Quickstart instructions. Read Matthew 5-7 before reading this column.
It was still in early morn darkness when I breathed my first breath and cried my first cry. I was the firstborn to John and Dimple Godwin, who lived in former servant quarters connected to a hotel in West Texas during the Great Depression. My context was a loving Christian home in a barren land that had some jobs and a Baptist Church. Until I was 18, that context was all I knew but also all I needed till then. Lots happened in Midland. Now I’m 76.
Somewhat like Solomon or the preacher in Ecclesiastes, I’m able to look back on three generations and offer some evaluation and perspective on life. Somewhat different from Ecclesiastes, my key verse isn’t “vanity of vanities” but “grace unto grace.” I’m blessed with the Christ Event as a model for lifestyle living that challenges me to inventory my own life against that of Christ’s. The purpose of the inventory is to ask God to help me weigh my lifestyle against Christ-style living. I’m always humbled at inventory time that awakens my need to repent and change my mind, attitude, action, and set new goals.
The book of our lives. In an eternal sense, only God knows and keeps the book of our lives. The most critical entry for that book is whether we accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. What we write with the rest of our lives may range from majestic to mundane, but nothing compares to the eternal entry of choosing Jesus as Lord.
I’ve kept a lifetime daily diary and have a pretty good record of my time on earth. But chronological records aren’t as important as focusing on the crisis moments of life — the ripe moments of personal decision making (Ephesians 5:16). Packaged together, these choice moments make up your lifestyle and challenge you to weigh them regularly against Christ-style and make changes.
God’s moments of time and eternity. Besides all eternity, God chose one moment for the Eternal Christ to be born as Jesus, the Savior of the world (Galatians 4:4). Today we refer to that moment as Christmas — Christ mass or worship. After that moment in the fullness of time, Jesus began His earthly lifestyle/Christ-style. Jesus obeyed God the Father and prepared for His earthly ministry. He burst on the scene with the divine imperative, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). “Repent” means to change one’s thinking and lifestyle. “Kingdom of heaven” means both “the will of God” and an eternal place. Every moment Jesus Christ lived, He lived the mind of God in obedience to God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11). Jesus came to seek and save lost sinners (Luke 19:10). He completely loved God and man (see Matthew 22:37-40).
So the lifestyle of Christ perfectly modeled for us what He wants to see as a mirror image in us — as when we were created in God’s image (Genesis 1-2; Romans 8:28-30). To repent means that we have to take inventory of our minds and personal lifestyles. “Let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ” refers to our total behavior (Philippians 1:27). It starts with turning from sin and self to eternal life with God in Christ — saved by grace through faith (John 3; Ephesians 2:8-10). We repent the first time for salvation (Romans 6:23; 10:9-10). We get eternal life in a moment of time, but during time we continue to fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). So we always need to inventory our lives, repent, and ask God to keep molding us into His image.
Testimony; What inventory time means for me personally. When I was about to turn 30, my commitment to God’s calling was not a question mark nor a doubt. Yet I was frustrated about God’s will for me! Why? Summary: saved at 7; surrendered to preach at 15; prepared: from 18-29, I got three degrees, a wife, three sons, years of pastoral experience, a medical rejection from our denomination’s mission board, and was pastor of a country church. Not bad. I loved pastoring my church. But I couldn’t understand how I had misunderstood God’s call to foreign missions. So I served, studied, grew more, and did a new inventory of my life and calling. Wow! But first, age 30.
As a New Year and decade were about to dawn on me, I asked God what He wanted me to be and do in my 30s and beyond. I divided life up into 10 priority categories that I called goals. The goals included all major areas of life as I viewed it: starting with God’s will, family, church, and spiritual discontent. I typed the goals on an index card. I began and ended the card with “Deo Volente” — God willing. I chose to write forevermore in green ink to remind me daily of the goals. All goals were worthy, measurable, challenging, and dated.
Now, 45 years later, I’ve done that same kind of inventory each year about this time. Once, as a temporary hardware store worker, I had to inventory the number of fish hooks in boxes. Boring. But lifestyle/Christ-style inventory is exciting and challenging. Each year-end I grade myself about a “C.” However, I also know that not all failures are equal. Aim at nothing and hit it every time.
So what’s happened in my last 45 years? You would find it hard to believe. God has amazed me as He has unfolded each turn of the maze. Besides home missions, I’ve done missions in Russia, Asia, Europe, and South America. God put me in a position to write, edit, publish, consult, pray, and support missions worldwide. God’s timing is always right — but our understanding may be wrong.
I’ll summarize by saying God made me a spiritual Forrest Gump for His glory. I challenge you to measure your lifestyle against Christ-style. Stay on the journey until — as my GPS says — “You’ve arrived at your destination!”
— Copyright 2013 by Johnnie C. Godwin. Write the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.