“The victorious Christian life” is one of those Christianese phrases that we hear often and that rolls off of our tongues easily. Indeed we have victory in the blood of Jesus – victory over the curse of sin which brings us eternal life. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:54-58: “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”. Pretty incredible, isn’t it?
However, when we talk about the “victorious Christian life” we usually refer to our present life, the life we now live on planet earth. By this, we mean experiencing power over temptation, living in the presence of God, and doing the things that give Him glory. Every Christian should desire this life.
Yes we want victory, but do we really want the circumstances that give rise to victory? Think about it for a second. The idea of victory means that there must be something or someone that we have victory over, which means that that there are conflicts, battles, or all out war. There is no need for victory when all is peaceful because there is nothing to fight, and thus nothing to win.
In the lives of believers in Jesus, victory tells us that we are in a war, and that war takes on two fronts. First we battle the forces of evil – Satan and his minions who work ceaselessly in their attempts to sew doubt in our minds, plant temptations in our hearts, and stir up chaos and confusion in our lives. Yes, there is a war that rages around us everyday, but there is victory when we claim that victory in the blood of Jesus and fight the spiritual battles with the armor of God that is so wonderfully explained in Ephesians 6.
The second front is “self”. Self is the old me, that part of me that wants to be God and call the shots. We fight this constantly whether we realize it or not – we struggle with obedience to God or doing what the world expects; we fight with being a humble servant as Jesus calls us to be or acting in pride and wanting our way; we battle with holiness when the world seductively whispers “go ahead you deserve to make yourself happy with all the pleasure you want”. This battle is also fierce, but there is victory, and that victory is experienced when we die to self and totally surrender to the lordship of Jesus in our lives.
Jesus wasn’t naive, He knew that this earthly life would be a battle. In John 14:33 Jesus said: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” He ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to indwell those who would trust Him as Savior so that we would have everything necessary to realize “the victorious life”. Ephesians 1:3 says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ”. In order to allow the Holy Spirit to work this “every spiritual blessing in Christ” in our lives we must die to self. There is no other way.
Yes, every true Christian desires to have victory, but most don’t want the circumstances that go along with it – spiritual warfare and the battle for lordship in their lives (“self” vs Jesus). Yet, these conflicts exist in each one of us. The battles are fierce and continuous, and we must make concerted effort and take intentional steps to avoid being a casualty. But we are all in the war and must fight. There is no victory without the fight.
Are you experiencing victories in your Christian walk? While none of us is perfect, when we don the armor of God daily and die to self daily, we will realize more victories and experience the presence of our awesome God like we never did before.
We all want victory, but no one wants the battle. Remember, you can’t have the former without the latter. Are you taking the steps necessary to be victorious?
On a wall in my office I have fastened a piece of chalk so that I see it constantly as I sit at my desk. Why? It’s not because I like to scribble on the carpet or draw hopscotch squares. I have it there as a reminder – a reminder that our nation, our churches, and most importantly, that I, need revival.
It has been said that when Gypsy Smith, the great English revivalist, would come to a town to conduct meetings he would get down on his knees, draw a circle around himself, and cry out to God to send revival,, and to start it inside the circle. The chalk on my wall reminds me that if God is to bring a revival to my city, my county, my state, and my country, then it needs to start with me.
It is so easy to look at our society and say how bad “they” are, and to look at other Christians and say how much “they” need revival. But what about you and I? I don’t know about you, but I sure need a fresh move of God in my life. I need to draw that circle get on my face, and cry out to God to start a revival in me.
Revivals always are birthed in prayer that is saturated in humble brokenness, honest transparency, and deep repentance. Humble brokenness that recognizes that we are powerless and spiritually bankrupt without God’s manifest presence in our lives. Honest transparency that acknowledges that we, too, have sinned in many areas of our lives, be it gossip, laziness, lukewarmness, critical spirit, sexual sin, lust, dishonesty, cheating, jealousy, compromise, or any other unholiness. Deep repentance that weeps over our own sin because we hate it so much – not because we got caught or because of the consequences we might have to face, but because it grieves the heart of our heavenly Father.
Before we “stand in the gap” for revival on behalf of our country (Ezekiel 22:30), we must kneel in the circle for personal revival. You see, my friends, it starts with me, and it starts with you.
