What emotions do you experience when you read the Bible? In Christian circles, its very common to hear people say they feel a peace or a calm when they read the inspired words of God. And I will admit that there are many verses that are given to us to lead us into a peace. But in my own spiritual journey, whenever I pick up the word of God, its not peace that I feel, but conviction. Yes, I do feel conviction that leads me to repent daily of my own shortcomings and failures, but this feeling I get is much deeper than just regular conviction. Its a feeling of uneasiness. A feeling of disconnect, like Ive missed something. And then I look at many of the churches in our culture today….and its a feeling of we’ve all missed something.
When you read the Bible is it peace you feel? For me, especially ever since Ive been walking closely with the Lord, there are times when I go to church and then look at the lives of the disciples, especially in Acts and the epistles, it seems to me like what Im reading in the scriptures isn’t matching up at all with modern day Christianity….almost like they are two different things. I would see the radical commitment that Christ calls us to in the Bible, but then hear Church members talk (myself included) that were more concerned with their own preferences and teachings about Jesus that made them comfortable rather than laboring over scripture in prayer and radically living for Christ!
I became so burdened by this, especially about five years ago. I mean to me, when I read the scriptures, I see a total abandonment of gratifying our flesh in exchange for radically following Jesus. The goal of the disciples was never a bigger house, bigger fishing boats, or making their lives as comfortable as possible. Rather, it was a life of constantly letting go of the things of this world in exchange for following Jesus. In short, Jesus and the proclamation of the gospel was the whole point of their lives. I finally got tired of this lack of peace I was feeling. I was tired of living just a portion of what I read in the Bible. I wanted it all. So in one of the most radical things we’d ever done, we sold our business, sold most of our possessions, and our family of six boarded a plane for Central America with nothing more than five suitcases and a diaper bag to live like the men and women we saw in scripture.
Consider this scene for a moment. Lets just say that you had lived all of your life on a remote island in the South Pacific. No technology and none of the modern comforts of our world. Just you, your family, some grass huts and coconuts. And the only book you had in your possession was the Bible. So because there was nothing else to do except eat coconuts, you would read the Bible for the better part of the day to pass the time. As you reached adulthood, you had actually read and reread the scriptures more times than you could count. In fact, you probably would have major portions of Gods word memorized.
Now imagine that in early adulthood, a passing ship spotted you and your family on the island and came to rescue you. The ship then takes you and your family to the United States to your new home, and one of your first experience is being brought to church. Would the church you had read about over and over in Acts look differently than the church in the modern world? Would you be confused, having read the missionary adventures of Paul and having studied the urgency of reaching the lost the original disciples had for the world? Would you expect to see a group of people in the church who were living for a mission? A people who would come together on Sundays much like soldiers come together to get ready for battle, and then see them disperse intently focused on reaching the lost in their communities until they once again come back together? Or would you expect to see this group of people meet once or twice a week yet live the rest of their lives within their own comfort zones?
If you had lived on this island reading the Bible over and over, would you come to the conclusion that you needed to pray and ask Jesus into your heart? Or would you read the words of Jesus and say to yourself, “I need to repent and turn from my sins and I really need to follow Him, and I know that His spirit will come into me and change me!” Because Ive yet to find that passage of scripture that says repeat a prayer, ask Jesus into your heart, and your saved. And I dont see anywhere in scripture where a person received Christ and he or she wasnt radically changed! Yet today, we see people walk down the aisle and say prayers to “accept” Jesus with literally zero life change.
In Ezekiel 36, the Lord told Israel He was going to do a mighty work that the nations would be astounded by. And that change was taking the rebellious nation of Israel who were known for their idolatry towards God and the Lord said He was going to astound the other nations by giving Israel a new heart. A heart that no longer living in sin but worshiped Christ. And when the other nations saw this change, they marveled, because it was literally like viewing a personality transplant. They had always known Israel to be ungodly, but all of the sudden, they were serving the Lord with all of their hearts.
