Two years ago I read Crazy Love by Francis Chan. If you’ve read it, you know that it is a gamechanger. He points out that Jesus is, by every definition, radical. He does not call for His followers to live their lives and once in awhile read the Bible and maybe pray a few times a week, month, or year. He doesn’t even say for them to be avid churchgoers, bible study leaders who hold prayer meetings in their houses every Wednesday and give money to the poor. Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me.” He told a man to sell all of his possessions and give to the poor. He told them to leave their deceased family members and let the dead bury their own. He tells us to hate our sin and even to hate our own lives. This is radical stuff. And it’s not just a bunch of stuff that Jesus said for his health. He means it, for all of us!
Crazy Love is a book to read again and again, it will light a fire in your heart and bring you back to what Jesus actually called for us to do.
Let me say first that The Bible says that all who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who died on the cross to pay the price for all of our sins and rose again, will be saved.
And ultimately, God knows our hearts. He knows if we are putting things first above Him in our lives. He knows what we are living for, and he knows the difference if we know of Him or we truly, intimately, know, love and worship Him. We know what The Bible says and we can trust His Word as the Truth.
But what these preachers and authors are reminding us is how The Bible also tells us we should live our lives renewed, changed, according to the path Jesus wants us to take. It is not for salvation we should care for the poor, needy, widows, infirm, but because we have been saved, we are the body of Christ and we are to love people greater than we love ourselves. Loving all people, serving people, spreading the good news of Christ should all be the evidence that we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
At the moment, I am reading a book in the same vein called Radical by David Platt. I just started it but I can see that it’s another great eye-opener, calling us to look at who Jesus really is. He points out that in America, we have morphed Jesus and The Bible to be something that is comfortable to us and to our idea of the American dream. We go to church, fellowship with other Christians at different events that the church puts on, we sit in comfortable auditoriums with beautiful stage decorations and lighting and we listen to great music on an expensive sound system. Then we go home and watch football, go back to work during the week and come back next Sunday.
This is just not cutting it.
Platt is not gentle in his depiction of what Christianity has become in this nation. He is blunt. He says, are we to ask Jesus to come into our hearts and that’s that? Now we are in Heaven? Phew, that was close. Now where was I? Yes, The Bible says that if we knock, the door is opened. Whoever seeks shall find. Whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life. But Jesus is SO much more than a ticket to Heaven.
I had a huge revelation in my life last year. I was getting closer to God, I was yearning for Him and I was beginning to realize that I wanted nothing more than to do what He wanted for me, to please Him, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I loved Jesus, everything about Him, and I was beginning to delight in every red letter.
One day I was reminded of a question I asked my youth pastor Bobby when I was about fourteen.
“Isn’t it really selfish of us to want to go to Heaven?”
At the time, it was a sincere question. I was thinking of what I wanted for myself, I was saved, I wanted to go to Heaven, and that was that. Wasn’t God looking down on me and thinking I just wanted to be with my loved ones again and live forever? Man, it made me feel worse about myself. I’m already a sinner, and now, even in my salvation, I’m only thinking of myself. And that was 100% true for me back then. I was halfway there, but I had no idea the fullness of what God has given me, if only I were to discover it then.
So in remembering this, last year I discovered that in these 8-9 years I have truly been transformed by the renewing of my mind. I was overwhelmed by this feeling that God has revealed so much of himself to me lately. I was beginning to seek Him with my whole heart, and I was finding the beauty and the love of Jesus, the personal relationship, the longing and desire to be with my Father in Heaven. Heaven has become all about Him, His glory, His praise, His throne. Heaven is the end of separation from my Lord and Savior, and that is enough and then some.
Remember the parable of the man who found treasure in the field? He went to sell everything, bought the field just so that he could have that treasure because it was suddenly the most important thing to him. This is what Jesus should be to us. We should be constantly searching for Him, constantly in His word, renewing our minds, restoring our souls, following Him and listening for Him to tell us what we should do. But why? Because we want to! Because it is of utmost importance to us, because we love God and we owe our lives to Him who sent His son for us, because He has changed our lives, because we know that He knows what we need, though it may not be what we want. Because He has saved us. Because we want nothing more than to live our lives as a reflection of Him, and to share the good news.
