to cleaning the house or shopping). I try to stay focused, but I will admit, I can get distracted, especially when the thrill of something starts wearing off (or never existed, as in cleaning the house or shopping).
A lot of people in the church have a similar problem, but it is spiritual in nature. They may start off on the right foot—pursuing God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength—but slowly and unwittingly drift away from what is most important. Programs, productions, small groups, Bible studies, conferences, outreaches—the work of the ministry—start taking more and more time. God, meanwhile, gets increasingly squeezed out of the picture.
This is what happened to the Ephesian church addressed in Revelation 2. They were good people who (unbeknown to them) got sidetracked. Jesus told them, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not. . . . You have persevered and have endured hardship for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (2:2-4).
Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola in their book Jesus Manifesto write, “The major disease of today’s church is JDD: Jesus Deficit Disorder.” We have lost Jesus in the flurry of all our activities. Jesus is in the periphery.
Christianity is not a religion, philosophy, set of doctrines, or even a way of life. While these are all facets of Christianity, they are not the essence. Christianity is a person, a relationship. Christ.
That is why I hate hearing students from our program give testimonies like, “I’m 30 days clean!” or “I’ve got 6 months sober!” Yes, we should be grateful for such things. However, this phraseology often reflects a gross misunderstanding of the whole point of Christianity. One can be free of various substances yet be far from Christ.
The same is true of believers who have never had a drug or alcohol problem. They may boast faithfulness in their church attendance and tithing record. They may read their Bibles and pray daily. They may be active in soul winning. All the while, however, they may be far from Christ.
In the book of John chapter 21, after 3½ years of walking side-by-side with Peter, Jesus asks his disciple a question. It was NOT:
- “What future do you envision for yourself?”
- “What are the key steps involved in living victoriously?”
- “What have you learned about leadership?”
- “How many people have you witnessed to?”
- “Have you spoken in tongues yet?”
- “Who is your accountability partner?”
- “Do you spend time regularly in prayer?”
The question was: “Do you love me?” This is the summation of all Christianity—loving Jesus.
Let us be careful to not miss the point. It is so easy to get distracted.
Paul led an exemplary life after his conversion. His trophy case was full of incredible accomplishments, but he never lost sight of what was primary. Remember what he said in Philippians? “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (3:8).
Jesus’ rebuke to Martha may well be directed toward many of us: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42).