Sometimes it feels like being a good Christian requires completing a long to-do list that never ends. But actually there are only a few things that a believer needs to do to please God, says Pastor Robert Jeffress.
In his new book, Clutter-Free Christianity: What God Really Desires for You, Jeffress cuts through the clutter and gets down to the key components for a God-pleasing life.
Jeffress, senior pastor of the 11,000-member First Baptist Dallas, recently spoke with The Christian Post about his latest book.
CP: You write that Christianity has become too complicated. In one sentence, what do you believe God really wants from his followers?
Jeffress: I think God's number one desire for all of us as followers is to resemble his son Jesus Christ in our actions, attitudes, and affections.
CP: Can you explain the difference between the ideas of a mop up operation versus heart surgery as used in the book?
Jeffress: When I talk about mop up operations I'm talking about what most Christian books deal with today. Issues of how to fix relationship, how to break habits, how to handle finances. And what I'm saying is that all the problems we encounter in life stem from heart issues. The Bible says watch over your heart in all diligence for from it flows the issues of life.
When we think about it, every major issue we confront in life deals with a heart issue. Am I going to trust God with the future or fear the future? Am I going to forgive the person who has wronged me or stay bitter towards them? Am I going to obey what I know God's will is for my life or am I going to resist that? It all comes down to the heart, and that is why I believe that if we want to experience the kind of life God wants from us we have to have a transformation of our heart.
Probably the most important idea that Christians need to understand about this heart surgery or heart transformation is that it is a joint operation that we perform along with God. I think that there is a mistaken notion in Christian circle today that just as it is God responsibility to save us, it is God's responsibility alone to change us. And I make the statement in the book that God's power is not sufficient to change our lives. Now many Christians balk and wince and protest that observation. But think about it, if God alone was capable of changing us then why wouldn't we all be just like Jesus Christ? The answer is God has chosen to make us partners with him in this process of spiritual transformation. Just like God said to Adam, I'm going to create the garden but you cultivate it and keep it. When God saves us, He says I'm going to give you a brand new heart, but it is your responsibility to develop that heart and become like my son.
CP: What are key factors to being content and peaceful?
Jeffress: It's interesting because since I wrote this book our country and world has really undergone a seismic economic crisis. And I think that more than ever it is important that we learn the secrets of contentment so that we can experience God's joy in our life regardless of what the Dow Jones Industrial Average is doing. And of course the key to contentment is to understand that there is no amount of money, no amount of possession, there is no relationship that is ultimately going to satisfy the deepest needs of our lives. That can only come about when we are in the right relationship with God.
And I think there are some keys to developing that contentment. Paul said I've learned to be content in whatever situation I'm in. Paul understood that external circumstances are not the key to happiness. It is having that contentment. I tell my own congregation the way to develop that content heart is to regularly express gratitude to God, recognize what I call the oasis illusion that is that there is something out there, some destination that will make us happier than we are.
And probably the most important key to developing commitment is to adopt a purpose bigger than yourself. Every life exists to fill a greed or meet a need. And when our life becomes God focus and others focus it is amazing how little concern we are with our external circumstances.
CP: Why do you say in the book that the real person who benefits from forgiveness is the forgiver?
Jeffress: I think because many times the person we have forgiven may not care or even know that we have forgiven them. And I think many times we are reticent to forgive people because we think why should I let them off the hook, they don't deserve to be forgiven. But the truth is when we forgive people we let go of bitterness because of what it does for us not what it does for them.
CP: Why is it dangerous to practice selective obedience?
Jeffress: I think if we practice selectively obeying that part of God's will that we feel like is palatable to us we are in danger of really developing a harden conscience. And God's will is not like a cafeteria line where you get to pick and choose what you want to do. God's call for commitment is total not partial. And again if we feel like we can simply select and choose that part of God's will that we want to obey, I think we are in danger of developing a harden conscience as the Bible calls it.
CP: What do you want readers to take away after reading your book?
Jeffress: I want readers to understand that they don't have to die to experience the benefit of being a Christian. Many Christians believe that the kingdom of God is something future, not present. And certainly there is a future aspect of the kingdom of God, but there is a present aspect to it.
I would just like the readers to consider what would it be like to have a life in which you are completely free from worry about anything. You felt content about your financial situation. You felt no ill feelings towards anyone. You aren't enslaved to destructive habits and you have the assurance that God is pleased with your life.
The point of Clutter-Free Christianity is that you can experience those things in your life right now by being transformed into the person of Jesus Christ. We can experience the kingdom of God now and Clutter-Free Christianity shows us how to do just that.