And, when He rends the heavens and comes down within our circle and revives our hearts, it will be a transformation that is truly supernatural. We will be saturated in His presence, filled with the Holy Spirit, crave holiness, and experience deep intimacy with Him. We will be hungry for His word, passionate in prayer, sold out in our worship, and fearless in proclaiming Him. We will understand that their is wholeness in spiritual brokenness, victory in surrendering to Him, freedom in being His bond slave, and true life is dying to self. In summary, we will experience the reality for which we were created – to know, and I mean really know, our great God.
Will you join me and be a part of the army of the “Chalk Circlers”? Are you tired of just existing and going through the motions in your walk with Jesus? Do you hunger and thirst for more? Then how about going to the store, buying a box of chalk, and putting a piece in a prominent place so that you see it everyday as a reminder of your need of revival. If you can, draw a circle in a private place and get in that circle everyday and pray that God would send a revival, and start it in your circle. If you can’t draw a circle, still pray everyday for personal revival. Persevere in your prayer and don’t lose heart, God works in His will and in His timing (let me know if you will enlist in the Chalk Circle army so we can pray for and encourage each other).
Remember – pray fervently in humble brokenness, honest transparency, and deep repentance.
Oh Lord, rend the heavens and come down in revival, and let it start with me!
Whatever happened to the United States of America, that great experiment in democracy, that nation that was founded squarely on the morality and truths of the Bible? While the U.S. is not a “Christian nation” per se (our constitution provides for freedom of religion), it was undeniably founded on biblical principles. One only needs to read the statements of the Founding Fathers to see this. The argument of who was a Deist or who was a Theist is a straw man argument. The United States of America was founded on biblical principles. Period. And because of this, our country led the way for basic goodness, decency, morality, and benevolence in the world. Oh, we weren’t, and aren’t, perfect. Far from it. Slavery and racism being a prime example. But, on the whole, we were a good nation. Why? Because of our foundation of biblical principles. However, with the passing of time, things began to change. Before we reached our 200th birthday, we started to forget that God was the source of our incredible blessings and embarked on a dangerous journey of self reliance that had no room for God. Prayer in schools vanished, evolution became the science of choice, living together replaced marriage, casual sex became the norm, rampant divorce led to the demise of the family which in turn left millions of kids confused and angry, the filth of pornography was protected as free speech, the mother’s womb became a death chamber for over fifty million babies, God’s moral absolutes were considered archaic for our modern society and were replaced by relativism, God’s name and His ten commandments were considered threatening to many and have been ousted from public places, and now homosexuality and gay marriage is applauded and championed in every aspect of our society. Additionally, our elected officials, from the White House to the Governor’s office have not upheld their oath of office by refusing to defend the laws of the land and the measures voted on by the people. And sadly, unelected judges with no accountability are determining the course that the nation is heading on many moral issues. If the Founding Fathers could see the condition of the United States today they would think they were looking at a foreign country, not the one they so bravely established over two hundred years ago. In its inception, and for many decades, America was good and the church of Jesus Christ was a big part of that goodness. The Bible was believed, faith was important, families attended church together, and God was considered as the cornerstone of society. But, like our nation, something happened to the church. Theologians, scholars, and experts suddenly got “smarter” and started to doubt the Bible, wondered if God’s moral absolutes were really necessary, took a twisted view of morality, and began to compromise the truth. Instead of pouring energy into discipleship and helping Christians mature in the faith, the church decided that it needed to be “cool” and popular with the world. So the church made the sanctuary look like a night club or a lounge, replaced heartfelt worship with an entertainment extravaganza that rivaled a Las Vegas production, replaced the Bible with self help books and books about “me”, developed a crossless and bloodless gospel so as to not make people feel icky about themselves, and created buzz words like “thinking outside the box”, “emergent”, “seeker sensitive”, “non threatening services”, “real, relevant, relational”, and “a new way to do church”. And the results have been devastating. The church of Jesus Christ has lost its savor and has become no different than the world. Tragically, the church has lost the power of the Holy Spirit to impact our culture for Kingdom of God. While its easy, and common, in articles like this to bemoan, the ills of society and the church, and how we’re going to hell in a hand basket, it is another thing to offer a solution. Church, there is a solution. And that solution is revival. Only a revival in the church can halt the disaster that ominously looms before our nation. The church is sick and on life support, but God can breathe new life into her. But it will come at a cost. Church, we, all of us who name Jesus as Savior, must fall on our faces before our holy God, repent of our own sins, the sins of the church, and the sins of the nation, and cry out to God for mercy. Perhaps He will send revival fires our way. A revived church is surrendered, deep, passionate, fearless, bold, loving, hungry for holiness, and anointed by God. A revived church is alive and in love with Jesus Christ, and has an enormous impact on society. Church, our nation is dying, and we, the body of Christ, can be used by Him to rescue it. Will we humble ourselves, repent, and die to self so He can live through us? It may be now or never.
