Growing up in a Christian household was pretty tame in a lot of ways (not in a bad way Mum if you’re reading this…) so I often went looking for fun and excitement elsewhere. My parents had fairly strict rules to keep me and my brother safe (thanks guys) but outside the house was a little bit of a different story. Climbing on things, falling off of things, sneaking into places, breaking stuff and being chased by dogs were regular features in my childhood. The thrill of doing things that were a little bit dangerous and maybe would be frowned upon definitely filled a hole in me.
I “prayed a prayer” at about age 6 or 7 but like so many others I really gave my life to Jesus later in life when I was 12 at a sweet summer camp (shout out to the M:Powered Massive). I’m 27 now and in the last 15 or so years I’ve experienced the ebbs and flows of Christian life and the “normal” ups and downs. I’ve had times when I thought I could not be more in love Jesus and I want to spend the night on the streets with Him loving the homeless or go and lose my life preaching the gospel in some forgotten village somewhere… And then I’ve had times when in my mind, reading a chapter of the Bible is considered my “good deed for the day.” Yikes!
I pretty much went to the same church until I was 18 but since going to university in 2007 I’ve hung out with lots of different kinds of Christians from all sorts of backgrounds, denominations, races and ages and watched their lives and allowed lots of them to influence mine. Many of these influences have been massively beneficial and have created in me a greater hunger and desire for Jesus and I’m so grateful for those people! Seriously! I hope you know who you are!
I’ve seen people handle their faith and their relationship with God in very different ways with some considering it to be an almost secret and personal matter while others travel the globe to shout about it.
At this point in my own journey I’ve decided that there’s no other satisfying way for me to live but in passionate, life-consuming love on fire for Jesus. I believe that as the ransomed ones, we all carry this DEEP longing to give our all to Him and spend our life on Him and Him alone whatever that looks like. We may not always be aware of it but it’s definitely there, deep calling out to deep! The call of the wild!
Something in our core stands in awe and greatly admires the lives of our heroes of the faith, past and present whose lives were totally sold out and laid down in love before God! Their unthinkable sacrifice for the cause of Christ resounds with something in our own spirits. We (dare I say it) jealously desire to know the intimacy they shared with God, the clarity with which they heard His voice and the incomparable power and conviction they found in Him to do the impossible.
As we hear their stories our hearts burn within us but there’s a voice that speaks, often with the accent of wisdom that tells us to “calm down” or “be reasonable” or for those of us who’re young, to “wait until you’re older”. I don’t dispute that this voice often comes from well-meaning sources and is sometimes apt but I would like to respectfully challenge it as I also believe in some cases its source is not Divine. Since I believe that there is a root of wisdom in that voice I’m not going to deny it entirely but I am going to give a pretty one-sided perspective. I hope that’s ok with you friend. 🙂
“I’ve decided that there’s no other satisfying way for me to live but in passionate, life-consuming love with Jesus.”
I don’t know about you but personally I am amazing at excusing my lukewarmness, lack of passion for Christ and apathetic attitude by calling it patience, wisdom or even maturity when really it’s just apathy or straight up fear. I’ve been through a year of Bible College so on a regular basis I can probably even whip out some Scripture to back me up and validate my avoidance of giving any more of myself or my life to God to do as He pleases.
Part of my problem is though, the longer I spend in the Word, the more I find words and phrases that start to make me uncomfortable and make it difficult for me to enjoy my lukewarm bubble bath of comfort and safety. Whispers of something greater, deeper, wilder and more costly turn my hot tub into an ice bath. I’ll share some of them with you and what they mean to me since you’re here…
In English we understand this word to pretty much mean giving something up for the sake of something or someone else at your own expense. We’re called to be a living sacrifice. I understand that I am in Christ so in Him I have everything I need and the Father will take care of me but I also understand that I belong to Him and everything I have is His. I’ve had a few moments in my life when I’ve felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to give away something that I like or that I think I need to someone who doesn’t have it (or who does) or to buy something for someone even when sometimes materially I don’t have much myself. If I can be real with you, at the time I often don’t like doing this and it’s usually preceded by a “Kevin the Teenager” style whining argument from me. “But Looooooooord I reeeeaally like it…” etc. After I’ve done it however guess what happens?