I love how Platt describes this type of faith (p. 39): “[The] gift of grace involves the gift of a new heart. New desires. New longings. For the first time, we want God. We see our need for him, and we love him. We seek after him, and we find him, and we discover that he is indeed the great reward of our salvation. We realize that we are saved not just to be forgiven of our sins or to be assured of our eternity in heaven, but we are saved to know God. So we yearn for him. We want him so much that we abandon everything else to experience him. This is the only proper response to the revelation of God in the gospel. This is why men and women around the world risk their lives to know more about him. This is why we must avoid cheap caricatures of Christianity that fail to exalt the revelation of God in his Word. This is why you and I cannot settle for anything less than a God-centered, Christ-exalting, self-denying gospel.”
As Platt puts it, Jesus is not here for us to make our lives better. He is not waiting in the wings for when we need guidance and advice on how to be the best we can be. And in many ways, this is what Christianity has become. It’s the Oprah-esque, self-help, self-esteem building, bestselling-book formula. We think, well, surely since God loves me, He wants the best for me and it will all work out and He’s going to make my life better.
Is this what Jesus the Son of God came to the Earth for? He, making himself nothing, subjecting himself to the pains, temptations, and physical ailments of the human body, allowing sinful men to give him a painful death in which he would feel the weight of the world’s sins come over him. Was this so that we could ask him to relieve us of our trials? Then, in good times, we might throw him a bone and say a prayer of “thanks” or two.
We American Christians don’t have to sacrifice anything, our safety is not in jeopardy, we don’t have to risk it all to read our Bibles or to gather to worship. We don’t lose our worldly life for Christ and walk daily with Him. We just try and fit him into our goals and dreams to have a comfortable, financially secure, happy life. And sometimes we want more than that, we want success, wealth, and celebrity. But we are so far off from how Jesus called us to live.
I think about America and all that we have here. We are the wealthiest nation on Earth. Even the poorest among us have safety nets and services that can keep them from starvation. Most people want for nothing, and don’t get me wrong, it is a blessing. But it is also the problem. We fill our lives with meaningless stuff to distract us from our mortality. We constantly look to the next new material item to amuse us. Why would we need a savior? We’re doing just fine without God.
But are our comfortable, safe, superficial, worldly lifestyles keeping us from God? We have lost sight of our need for Jesus in our lives. We manage pretty well on our own, we don’t go hungry, we don’t have bombs going off in our neighborhoods (though we don’t know what tomorrow holds). We have positioned ourselves quite securely in this world. We have lost sight of what we have been called to do here. We forget what Jesus said to us, we think that life is about moving forward and living well. But it’s not enough. There are people who are thrown in prison for reading a Bible, but they do it anyway because they have an insatiable hunger for the gospel. There are people in countries of this world dying for their faith. And we are so comfortable that we take Him for granted. We give him only parts of our life and push Him out of the other parts. It’s not that America is terrible. We are blessed materially, but can those material blessings become a spiritual curse?
The kinds of harsh realities that these two authors/preachers in particular are pointing out are really difficult to hear. I don’t think their intentions are to criticize and insult but to make us think about what we are called to do here. I know that these books and sermons for me have been really eye-opening about my own life (of course, everything should always come back to what the Bible says and Jesus’ own words). And I keep returning to the nagging feeling that there needs to be a change, that as Christians we aren’t supposed to look like the rest of the world. We need to look like tourists in this world, who value the things of God. Do I need to sell all of my possessions and make a vow of poverty? If God calls me to do that. Anything is possible with God, though the idea of breaking free from the American norm is frightening to us.
This is what is burning on my heart, the closer I get to Jesus. I read more of His word, feel the Holy Spirit guiding me, rely on Him for my every need, and I want to drop everything that is tied to this world and follow Him, wherever He leads me. I am unsatisfied with my own dreams and my own goals; all I want is to do what God’s will is for my life. It’s not about my plans anymore. Thy will be done.
I love what Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Once again, things went hominum confusione et dei providentia (according to man’s confusion and God’s providence).” Were there ever words truer than those?
In the meantime, I will listen, wait, watch, and trust that God will guide me and reveal His plans for my life. I am simply waiting for my Revelation.
This time, I know that you are holding all the answers.
I’m tired of losing hope and taking chances on roads that never seem to be the ones that bring me home.
Give me a revelation, show me what to do,
Cause I’ve been trying to find my way, I haven’t got a clue.
Tell me should I stay here, or do I need to move?
Give me a revelation, I’ve got nothing without You.