Summary: We come to know God by obeying Him.
I’d like to begin by telling you a little story about something that happened to me this week. I took the minivan in for an oil change at the Chrysler dealer. I was sitting in the waiting room, which was empty except for me and one other man. I was a little bored, so I struck up a conversation. And after a while, the topic of President’s Day came up. He thought it was a shame that instead of celebrating Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday like we used to, we now just have one generic holiday for all the Presidents. He went on to say that he considered Lincoln to be a great man, one of the greatest men in American history; perhaps even the greatest man in history, period. In fact, he even said that he tried to live his life according to the teachings and example of Abraham Lincoln.
Well, now, this piqued my curiosity. I’d heard of Confucians, and Buddhists. But I’d never met a "Linconian," a disciple of Abraham Lincoln. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. So I inquired a little further:
* Are there others like you? (I asked) "Oh yes, there’s a group of about 40 here on the West Side; we meet once a week on Friday evening (that’s the day Lincoln was shot). Our leader is a man with a Master’s degree in American History. Every week, he reads a selection from Lincoln’s writings, and then he gives a talk explaining what it means, and suggesting ways we can apply it to our lives. And of course, February 12th, Lincoln’s birthday, is a big holiday for us. We have parties, and exchange gifts, and sing Civil War songs. Sometimes, one of us dresses up like Lincoln in a beard and top hat, and he gives out presents to the kids. It’s a lot of fun.
* That’s fascinating! So you must study Lincoln’s life and writings? "Well, not exactly. I do own a leather bound copy of Lincoln’s complete works -- his speeches, his writings, his letters. It’s beautiful. I have it displayed on a table by our front door, so when anyone comes in the house, they can see that I’m a follower of Abraham Lincoln. I also own several biographies of Lincoln. One of these days I really do plan to read them. I just haven’t had the time yet."
* But how can you be a disciple of Lincoln if you don’t read what he wrote? "Well, it’s mostly common-sense stuff, really. ’Do unto others,’ the golden rule, be nice to people, free the slaves, that kind of thing. And besides, I listen to a half-hour speech on Lincoln every Friday.
* I see. So how does being a follower of Lincoln affects your life? "Well, like I said, I go to a meeting every Friday. I celebrate Lincoln’s birthday once a year. I own a leather-bound edition of his writings and speeches. Oh, and most of my friends are also Linconians."
* So when you get together with your friends, you talk about Lincoln’s life and how to live out his teachings? "Oh, no. That stuff’s for Fridays, when we go to the meetings. No, we just talk about sports, politics, our families. The same things everybody else talks about."
I think that’s enough. As you’ve probably guessed, this conversation never really happened. It was just a figment of my imagination. But it would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it, for someone to claim to be a follower of Abraham Lincoln, and yet not study his writings, and not be familiar with the events of his life. You might reasonably doubt the depth of someone’s devotion to our sixteenth president, if they had never heard of the Gettysburg address, or the Emancipation Proclamation, or Ford’s Theater. You would expect that if a person claimed to be a disciple of Lincoln’s, it would have an affect on how they lived, beyond just attending a meeting once a week.
Of course the application is obvious. If you are a Christian, if you are truly a follower of Jesus Christ, it will affect much more of your life than just your Sunday mornings. Because following Christ isn’t a hobby, like stamp collecting, or fly fishing, or building model airplanes. It’s a way of life. It’s a way of life that makes us different than the world around us. And it’s a way of life that requires the development of regular spiritual habits.
Today is the last installment in our series on "Seeking God". As you may remember, these messages were inspired by a challenge that I laid before the congregation on December 31st. I encouraged each of you to make one New Year’s resolution for 2001, that this year you would seek to know Jesus Christ more deeply than ever before; that this year, you would seek to draw closer to Him, and experience His presence and activity in your life, more intensely than ever before. Throughout this series of messages, my goal has been to give you practical steps to carry out that resolution; spiritual habits that will help you draw near to God.