Since our country honored God, His hand of blessing was upon us. We enjoyed freedom, goodness, opportunity, decency, plenty, and justice. We were the country others flocked to to make a good life for themselves and their families
Church, we must be honest and shoulder some of the blame for the pathetic condition of our nation. We should have been leading the way for the culture to see their need of God and been the lighthouse to show them the way to Him. Instead , we compromised the truth and became like the ones we were called to transform. We have shamed our magnificent God’s name.
Whatever happened to the United States of America, that great experiment in democracy, that nation that was founded squarely on the morality and truths of the Bible? While the U.S. is not a “Christian nation” per se (our constitution provides for freedom of religion), it was undeniably founded on biblical principles. One only needs to read the statements of the Founding Fathers to see this. The argument of who was a Deist or who was a Theist is a straw man argument. The United States of America was founded on biblical principles. Period.
And because of this, our country led the way for basic goodness, decency, morality, and benevolence in the world. Oh, we weren’t, and aren’t, perfect. Far from it. Slavery and racism being a prime example. But, on the whole, we were a good nation. Why? Because of our foundation of biblical principles.
However, with the passing of time, things began to change. Before we reached our 200th birthday, we started to forget that God was the source of our incredible blessings and embarked on a dangerous journey of self reliance that had no room for God.
Prayer in schools vanished, evolution became the science of choice, living together replaced marriage, casual sex became the norm, rampant divorce led to the demise of the family which in turn left millions of kids confused and angry, the filth of pornography was protected as free speech, the mother’s womb became a death chamber for over fifty million babies, God’s moral absolutes were considered archaic for our modern society and were replaced by relativism, God’s name and His ten commandments were considered threatening to many and have been ousted from public places, and now homosexuality and gay marriage is applauded and championed in every aspect of our society.
Additionally, our elected officials, from the White House to the Governor’s office have not upheld their oath of office by refusing to defend the laws of the land and the measures voted on by the people. And sadly, unelected judges with no accountability are determining the course that the nation is heading on many moral issues.
If the Founding Fathers could see the condition of the United States today they would think they were looking at a foreign country, not the one they so bravely established over two hundred years ago.
In its inception, and for many decades, America was good and the church of Jesus Christ was a big part of that goodness. The Bible was believed, faith was important, families attended church together, and God was considered as the cornerstone of society.
But, like our nation, something happened to the church. Theologians, scholars, and experts suddenly got “smarter” and started to doubt the Bible, wondered if God’s moral absolutes were really necessary, took a twisted view of morality, and began to compromise the truth. Instead of pouring energy into discipleship and helping Christians mature in the faith, the church decided that it needed to be “cool” and popular with the world. So the church made the sanctuary look like a night club or a lounge, replaced heartfelt worship with an entertainment extravaganza that rivaled a Las Vegas production, replaced the Bible with self help books and books about “me”, developed a crossless and bloodless gospel so as to not make people feel icky about themselves, and created buzz words like “thinking outside the box”, “emergent”, “seeker sensitive”, “non threatening services”, “real, relevant, relational”, and “a new way to do church”.
And the results have been devastating. The church of Jesus Christ has lost its savor and has become no different than the world. Tragically, the church has lost the power of the Holy Spirit to impact our culture for Kingdom of God.
While its easy, and common, in articles like this to bemoan, the ills of society and the church, and how we’re going to hell in a hand basket, it is another thing to offer a solution. Church, there is a solution.
And that solution is revival.
Only a revival in the church can halt the disaster that ominously looms before our nation. The church is sick and on life support, but God can breathe new life into her. But it will come at a cost. Church, we, all of us who name Jesus as Savior, must fall on our faces before our holy God, repent of our own sins, the sins of the church, and the sins of the nation, and cry out to God for mercy. Perhaps He will send revival fires our way. A revived church is surrendered, deep, passionate, fearless, bold, loving, hungry for holiness, and anointed by God. A revived church is alive and in love with Jesus Christ, and has an enormous impact on society.
