Everyone knows the rigorous training the military puts their recruits through. The training of professional athletes is on billboards, TV and radio ads is deeply ingrained in every culture, ancient and modern. Olympic athletes train their entire lives. And just putting forth the effort is not enough. It is the way they train, the techniques, the coaching, and the encouragement from others.
But we as Christians simply “add Jesus” to our already busy, overcrowded lives. The Messiah might even be the most important part or the most important person in our lives. But do we put all of our effort into pleasing Him?
One aspect is knowing His Word. If God makes His Word available to us, that comes with the obligation of studying it and becoming familiar with it. That includes setting aside regular time in it.
A second aspect is the regular assembling together with other believers. When Jesus said, “where two or three have come together in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20 ISV), he was not being figurative or allegorical. He meant what He said.
Another aspect is regular prayer. The context of Matthew 18:20 is asking God. That is prayer. I tell you with certainty, whatever you prohibit on earth will have been prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will have been permitted in heaven. Furthermore, I tell you with certainty that if two of you agree on earth about anything you request, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven, because where two or three have come together in my name, I am there among them. (Matthew 18:18-20 ISV)
Another aspect is by continued obedience to become skillful. In fact, though by now you should be teachers, you still need someone to teach you the basic truths of God’s word. You have become people who need milk instead of solid food. For everyone who lives on milk is still a baby and does not yet know the difference between right and wrong. But solid food is for mature people, whose minds are trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14 ISV)
Often being able to distinguish good from evil requires being filled with God’s Holy Spirit. Evil is clever, sophisticated, seductive, enticing, knowledgeable, desirable. Evil is everything you have always wanted and includes wonders we did not even know about. Lucifer (light bearer) was the anointed Cherub, clothed with dazzling jewels fixed in engraved gold settings. The light bearer in his shining clothes walked among the fiery stones.
The last and most important aspect of loving the Messiah is to guard our own hearts. Every king of Israel, without any exception, fell into sin. Our accuser, Satan was once perfect. Your heart grew arrogant because of your beauty; you annihilated your own wisdom because of your splendor. (Ezekiel 28:17 ISV)
I do all this for the sake of the gospel in order to have a share in its blessings. You know that in a race all the runners run but only one wins the prize, don’t you? You must run in such a way that you may be victorious. Everyone who enters an athletic contest practices self-control in everything. They do it to win a wreath that withers away, but we run to win a prize that never fades. That is the way I run, with a clear goal in mind. That is the way I fight, not like someone shadow boxing. No, I keep on disciplining my body, making it serve me so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:23-27 ISV)
We must be properly motivated and trained, but the most well-trained and properly-motivated athlete can disqualify himself. Life does not consist of recommendations and resumes, but accomplishments. But if we disqualify ourselves, sin will negate our accomplishments. So whether we are at home or away from home, our goal is to be pleasing to him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of the Messiah, so that each of us may receive what he deserves for what he has done in his body, whether good or worthless. (2 Corinthians 5:9, 10 ISV)