With boldness and cutting-edge insight, David Edwards turns the light on false perceptions of religion and gets down to the truth about the "cosmic" battle between light and dark. Describing the disconnect existing in "Sunday faith" and the rest of the week, Edwards defines character as "the life of God living in us." In this provocative book, nationally recognized speaker David Edwards delivers thirteen ways to ignite the fire within and learn what it means to live out your faith in a post-modern world. After reading just a few pages, you'll discover that Edwards' pen blazes with the same passion, enthusiasm, and humor that have made him a highly sought-after national speaker. Practical "Spotlight" exercises at the end of each chapter are designed to help you transfer the truth of each chapter into your everyday experience, and thought-provoking questions for both groups and individuals will help you ignite the light within your heart and teach you how to live the lit life.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A Cause Worth Living For
The first time I connected with the life of Christ was in the backseat of a car. This event, I would later discover, would be the only memorable thing I would ever do in a car's backseat. I remember riding home from church in the car with my mom. Most of the information from the sermon had already left my mind. What stuck with me, however, was the emotional energy of the service. The power behind what I had heard still resonated in my nine-year-old soul.
The preacher had closed with the story of a young man who had resisted God's offer of eternal life. Later that day, while crossing the road, this young man had been hit by a tractor and dragged into eternal separation from God.
Aside from the obvious flaw in the story the young man couldn't dodge a tractor? Pavarotti could outrun most farm machinery the illustration made an impact on my youthful heart.
Stories like this one became legendary during that period of evangelism. Every sermon I heard seemed to include a tale of someone who was killed on a bike or a bus or was otherwise broadsided by some calamity while still in a state of spiritual rejection. These closing illustrations were designed to instill fear in people and motivate them to make an emotional decision for Christ. The effect was not unlike an insurance salesman trying to coerce a reluctant prospect into signing the contract today. From the pulpit it sounded like, "Hurry up and come to Jesus so you won't go to hell!"
As a young boy of nine, I cringed at the thought of burning forever in utter darkness. It was an easy decision to make. Of course I didn't want to be a crispy critter.
As I rode home that day, I sensed the urgency of faith for the first time in my life. I had been introduced to Christianity with a cause staying out of hell and the cause wanted me.
The very next Sunday I walked the aisle to the altar and signed a card. I had my fire insurance now. I would avoid all that burning in the dark.
The knowledge that I had eternal salvation upheld me through my teenage years. But adolescence brought a new cause: discovering and managing my sexuality. All of my faith seemed to rest on my ability to exercise abstinence.
The sermon plots changed. Now they were about young men and women dealing with sexual temptation some choosing abstinence and some not. The results were similar to the stories in which people were hit and dragged into eternity by tractors.
I faced my share of temptations. Like many other teenagers, I was a kid living in two worlds. I had my teen world, and I had my church world. For a while I struggled to find a way to balance the two. But ultimately, the things of God that I had saturated my heart with for years won out. I chose to make my life in God World.
I was convinced that "true love waits" and "the pure in heart still see God," so I said yes to purity. I remember the ceremony. As we sang "Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary," the words filled the room. My heart soaked up the emotion. I was overwhelmed with the desire to stay pure for God. I walked the aisle to the altar, signed a card, and placed a promise ring on my finger. The cause had me. And it would not be the last cause to come my way.
College brought me into contact with liberal-minded religious people. Their cause was not to have one a cause, that is. (But isn't "tolerance" a cause in itself?)
I was a religion major studying in a department that was bent on de-Christianizing Christianity. They wanted to remove anything sacred or supernatural from the Bible and privatize the nature of a believer's worship and witness all in the name of tolerance. They preached, "Love God by accepting everything and everybody, regardless of who they are or what they believe. Above all else, do not confront anyone for any reason." Not only was this cause unappealing to me, it lacked credibility in light of my own personal experience with God. I chose to simply endure those years of liberal study and allow the tolerance cause to pass me by.
During the years that followed, the Christian cause continued to take on many forms. One movement convinced me that I should strive to be "a man of God." A true, godly man was faithful, consistent, and honorable in all his ways and to make sure of it, we formed accountability groups to monitor each other's behavior. I was given a morality checklist to use as my daily behavior meter, along with a commitment card to acknowledge and solidify my decision to behave like "a man of God." (I signed it, of course.)