Church, our nation is dying, and we, the body of Christ, can be used by Him to rescue it. Will we humble ourselves, repent, and die to self so He can live through us?
It may be now or never.
Over the last couple of decades many non Christians said that the church was no longer relevant, so the church “experts” concluded that it was time to think outside the box in order to create a new way of doing church. As a result the church spent enormous amounts of time, energy, and resources trying to remake itself so it would look “with it”, “cool’, and a place where people can have a good time, sort of like going to a dinner theater or concert.
This “outside the box” thinking led to many changes. For example, many churches have dropped the word “church” from their name because the word “church”, they say, is threatening to many people. In some churches (or whatever name they have called themselves), you’ll find living room type seating complete with latte bars in order to make the atmosphere seem casual and comfy. Others have gone to great expense to make the music rival a rock concert with special effects, unique lighting, and a multimedia extravaganza. In keeping with the entertainment driven focus on this new way of doing church, it is common to see skits, plays, and dance routines in the service. Many have taken the preaching time and made it into a light, breezy, talk centered on pop psychology, self improvement, and managing one’s life.
Unfortunately, in the church’s attempt to become “relevant”, it has become spiritually “irreverent”. All of these changes haven’t made a powerful impact in our society for the Kingdom of God. In fact, it seems to have done just the opposite. It has created a shallow spirituality that has deceived countless numbers of people in thinking that they are “okay” with God when they haven’t a clue of who Jesus is, how one becomes a Christian, and what it really means to follow Jesus.
We have it all wrong. Instead of seeking the world’s approval, we should be seeking God’s approval. Instead of being popular with the world, we should strive to be popular with Him.
The church has been so preoccupied with being liked by the world, we have forgotten that, if Christians follow Jesus, and I mean really follow Him as sold out disciples, the world won’t like us. Why? Because Jesus said so: “If
the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you
as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out
of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is
greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute
you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also”. John 15:18-20
As believers in Jesus Christ, we are supposed to be different because we have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. We have new purpose, new motives, a new world view, new standards of behavior, new ways of relating to people, new parameters for entertainment choices, and a new focus. And all of these will be different from the world, and the world probably won’t like us for what we stand for because a lifestyle of deep
discipleship is very much counter culture to the status quo of society.
The apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to
live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”.
(By the way. when I say we are to be different, I’m
not talking about being purposely obnoxious, spiritually smug, or
acting spiritually weird in order to get non Christians to hate us so we can tell others how much we are being persecuted for Jesus.
That’s dumb. I’m talking about living in intimacy with our incredible
God, being sold out to Him, and being on the journey of holiness and
You see my friends, while there is nothing wrong with using technology, the church doesn’t need gimmicks, promotions, or Madison Avenue marketing techniques to attract people to Jesus. We need Christians who are passionate about Jesus, knowledgeable of the Bible and theology, and filled with the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to be clever with the Word, just preach and teach the truth under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and let Him do the rest. We don’t need entertainment, just genuine worship from hearts that are in love with Jesus. We don’t need to be “cool”, we need to be holy. Maybe I’m old fashioned, or not “with it”, but I believe, and always will believe, that Jesus is enough. And when we make our lives and churches about Him and chuck the idea of being popular with the world, God will use us to impact our culture and draw many to Himself.
I wonder,…what would our culture look like if every born again believer in Jesus acted like one? If every Christian knew what they believed and why they believed it, and lived it out in daily life? If every Christian died to self, surrendered to God, and really fell in love with Jesus? If every Christian was passionate, bold, and unashamed of the Truth?
What would it look like? Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?
In John 12:1-8, Matthew 26:6-13, and Mark 14:3-9, the story of Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) pouring the perfume on Jesus’ head and feet and wiping His feet with her hair is incredibly profound. A little background helps us understand the situation. The plants used to make perfumes were not native to Israel, so perfume was imported and was very expensive. We are told in the text that the perfume was nard, which comes from a plant grown in India, and that it was worth a year’s wages. The alabaster jar was sealed, making it necessary to break the jar in order to pour the perfume out.