Thats regeneration in the scriptures. That is what God does! He gives the people personality transplants. So much so that people around them should marvel and be amazed, because they are not the same people in Christ as they were before knowing Him! Its no wonder that our world no longer stands in awe of God, because America Christianity has been sugar coated into a message of reciting a prayer and then living life however you want with no change.
Ive talked to so many parents who’s kids are living in rebellion and have no love for the Lord. Yet when I inquire about their child’s salvation, they are quick to say something like, “Well right now he’s just being a teenager, and I know he doesn’t live for the Lord right now, but I know he is saved because he was baptized when he was ten years old.” Do you see how far off of the original gospel message our culture has strayed? Yes, baptism is required, but it doesnt save. In our world today, we are so quick to try and get a person to be baptized because much like the prayer, we think in some way that once they are dunked, they receive a pass out of Hell and in some way that water saves them. But what we have forgotten is that in the scriptures, baptism came after a person was saved, not before. Baptism is a shadow and a symbol to the world of what Jesus has already done in your heart. Its not a savior, just a testimony.
It has even seeped into our christian lingo. Consider these phrases….
“I have accepted Jesus into my heart.”
“I have decided to follow Jesus.”
And these are just a few among many. We hear all the time people refer to their salvation as “accepting” Jesus. But lets think this through. Is Jesus the one who needs our acceptance? He is already perfect, righteous and Holy. If anything, it is we who need desperately His acceptance!
And as for the phrase, “Ive decided to follow Jesus,” there are tons of theological holes in this statement. First lets look at what Paul said of salvation.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.
Grace simply means receiving a gift that you dont deserve. Have you ever known anyone to buy a gift for themselves? And if you have, its not called a gift, its called a purchase. A gift is unexpected. And Paul goes on to say in this verse that your salvation was not of your own doing, so that we could not boast. Meaning, if I was the one to accept or decide to follow Jesus, then I could take credit for or boast in at least a small way in my own salvation because I made a right decision. But Paul just said your decision had nothing to do with it! If you are still not convinced, lets look at this verse.
“But to all who did receive him,who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”John 1:12-13.
Notice the language used. John speaks of a believer as “receiving” Jesus….much like one would receive a gift. And he goes on to say that Gods children are not born like a normal baby from the womb or born of the will of man. In other translations, the part about the will of man is translated, “...nor born of human decision.”
Many churches pride themselves on doing good and being good people. But our goal is not goodness. Because Jesus said that no man is good…not one. Isaiah said that even our best good works are like filthy rags before God without Christ. Pastor John Macarthur put it best when he said, “Hell is not just a place for rapist and murderers. Hell is going to be filled with good, moral people who didnt know Jesus.”
I dont know it all, and the more I study the scriptures, the more I see how much more sanctification I need in my own life. But one thing I do know is that the church of Jesus Christ was never meant to be a sanctuary and a place of rest. Because for the true Christian, our rest will come in eternity as we are comforted by the Father. But as long as we have breath, we are to be on mission. Jesus didnt intend for the church to be a country club. He never intended it to be a place where we come to be entertained, and hear messages that dont step on our toes. There are preachers who cater to this false gospel, but they are not biblical ones. Rather, the church of Jesus Christ was designed to be a launching pad.
Voddie Bauchman, who is one of my favorite preachers, has two or three children of his own. The other six kids he and his wife have are adopted. The world looks at Voddie and cannot understand why he would keep bringing children that are not biologically his into his family. But Voddie doesnt operate by the American Christianity Handbook. He filters his life through scripture. And in scripture, Jesus emphatically speaks about caring for widows and orphans. And if you think about it, isnt that exactly the example of what Jesus has done for us? We were not born into the family of God. Yet in Galatians, Paul writes….
“God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4-5,
Paul says those in Christ were not born into Gods family, but rather, they were orphans trapped in sin who were adopted by God the Father, having done nothing to deserve that honor. Salvation is simply by the grace of God. God alone gets the total glory for mans salvation.
