What is your idea of Christianity? When you think of the gospel and what it means to follow Christ, what comes to mind? Is it simply being a good person who follows the “Golden Rule”, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you? Is Christianity a badge of honor, where you commit to follow Christ, but the only time you spend with him is on Sunday mornings. And honestly, even then some people spend more time looking at their watch than they do their Bibles. Or is your idea of Christianity resting in your salvation and loving Jesus for the good things he gives you in life? Just in and of themselves, none of these things are bad. Its when we start to believe these singular examples define our identities in Christ.
Most people in our country do not know what it means to be a follower of Christ. For proof of this, all one has to do is turn on the television. Never before in history has our so called “Christian nation” so unapologetically trampled on every moral value that Jesus Christ stands for. We seek a life of comfort, ease, and materialism. And when we have these things, then we thank God and tell everyone how blessed we are. We thank God that we know Jesus Christ, but vow to pray for those who dont. And even in our prayer lives, what we pray to God tends to be more focused on self than God. Id venture to say that most do not even know how to pray Biblically! Am I being harsh by saying this? Not anymore harsh than I am on myself, because this is something I am currently being very convicted of in my own life.
If you think about it, the average Baptist church today spends more time praying to keep Saints out of Heaven than praying to get the lost into Heaven! The focus of many pray meetings is centered around who is in the hospital, and what physical ailments are they dealing with. So we go to the Lord in prayer that he will heal this faithful church member. And then we go to the next person on the hospital list. Is this wrong to pray for the sick? Absolutely not! Its a wonderful thing to pray for the needs of saints. The problem is when ailments selfish needs become the driving focus of our prayers to God. One pastor rightly joked, “Prayer meetings today sound more like medical conventions rather than being Gospel centered.”
There are literally billions of people dying and going to Hell every day! Why not pray for God to open a window for us to preach to the lost? Why not pray for God to begin to draw people into relationship with Him? We all have family members or friends who do not know Christ! Yet we will pray for their stumped toe instead of being broken over the fact that if they died today, they would spend eternity suffering in Hell! I find it so odd that good parents today will teach their children things to keep them safe such as looking before crossing the road, and not to run with scissors because they dont want their precious children to get hurt. Yet when it comes to teaching their children about Jesus and their eternity, its not a high priority. The condition of the lost should be our number one concern, because it is our King’s number one concern.
Our focus should primarily be on the lost. But do you want to know the two scariest prayers you could ever pray? The first is to pray for God’s will for your life and not your own will. And the second scariest prayer you could pray is this….pray that God would use you to accomplish his will.
Because in praying this way, you have to be willing to set aside what you in your flesh may have wanted for your life. Certian worldy aspirations of comfort and ease must die in exchange for a road that you may not have chosen for yourself. Jesus didnt relish the thought of having all of God’s wrath poured out upon him as the sacrifice for all sin on the cross. But Jesus knew the most important thing was that the will of God be accomplished. Jesus prayed this prayer before his crucifixion in the garden…….
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42.
Father, not my will, but yours be done! Christianity isnt about having, as a very popular television evangelist would say, “Your Best Life Now.” Because in Christ, we know that our best life is yet to come in eternity! Christianity is summed up in a word that is very unpopular in our me centered world today…..SACRIFICE. Read what the apostle Paul has to say about his idea of self denial…..
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” Romans 6:6.
He paints a vivid mental picture of what it means to follow Jesus. Paul says the old self is crucified. Our old ways of chasing after what we selfishly want is put to death in exchange for instead living life for the will of God. And again, the will of God is not for you and I to live a lavish life of comfort and ease. That is what Heaven is for. We easily forget that we are living in a fallen world ruled by Satan. We forget that we as Christians are to be about the mission of Christ and work for Him while we have breath under the sun. This life is not about us! The Christians life is to be about sacrifice! It is about living to see the proclamation of the Gospel spoke to all those who have not heard the good news! Its about mission!
One of the most inspiring stories that served to humble me and give me an example of our Christian lives was seen in a story I once heard about two young men in their early twenties. They lived a comfortable life but when they got saved, everything changed. They begin to pursue being missionaries so that they might proclaim the gospel to those who hadn’t heard. Long story short, the two young men sold themselves to a slave owner in a foreign country, to be his slaves for life, so that they would have the opportunity to share the gospel with the other slaves who had no knowledge of Christ and no contact with the outside world.
And as the young men boarded the boat to leave for their new home of slavery, with their church family and friends standing on the dock and weeping as they pulled away, one of the young men shouted, “Shall not the Lamb have the full reward of this suffereing!” That is sacrifice. That is living for Gods will and dying to self. Everytime I hear that story I pray that God would give me even half of their courage to live radically for Him! So that I may look back over my life when I am an old man, and be able to say that I wasted not one breath the Lord gave me on foolishness. That in my falleness, Id live every second for his will and not my own.
That is why Jesus tells his disciples that following Jesus is not for everyone! He tells them to count the cost! Only those who are willing to accept living a life of sacrifice need apply. Look at what Christ says in Luke…
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Luke 14:27-30.
Jesus calls us to full committment when we give our lives to his Lordship. Jesus goes on to say after giving this example….
“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33.
Am I implying that everyone needs to sell all they have to go into foreign missions? No. Is Christ asking you to be this radical with your life? Maybe. The problem is most of us would be too scared to pray this way for fear of God’s answer may be very much in opposition to their own plans. Leonard Ravenhill used to say that he had never met a man on his deathbed who said he did too much for Christ. But he had met plenty a man near death that said he regretted not doing enough. If we truly believe that the best is yet to come in eternity, then our present suffering here on earth become a joy in light of things to come!
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”Romans 8:18.
“But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13.
Christianity is more than just an added a relationship with Jesus to your lifes list of accomplishments. Following Christ is a mission. The question is, are you full committed? Once we begin to embrace the biblical picture of self denial, it becomes a joy to deny our flesh. Because in that we become more transformed into the image of King Jesus. The more we study scripture, the more the Holy Spirit reveals himself to us and fills our hearts with Godly desires. In short, when we seek Jesus, its not a burden to deny ourselves….we want to do this!! It becomes our passion to seek out opportunities to proclaim the gospel! We become genuinely burdened at the fact that there are places in our world where people dont know Christ! We as believers are to have one great love, one great passion, and one great mission that is definitive of our existence. And that is a personal relationship with Christ that fills us with a desire to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth. What an adventure and joy we find in living our lives for Christ!!
The apostle Paul sums up what this looks like better than I ever could in the passage of scripture below! He acknowledged that although he struggled in his flesh, he kept pressing on, not towards his will, but God’s. Regarding those that do not seek Gods will, Paul said of them, “their God is their stomach“. Meaning that their fleshly desires rank high above God in their lives. But Paul says for those in Christ, the redeemed press forward to be more like Jesus as Paul does. And he exhorts us to follow his example.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”Phillipians 3:12-21.