Now imagine, for a moment, that you were one of the invited guests at that dinner. As you are eating and enjoying the conversation with those around the table, you see someone walking toward Jesus. As you squint through the dim candlelight you notice that it’s Mary. When she gets to where Jesus is reclining (when people ate a meal in ancient times they usually reclined with their feet away from the table) she sits at Jesus’ feet and breaks open the alabaster jar. Immediately, the whole room is filled with the fragrance of the nard, and you are taken aback at how strong the scent is. With your eyes riveted on her, Mary pours the nard on Jesus’ head and feet, lets down her hair, and proceeds to wipe His feet with her hair. Your first thought as she loosens her hair is one of shock as you think: “No, Mary! Don’t do that! Only “loose” women let their hair down in public”. But Mary isn’t concerned about what others may think or say. She is only focused on honoring her Lord in this tangible way. Her actions must have amazed those present at the meal. And they amaze us today.
Where did Mary get such an expensive commodity as nard? Perhaps it was handed down as a family treasure. Maybe it was given to her as a special gift. We’re not told how she obtained it, but we do know that it was extremely valuable. And yet she poured all of it out on Jesus as an extravagant act of devotion. She loved Jesus so much that nothing was to valuable, and nothing to precious, compared to Him.
Another point that is forgotten when reading this story is that the scent of the nard was probably still noticeable on Jesus for quite a while after this event took place. People didn’t bathe very often in ancient times, and since Jesus was crucified about a week and a half after this incident, He, in all likelihood, was able to smell the nard as He hung on the cross. Every time He got a whiff of the perfume during His horrible ordeal, Mary’s love and devotion came to His mind, and this must have meant so much to Him!
What a remarkable testimony for us. As I read this story, a question keeps popping up in my mind – what is my, and your, alabaster jar? What is valuable and precious in our lives? Our careers? Our portfolios? Our hobbies and “toys”? Our families? May I suggest to you that the most valuable thing in our alabaster jars is…ourselves!
Romans 12:1 says: “Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship”. You see, my friends, the greatest thing we can give God is ourselves. Are you willing to pour out your life at His feet in total devotion to Him? Are you willing to give yourself to Him in total surrender?
What does this mean, and what does this look like? Think of it as Jesus handing you a contract that details every aspect of your life, but it is blank. He asks you to sign this blank contract saying that He will fill out the details later. Sounds a little scary, doesn’t it? We want to know what we are getting into before we sign any contract. However, breaking your alabaster jar and pouring yourself at His feet means that you sign this blank contract, coming to Him on His terms without conditions or reservations. And you do this freely because you love Him so much.
Does that mean you have to quit your job, sell your possessions, and go to a mission field that is in the middle of nowhere? It could, but probably not. It is a matter of the heart. It is a day to day surrender that purposely, intentionally, and freely yields to His will.
And just as Mary’s alabaster jar had to be broken before the nard was able to be poured out, so, too, do we need to come to Him in spiritual brokenness (that is, totally dependent on Him, knowing that without Him we are spiritually bankrupt and helpless) in order to give ourselves totally to Him.
You know, it is easy to give God bits of our money or our time. But to give Him all of us…well, that’s quite another story! It doesn’t come naturally, automatically, or easily for any of us. But it is the most valuable thing we have, and the one thing that He desires.
Pouring out the contents of “self” from our alabaster jars is a lifelong journey that must be done daily. However, it is the greatest act of devotion and worship we can ever bestow on our loving, wonderful Savior, and the only way to have the intimate relationship with Him that He wants us to enjoy. Will you break open your alabaster jar right now and start the journey of giving yourself totally to Him?
A few decades ago, Christianity found itself at a fork in the road that offered two optional paths – one option was down the path called DIscipleship Way and the other down the path called Self Avenue. Self Avenue was a broad road with an easy, flat grade, and it looked wonderful – health, wealth, fulfillment, good times, and being the center of attention. Discipleship Way, on the other hand was a narrow road with steep mountains to climb, and it didn’t look very appealing – dying to self, surrender, holiness, and brokenness.
So, because the majority of the church was marinated in secular culture, it chose Self Avenue. However, the years have proven that, even though this path looked fabulous to the eyes, it brought spiritual sickness and decay to the church. For those few, however, who refused to be duped by the empty promises of Self Avenue and instead chose Discipleship Way, they found that, even though the going was tough at times, this road led to everything they had ever dreamed of – deep intimacy with God, real purpose in life, and living in the holy, awesome presence of the King.
Unfortunately, the majority who chose Self Avenue were blinded to its harmful effects and kept on barreling down its path. The result? Self has replaced Jesus as the center of the Christian life, which is evidenced in many ways: sermons with “self” as the main theme; Christian book stores filled with books about “self”(how to be a good leader, how to fulfill your dreams, how to be successful, how to unleash your full potential, how to live your best life now, etc); worship services centered around “self” and our senses (major productions with the latest in multi media gadgets, music that entertain instead of bringing us with a sense of awe to the throne of God, etc); and shallow Christians who are literally clueless about the Bible and theology.
