WARNING: I might sound crazy, offensive, and off balance. I just pray that I speak the truth. Pray for me.
I've been doing a lot of reading in the past week, mostly in "Not a Fan," by Kyle Idleman, "Radical" by David Platt, and "Matthew" by... God. Along with reading, I've done a lot of thinking. And with my Bible study group, I've done some discussing. While I'm not completely certain of the conclusions I'm coming to yet, I feel like something big is about to change. Something crazy, radical, and biblical.
You see, I've decided that I want to see what it would be like to read through Jesus' words in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and take His words without the preconceptions that American culture has added on. David Platt explains this:
"In the American dream, where self reigns as king (or queen), we have a dangerous tendency to misunderstand, minimize, and even manipulate the gospel in order to accommodate our assumptions and our desires. As a result, we desperately need to explore how much of our understanding of the gospel is American and how much is biblical. And in the process, we have to examine whether we have misconstrued a proper response to the gospel and maybe even missed the primary reward of the gospel, which is God Himself."In America, we are all so comfortable. With our freedom, our patriotism, our I can do anything mentality, we are programmed to try and mold God and our faith into something we control, and something that will ultimately benefit us through health, happiness, and prosperity. But it doesn't matter what our cultural faith has made the norm. That's not Jesus.
As both David Platt and Kyle Idleman point out in their books, Jesus didn't ask people to bow their heads and pray a prayer to "accept Him into their hearts." What He asked for was that we would follow Him. Jesus didn't ask for me to be a "good person." He asked me to deny myself, pick up my cross and follow Him.
Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."~Luke 9:23Jesus also didn't ask for people who like Him, do some things for Him, but who do not know Him. In fact, according to Matthew 7, Jesus tells us plainly that our actions, no matter how intentional, are not what He wants.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"~Matthew 7:21-23"Jesus is no longer one to be accepted or invited in but one who is infinitely worthy of our immediate and total surrender," wrote David Platt. Essentially, Platt is pointing out the Biblical truth that those who are saved, who put their faith fully in Christ, are transformed by the Holy Spirit. And that transformation is seen by their complete surrender to God; it doesn't matter how crazy it seems to the world (who cares what other finite beings think?).
Speaking of seeming crazy to the world, I haven't been able to keep Luke 14:33 out of my head:
I've read so many articles and commentaries, and listened to so many sermons and videos on this topic. In the end, I still come down to this: why don't I just take Jesus for what He said? He will never say to me, "Shelby, you went too far overboard for Me." But He has every right to say, "Shelby, why didn't you believe Me?" It's a "better safe than sorry" kind of deal. Better radical that regretful.
"In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples." ~Luke 14:33
And a final thought that I discussed with my Bible study group: We all know that in other countries where Christians are persecuted and where life is incredibly hard (China, India, Africa, etc.), the followers of Christ are really followers of Christ. They've surrendered literally everything from friends and family to their homes and livelihoods. And yet the church in these places is growing by the thousands. Jesus clearly told us that it is nearly impossible to be rich and to be saved, because our faith is not in Him, it's in our sufficiency. He said:
"Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." ~Matthew 19:24
If all this is true, then why do we strive for prosperity? If we claim to follow a homeless and almost penniless Savior, why do we store up treasures here? What makes me think I can handle the riches that Jesus warned me to flee from? If Jesus' command to the rich young ruler in Luke 18 was to sell everything and then come follow Him, shouldn't we view that as the most logical option?
All in all, I have a lot of thoughts and questions, but very few practical answers. I would just ask you to stop and think. Think about what we're risking when we take our salvation lightly. Think about whether you've learned to simply accept the interpretation of the Bible that appeals most to you; think about the consequences of that.
Maybe you need to stop serving God until you know Him.
Maybe you need to pick up that cross you've walked away from.
Maybe you need to give up everything you have.
Maybe it will be the best thing that has ever happened to you.
Maybe today will be when you truly surrender to Jesus.
Because it doesn't matter what we've learned, what we've accepted, what we've known. Jesus is all that matters.