I carried the behavior checklist in my wallet and attempted to work with my accountability group. I answered all the questions on the accountability checkup sheet because, after all, "character is what you do when no one is looking."
There have been other causes that have screamed for my attention. When religion and politics collided, I was challenged to protest by carrying signs, writing letters, and boycotting certain institutions. I gave this cause some cursory attention but never joined the march. Many people I know and love felt forced to choose sides and fight. Some of them don't love me now like they did before choosing sides.
Then there were the moral crusades, with certain life habits singled out as the enemies of God. Somehow the "answer" for these struggles of humanity always got reduced to a list of restrictions presented by well-meaning preachers who tended to scream at hurting people, "If you had any character, you wouldn't act this way!" The impression many people formed about the morality cause was based more on their view of the preachers giving the message than the morality of the issue. Many found the delivery of the message offensive. The speakers may have genuinely loved the people they were targeting and rightly loathed sinful behavior. But what the people heard were voices filled with anger, and the natural response was resentment not a change of heart.
What exactly is going on? Each of these causes rings with a certain amount of truth. But at their root, they are all about modifying people's behavior about having them do something different without having them be something different first.
If not doing anything wrong is our goal, we can avoid much wrong through personal discipline and avoiding compromising situations. But what have we really changed? In the end, human effort only affects the appearance of a person. God alone has the ability to affect the character of a person. True character starts from within and expands outward.
Through the years Christians have been pummeled by a never-ending succession of religious causes. Like waves of the ocean, they will continue to break over us. But causes don't move by themselves; they have to be picked up and moved. That's why every cause recruits followers. No matter how worthy a cause is, it creates followers, not character.
Genuine character is born out of the character of Christ coming to live inside of us. The conversion of our heart is the turning point. It is described in a line from a famous hymn: "I once was blind but now I see." Christ brings light into our dark souls. Like one candle igniting another, His life lights ours. It awakens us. Our souls respond to the word of the Lord: "Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you" (Ephesians 5:14).
The living light of Christ lights our lives, and new things begin to appear. Peace, freedom, and hope spring out of souls once characterized by uncertainty, bondage, despair, and death.
God's dream is this: that people living the life of God will bring His presence into this earth and insert His re-creating life into a darkened world. No religious event or righteous cause can accomplish what God intends only the character of Christ working through each one of us.
That's why I have chosen only one cause for my life: having Christ Himself living in me.
This is not a devotional book or theological volume. The stories I tell and the truths I share within these pages are drawn from the life I have carved out both on and off the road. God has birthed these principles in me through very real pain and experience, and I have shared them in talks all across the nation.
There is something in all of us that resents the way things are in the world. And there are definite options for facing the present state of things:
- We can avoid reality by focusing on our own little world and becoming armchair critics, picking out the imperfections found in the issues and causes of our day as well as in those people who are at least trying to make a difference. If we do this, we end up sitting on the sidelines, sniping at other folks like blow-hard, spiteful cranks.
- We can look forward to the end of the world, just sitting calmly by, reading the preponderance of doomsday Christian literature on the market while waiting for our escape from this condemned place. But if we do this, we deny the high value God places on His creation, the people in it, and the vital role He has for us to live out as believers.
- We can choose character. You and I have been given the ability to define ourselves by character. This is the unique power of human beings: to be able to decide what we want our lives to be and what we want to give them to. The decision to pursue character invades all the details of our lives and, over time, becomes obvious to the people around us.
Experts agree that reading in the dark is bad for your eyes. As cool as it was reading under the covers with a flashlight as a kid, it was not the optimal reading experience. Reading is much more enjoyable when you don't have to squint. If you read in bad light long enough, you'll find yourself at the eye doctor's office, staring at a chart and asking, "Can I buy a vowel?"
Darkness is not only bad for the eyes; it's bad for the soul. Light, on the other hand, brings understanding and joy. The benefits and virtue of light are joy and connectedness. Throwing a switch and yelling "surprise" initiates a party. Joy and light are never separated.
In a figurative sense, light represents clarity and understanding. We say, "In light of the situation..." or "It came to light that..." or "Let me shed more light on this subject."
No one ever says, "Thank you for shedding darkness on the subject. It's totally unclear now." Darkness manifests itself in fear, anger, and impatience. It makes us blind to God's plans for us and our world. That's why John writes, "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it" (John 1:5).