The result? We’ve become “self” centered, “self” reliant, “self” sufficient, “self” righteous, and “self” pleasing.
We’ve forgotten that life has never been, is not now, and will never be, about us. It is about Jesus. He is the center of all life. He is why we go to church. He is the one who deserves our worship. He is to be at the top of our priority list.
We’ve lost sight of the fact that it is in dying to “self” that we truly find life. The apostle Paul said in Colossians 3:3: “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. And in Romans 6, Paul gives the very clear truth that, positionally, we died with Jesus to our old self and now we have to consider “self” dead.
Many people ask: “what is ‘self’ “? Self is that part of me that wants to be God. It is that part of me that wants to be in charge of my life, that seeks fulfillment and meaning in life apart from God. It is the worldly part of me that desires pleasure, ease, and having everything go just the way I want it. It is me without God’s presence.
Far too many Christians have taken Self Avenue and replaced Jesus with “self”, and the results are frightening. The church has become powerless and insignificant in our culture. The most powerful entity on the planet, the church of Jesus Christ, has lost its way because we have bowed the knee to “self”.
Is the church in a hopeless situation? No! There is hope. But our hope, our only hope, is in an authentic move of God in His church, a move of God in revival. Only when we fall on our faces before Him and repent of our idolatry of worshiping “self” and turn back to the One who really is to be Lord of our lives will the church again be filled with His presence and power, and be used by Him to transform our society. The church must exit Self Avenue and merge onto on Discipleship Way.
My friends, it’s not about us! It’s about Jesus. A life lived for “self” is, at best, shallow, empty, and void of meaning. A life lived for Jesus, however, is a life lived to the utmost, and the pinnacle of human experience because nothing, absolutely nothing, can compare to living in a deep intimacy with Him. Die to self, gives the reigns of your life to Him, and find real life!!
There is a lot of shallowness in the church today. We’ve become Christians of convenience rather than being Christians of conviction. Statistics show that most Christians are basically clueless about what they believe and why they believe it. As a result biblical holiness is bordering on extinction – the divorce rate, pre-marital sex, addiction to pornography, honesty, integrity, and unwholesome entertainment choices among Christians are just as prevalent within the church as outside it,
Even with the wealth of specialty Bibles, Bible studies, conferences, and retreats, most Christians are an inch deep and a mile wide. We have just enough of Jesus to keep us out of hell, but not enough of Him to be true disciples. This type of Christianity is totally foreign to what Jesus expects from us. In Luke 9:23-24 He said: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it”. Quite a different attitude from what we see today.
What, then, does it mean to follow Jesus, I mean really follow Him? It is more than just showing up at church once in a while, owning a Bible, or dropping a few bucks in the offering plate. It is more than talking “Christianese”, praying before meals, and helping out at the church potlucks. It is much more than any of these. Much more.
Following Jesus is an all out surrender to Him. His will for our lives becomes our desire, and we follow Him, whatever the cost may be. Following Jesus necessitates dying to “self'” so that He can live through us. It is having a passion for Him, and desiring a deep intimacy with Him. Simply put, a follower of Jesus lives solely for His pleasure and His glory. I’m not talking “perfection”, as none of us will ever come close to that. I’m talking a life long journey that we choose to be on because we love Him so much.
Jesus said it best in Luke 14:33: ” In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be My disciples” (read my 12-29-09 post about this verse). Wow, we might be saying, this sounds pretty drastic. What did Jesus mean in this verse? Simple – He wants our hearts. Not the organ that is pumping in your chest as you read this blog. Your heart is the seat of who you are – the emotions, intellect, personality, talents, and uniqueness that makes you “you”. When He has your heart, you discover what intimacy with him really is – the most glorifying relationship a human being can ever have. When He has your heart you find fulfillment, meaning, peace and joy in your walk on this planet, regardless of the circumstances you may find yourself in. When we die to self and surrender our hearts to Him, we find the true meaning of why we were created.