And think of missionaries. Im talking about the radical ones. Francis Chan is one of my favorite authors. Francis has published many books and was the lead pastor at a mega church in California in one of the richest cities in America. He was sitting very pretty in the worlds eyes. But a few years back, Francis became burden by what he saw in scripture and the nature of comfort driven modern day Christianity. So he willingly resigned from his huge mega church, gave all of his book proceeds to Gods work, and moved his family to an inner city slum to live and minister to the people there. To live among the poor, so that he might become less as Jesus becomes more.
Who does that? What kind of person would keep adopting kids when he could just get his own grown and then retire in style? Who gives away worldly fame and fortune in exchange for living in the slums? Who in their right mind would forsake the many comforts of our world and put others before themselves as a lifestyle? Well, we study men and women like this Sunday in and Sunday out. Paul, Peter, Lydia, Barnabus, John, Zaccheaus, Noah, and so many more. All these men and women gave of themselves to the point where the world would call them crazy for giving so much.
They refused to do something that is so very common in our world today…..
They refused to mold God into their own image. They refused to give the gospel a makeover. They refused to ignore the very fabric of the Gospel which is self denial. They embodied living as Christ as Paul once said. You see all good Christians will say that they want to be like Jesus. But I ask you today to examine that claim within your own heart. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to live like Jesus?”
Personally, If we believe the gospel to be true, and there are many people dying in their sins, and if I truly believe that Jesus could come at any moment, then I dont have time as a soldier in Christ to focus for one second on myself. Some may say, “Well what about your family?” To me, my family….my beautiful wife and my four precious boys are not about me!! My family is about the kingdom of God!! My most important role as a husband and father is not to make sure my wife has the finest jewelry and that my kids have the most up to date video games. My duty it to saturate my wife and kids daily in the word. My job is to pray over my kids everyday before they go to school, and to gather them all at night before bed to teach them the things of the Lord. In my life on mission for Christ, it is my duty to pray passionately over my children, as I watch them sleep with pacifiers, stuffed animals and their blankies, that God would have mercy on my little boys and ask that he might save them.
What is your life about? Take this week to read Gods word. I mean really read it. Look at the passion, the total abandonment, and the sacrifice of the men and women who followed Jesus. Their ministry was not centered around their own preferences or what was popular in the worlds eyes. They were different. They were radical. In Acts 19, the apostle Paul and twelve guys began a ministry in what is now considered modern day Turkey. They began preaching and teaching the gospel. And the scriptures say that within two years, there was not a person on the continent of Asia who hadnt heard the message they were preaching. Thats so humbling to me. We live in a day and age where we have tons of technology and can travel miles in a matter of minutes, yet we have neighbors living right next door to us that have never heard the true Gospel of Jesus.
No cell Phone. No cars. No planes. No Nike shoes. Yet Paul and twelve men proclaimed the Gospel to every person in Asia inside of two years. We have more advantages today in the delivery of the Gospel message with far less effectiveness. And eventually, there has to come a time where we stop pointing the fingers at each other, and point the finger at ourselves. Satan has lulled many churches to sleep by turning Christianity into a stagnant organization rather than a living and active one. After the disciples saw the risen Christ, it didnt say that they worshiped on the Sabbath, and then the rest of the week they went fishing. They lived life on mission. And they felt the weight of urgency for the lost around them. The proclamation of the gospel wasnt just an element of life. It was life.
In John 10:10, Jesus said he came to bring life and bring it abundantly. I dont want to miss out on that life. CS Lewis once wrote that the problem with people who dont know Jesus is not that they are seeking too hard after that which will satisfy their souls. He said rather, the problem is that they arent seeking hard enough. Dont be satisfied for just being told some things about Jesus. Seek Him! With all that is in you!! And its when you begin to do this that the church will transform from what was once just a weekly calendar event into a life giving adventure!