The more light we allow into our lives, the better our comprehension of the world around us. That's certainly true in the physical sense; the light we take in with our eyes helps us to know exactly what's going on. It's also true in a spiritual sense.
This book is concerned with light and its impact on character. It has nothing to do with religious movements, political parties, or moral causes. As Christians, our battle is not with the government, the school system, or the entertainment or fashion industries. And our battle is not between races, cultures, or denominations. We are involved in a much larger battle: the unseen spiritual battle for light that has already eluded too many believers.
Our postmodern generation, like every generation before it, thinks of itself as unique and different. And in many ways we are. But the truth is, you and I have inherited the same dark world that our ancestors knew. We don't have to make excuses for the shape the world is in; it's our inheritance! Neither do we have to feel overwhelmed and defeated by the challenges we face. God has eternal solutions for bringing light into the darkness of every one of the finite conditions we encounter.
This book is not written to everyone: It is written to my generation postmoderns. Many in the postmodern era have suffered the loss of a transcendent center: Truth, for them, is defined by experience, rather than experience being defined by truth. This book is written to help us understand God's calling to develop His character in our lives.
Which brings up an interesting topic: the power of choice. God never forces anyone to develop His character. Each of us has the opportunity to surrender our lives to the Lord and allow Him to build His character in us as we develop genuine relationship with Him, or we can turn our backs on relationship with Him and choose the darkness. God doesn't ask us to choose character because it will make us better individuals. Character is inseparably connected with God's ultimate purpose and plan for the world. When we choose to develop His character in our lives, we become allies with God in His will for the cosmos and in His ongoing fight against darkness.
Understand that character, as I define it in this book, is much more than the sum total of our values, morals, and behavior. The mainstream definition of character emphasizes our own efforts to adapt our behavior to match our convictions or religious faith. That's not what I'm talking about.
Character is nothing less than the life of God living in us in the midst of our everyday encounters with a dark world. Throughout the book I refer to a life of character as a lit life. The lit life flows naturally when we ask God to come into our lives and work in us, because His character is what He is and what He wants to produce in us.
Through the thirteen chapters in this book, I discuss the ongoing spiritual battle we face every day, the concept of character and how it is developed, and practical ways to live out the character of Christ the lit life every day.
Each chapter concludes with a practical application that I hope you will do more with than just read. These "Spotlight" exercises are designed to help you transfer the truth of each chapter into your everyday experience. In addition, at the end of the book are study questions to help those of you who would like to use this book in a small discussion group or Bible study setting. I have also included questions for individual reflection. The questions correspond to each chapter's content and should provide a springboard for lively discussion.
One more thing. As you will notice, I enjoy humor. It's what I use to deal with the sometimes-harsh realities of life. If you've met me or have ever heard me speak, you know that I like all kinds of humor: jokes, irony, funny illustrations, even sarcasm. As you read this book, please keep in mind that these bits of humor are just that humor and they are not meant to offend. They are presented here just as I use them in my talks, to set up and illustrate a truth and make it easier to swallow. I'm convinced that a lot of us need to lighten up. If we fail to see the humor in life, we will surely go insane.
Now that you have some idea of where we're going, turn off that tiny flashlight and turn on a real lamp. It's time to turn the page and begin to learn how to live the lit life. As you do, I guarantee the world will see the light of God living in you and you will.
Table of Contents
|Introduction--A Cause Worth Living For||xv|
|1.||Light Fight--How the World Got This Way||1|
|2.||Wrecked Light--Why We Are the Way We Are||17|
|3.||Live Lights--God's Plan for Getting Out of the Darkness||31|
|4.||Get Lit--What God Does to Us He Does through Us||45|
|5.||Task Light--Praying to Win||61|
|6.||Fake Light--Stop Generating Your Own Light||77|
|7.||Light Switch--When Character Disappears||95|
|8.||Lit List--Character Is||107|
|9.||Direct Light--The Only Way to Truly Change Character||123|
|10.||Compelling Light--The Persuasive Influence of Character||141|
|11.||Right Light--It Must Be Right to Be Light||159|
|12.||Amplify Light--Answer Your Critics with Results||175|
|13.||Stay Lit--Getting Out of Doubt||195|
|Study Guide--For Individuals and Groups||205|
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