What does following Jesus look like in everyday life? Does it mean that we quit our jobs, sell all our possessions and move ten thousand miles away to a foreign mission field? Maybe, but probably not. Following Jesus is an act of our will that transfers the ownership of ourselves and our possessions to Him. He calls the shots in every facet our our lives. It is holding everything we have – jobs, money, possessions, and ourselves, with open hand, letting Him do what He desires with our lives. Whether He has us stay in our present situation or leads us to make drastic changes, our response is “yes Lord, Your will be done”. A follower of Jesus is radically abandoned to him, and finds that, as He said, when we lose our lives for His sake (i.e.: surrender to Him), we actually find it.
Sadly, this has been all but neglected in the most churches today, and the church has suffered because of it. No longer are we a powerful force in the world that God uses to impact our culture for the truth. Oh, how we need sold out followers of Jesus today!! Will you be on the journey of absolute surrender to Jesus and follow Him with all your heart? Will you be a living, breathing testimony of what a real follower of Jesus looks like? The world is waiting to see one.
I recently read about a major Christian university that commissioned a task force to, among other things, “provide clarity regarding the (school’s) identity as an evangelical Christian university” and to establish “a common understanding regarding behavioral expectations for fulfilling roles and responsibilities in light of university values.” Wow, is it really that complex? You’re a Christian university, follow Biblical standards.
Additionally, one can go to a Christian bookstore and find books on how to measure church health, how to facilitate church growth, how to pray, how to worship, how to be relevant, etc, etc. Christianity is glutted with books that, with great detail and complexity, show you how to find yourself, how ro lose yourself, how to be a leader, how to raise perfect kids. and countless volumes on how to have the picture perfect Christian marriage. For those who are strapped for time, you can buy “instant” Christianity books – thirty days to this, forty days to that, one minute Bibles, and discipleship as quick as microwaving instant oatmeal. All of these books, whether on spiritual disciplines, theological issues, or practical living, use Scripture references to back their claims. After reading these, one’s head can be spinning with facts, figures, “how to’s”, and loads of guilt for not doing what the “experts” say we should be doing..
Really, is living the Christian life really that complex? We sure have made something that is so beautiful, and so simple, into something that is so complicated.
Living for Jesus after you are born again is, at its core, really quite simple. It can be summed up in one word — “surrender.” Jesus made this clear in Luke 9:23: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Surrender is giving up all right s to yourself to Him. He calls the shots, He is in control. Your life is totally His and you live in total obedience and devotion to Him.
When we are on the journey of surrender, our lives will be holy, we will be able to integrate spirituality into every facet of life, we will know how to pray and we will glorify Him. When we are growing in intimacy with Him, which is the natural byproduct of surrender, we will be hungry for His Word, and we will build a Biblical world view on life. Take marriage for example. The Bible is very concise about it. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church (put her first and serve her); wives, submit to your husbands (allow him to be the leader of the home as God has ordained). Pretty simple. Yes, I know that the marriage relationship can be complicated. But just think, what if every married couple surrendered to Jesus and followed these two simple rules. Marriage would be in a lot better shape.
If a church is filled with surrendered believers, Jesus becomes the main focus, and it will be alive and healthy; and what is alive and healthy will grow. We won’t need to hire consultants, assemble task forces or committees or follow complicated charts and graphs to see what we are supposed to do. Just surrender to Jesus and obey the Bible. That’s all we need.
If it is so simple, why has Christianity taken the complicated route? Probably because surrender is not very attractive in a culture where “self” is the focus of life. As I mentioned above, surrender is giving all rights to ourselves to Jesus, but we fight this because we want to call the shots and be in control. So we take matters in our own hands and end up making a mess of something that was intended to be so simple.
Following Jesus is simple — it’s all about surrender.
When God delivered the Israelites from captivity in Egypt, they were to make their home in the Promised Land – the land filled with “milk and honey”. This was to fulfill God’s promise to Abram (later to be known as Abraham) that this piece of land would belong to his descendants. When the Israelites arrived at the border of the Promised Land, God told Moses to send out twelve spies to scope it out. Upon their return, the twelve reported how bountiful the land was, but also reported that the land was filled with fortified cities and fierce warriors, even warriors from a race of giants. Ten of the spies said that the Israelites shouldn’t enter the Promised Land because of the opposition that they would encounter. However, the two other spies, Joshua and Caleb, disagreed with the ten and stood firm on God’s promise that He would give them the land. The Israelites agreed with the ten spies and were violently opposed to Joshua and Caleb, so much so that they wanted to stone them. However, Joshua and Caleb would not bend to the popular opinion of the people. God was angry with the Israelites because of their disobedience and lack of faith and, as punishment for their rebellion against Him, had them wander in the wilderness for forty years until all the adults who doubted Him died off. Of that generation, only Joshua and Caleb would enter the Promised Land.