I get flooded with the peace and joy of God because Christ in me got to enjoy being Himself and He’s very happy about it! I realise that giving of myself sometimes even to a painful degree is in my DNA now because it’s in His. The Saviour was marked by a life of sacrifice.
Sometimes He finds a way to give me back what I gave away and more. Sometimes it doesn’t go down like that but He says that when we serve others we serve Him right? (Prov 19:17) Why would you expect something back from someone you’re serving…?
I knew a certain couple who at one time in their life saw that some of their neighbours didn’t have any food or any money to buy it and so they decided to start giving most of their food to these people and would themselves go days without eating!! Some of us already have that voice speaking up in our heads “That’s not wise!” “You really have to hear the Lord on that one…” Let me repeat that I don’t necessarily think that this advice is wrong, I just didn’t see much regret in the eyes of the old man who told me this story. Quite the opposite.
I believe that sacrifice is core to Christianity and sacrifice by its very nature, costs us something. If it doesn’t cost us anything, it’s not a sacrifice right? On that note, let’s move on. : )
“Sacrifice is core to Christianity and sacrifice by its very nature, costs us something. If it doesn’t cost us anything, it’s not a sacrifice.”
#2 “Count the Cost”
Luke 14:25-33 makes me cringe when I read it. If you can’t be bothered to look it up (I probably wouldn’t) here it is in the NIV:
25Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them,26“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.27“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.28“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?29“Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him,30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’31“Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?32“Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.33“So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
Luke 14:25-33 (NIV)
Jesus talks here about thinking about how much you’ll have to surrender if you decide to actually walk out this Christianity thing. Banning Liebscher, a Christian leader and a hero of mine while preaching said “Salvation is free right? Yes, it just costs you your whole life.”
I’m not talking about earning your salvation here or “striving” to earn something from God. Jesus is the only one who can save. But He’s pretty clearly saying here that life with Him and life without Him are as different as Life and Death. To walk with Him is to join Him in His suffering as well as in His victory.
I’m talking about the heart of David that refuses to offer God something that cost him nothing (1Chron 21:24). Banning who predominantly speaks to teenagers and young adults went on to say “I am increasingly concerned with a generation whose Christianity has cost them nothing.” Here’s Banning’s preach. Listen to him, he’s pretty great.
As I said before I’ve grown up in the Church and a lot has been freely handed to me. I love my church and our leaders and so much great teaching has just been handed to me since I was a child. Some people become Christians and get mocked by their friends or thrown out of their families or even killed!
I’ve fought many battles against God when He’s asked me to lay things down that I love and enjoy. I can remember a friend of mine who wasn’t a Christian highlighting a song in my itunes and saying “You shouldn’t be listening to that.” Ouch! I had to admit she was right and on several occasions I had to painfully go through my playlist with the Holy Spirit and it got A LOT smaller. He didn’t stop there however. I started to find that films and TV shows that I used to watch and love had to go as well. Maybe again the voice of “reason” jumps up and says “Hey you can listen to whatever music you want, you’re free in Christ.” “God doesn’t care what you watch as long as you live right.” I think there’s some real truth in there and I’m not trying to make a point about what you should and shouldn’t listen to or watch or whatever. But God might be…
I had to ask myself some questions about whether or not I was willing and why it was so difficult for me to give up those things and let them go.
This was a very small cost that was required of me and it makes me wonder if I’ve counted the cost at all since giving my life to Him. I still find it a struggle today when God asks me to sacrifice my time or my reputation and make space for Him.
A few years ago I was privileged to speak to a teenager who’d just been in a fight with a member of our youth group. We talked about self-control and managing your emotions. He said something I found pretty profound. He simply said “Christianity is hard.” I think sometimes we can get so into teaching people that “God is a God of love” (which is true) and that “the Holy Spirit is a gentleman” that we end up accidentally telling them that God won’t ask them to do anything they don’t want to do or that will cause them great discomfort. That’s simply not true. Have you read the Bible?! It’s everywhere! I really don’t think “take up your cross” is a particularly pleasant invitation.
“You knew one thing about a man you saw carrying a cross. You knew he wasn’t coming back.”
That’s it for Part 1, you can check out Part 2 now!
If you enjoyed this, share it with some people you want to run with. You may also enjoy “Here Come the Radical Christians”