In Numbers 14:24, God said this about Caleb: “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and has followed me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it”. The word “different” comes from the root word which means to loiter, or to be behind, which tells us that Caleb was totally devoted to God and followed Him with all his heart. He would not compromise what he knew to be true no matter what others said and no matter how unpopular it was. Caleb was sold out to God.
How we need Christians today who have a “Caleb spirit”! Those who will stand for the Lord and not fold to popular opinion. Those who refuse to be politically correct by compromising God’s holy standards. Those who aren’t concerned about man’s approval or about being popular with others, but are only concerned with bringing glory to God.
Those with a “Caleb Spirit” have a firm grasp of the Bible, which has led to an deep, intimate relationship with God. They have a tenacious faith and an unshakable trust in Him. Oh, they’re not perfect or super saints, but they are sold out to Jesus, surrendered to Him and have chosen to be His bond slaves.
As we look at our current culture, we need followers of Jesus who have a “Caleb Spirit’ now more than ever. We are sliding into the abyss of immorality at the speed of light. Biblical Christianity is mocked and is being ousted from the fabric of society. Churches have compromised holiness, solid theology, and, discipleship for what is easy, expedient, and popular. And the results are evident – a world in confusion, chaos, and turmoil.
Will you be a Caleb in our culture? A voice that is strong, clear, and fearless for Jesus? Will you draw a line in the sand and make a covenant with God that you refuse to compromise the truth? Caleb’s life challenges us all to be more concerned with God’s glory and His approval than with our popularity and the world’s approval. Caleb stood up to the popular opinion of the day and would not back down, even if it meant being stoned to death. Will you be like him, being fearless for the truth no matter what?
In Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, Jesus wrote letters to seven churches in the province of Asia. Two of the churches received encouraging letters, but in each of the letters to the other five churches Jesus issued a severe reprimand for their spiritual condition and a pointed warning to either repent or reap the consequences for their actions. I wonder, if Jesus were to write a letter similar to those found in Revelation 2 and 3 to the church in America in 2011 what would He say? Would it be something like this…
“To the angel of the church in America write. . .
The holy almighty sovereign One, the King of kings and Lord of lords says this: ‘I know your deeds. ‘You have built impressive buildings that include the latest technology. You have programs for every conceivable type of person, and you are culturally relevant in every way possible. But I have this against you — you have forgotten that church is really about Me.
You have replaced spirit-led worship with well-staged entertainment so the congregation simply sits back and watches the ‘show’ instead of actively worshiping Me.
You have replaced uncompromised, biblically-based sermons with non-threatening, theologically light, feel-good motivational speeches that are focused on yourselves rather than on Me.
You have traded deep, probing Bible studies for the latest fad on the best-seller list.
In order not to offend anyone, you have neglected to teach theology and doctrine, and have failed to teach that discipleship includes absolute surrender, spiritual brokenness, dying to self, holiness, and unquestioned allegiance to Me.
You have forgotten that prayer is the key to my heart, and instead of seeking My face for guidance and direction you have become self-reliant and self-sufficient.
‘You have allowed the culture to influence your way of thinking so that you look, think, and act no different than the world. Divorce, viewing pornography, and sex outside of marriage are as prevalent within the walls of the church as outside of it.
You are My beloved bride, but you have gone after other lovers — popularity, numbers and ‘success’. In your quest to be culturally relevant, you have become spiritually irreverent. You have become so politically correct that you have the world’s approval but not Mine. You have played a harlot with the world and have broken your covenant of love and loyalty to me.
The results are disastrous. America is falling apart morally, and you, My church, are powerless to change its course. Instead of falling on your faces before Me in humble repentance and crying out for revival, you are too occupied with being ’emergent’, ‘seeker sensitive’, ‘relevant’, and ‘thinking outside the box’.
Repent! I say it again, repent!
Humble yourselves before Me, and return to Me. Make Me the object of your devotion. Seek My approval. Surrender totally to Me. Cleanse yourself of the sins of compromise, half-heartedness and self-sufficiency.
Die to self so that I may live in you and use you to turn your society away from destruction and toward the truth and the peace that is found only in Me. Oh, My bride, come back to Me. I love you.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear what I say to the church in America.'”