Picture this: An American middle-class Jesus. He is wearing Calvin Klein jeans, driving a Honda CRV, living in a $275,000 home, and sending his children to private schools.
As far as religion goes, he is a “Sunday” believer. He goes to the nearest megachurch with the best programs, but much of the time he’s thinking about where he is going to eat after the service.
About once or twice a year he will do some sort of “outreach.” I mean, what kind of believer would he be if he didn’t share the gospel with someone occasionally? So, he hands out tracts to random people on the street and says,
“All you have to do is repeat this prayer, accept me into your heart, sign this card, and you’re in! Forget getting to know me. That takes way too much effort. But I’ll gladly give you eternal life. Don’t worry that I sacrificed everything for you.”
Yeah, I don’t see it either. If Jesus would never live a life like that, why are we so quick to crave it?
In David Platt’s book Radical, he discusses the lifestyle that Jesus is really calling us to when we choose to follow him. When Paul chose to follow Christ, he made it clear in Romans not be conformed to the world. Jesus calls us into a dangerous and extreme form of living. Radical, if you will.
When I tell myself that Jesus would never ask me to give up everything I have, I am conforming Him to my image. A Jesus who is fine with devotion that does not infringe on my comforts, because, after all, He loves me just the way I am. But when I go to church to worship this God, I may be worshipping myself.
That’s a scary thought.
The gospel speaks of a faith quite different from the cozy religion of the American dream of achievement and climbing the social ladder:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sister — yes, even his own life — he cannot be disciple.” — Luke 14:26, NIV
I don’t know about you, but I love my family, and definitely value my own life. Is it possible that I am called to love Jesus so much that my closest relationships on earth look like hate? What if He actually does ask me to sell everything I have and give it to the poor? It’s quite possible.
Do I, do you, really believe that statement? Or do we rationalize it and say, “That’s for missionaries and those called to ministry, not for me. Surely, it’s not for me.”
Jesus goes on to say, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Now this is taking it to another level: Pick up an instrument of torture and follow me.
The cost of picking up my cross and following Jesus is steep. It will cost me everything I have. But I know that in the end the reward will be sweet. I will gain more than I ever had. The real question I must answer is: Is Jesus worth losing everything for?
The reward of the gospel is God Himself. When we risk our lives to seek after Jesus, we discover that safety is found only in His sovereignty, security is only found in His love, and satisfaction is only found in His presence. As Platt says, “This is the eternally great reward, and we would be foolish to settle for anything less.”
Simply put, a relationship with Jesus requires complete and exclusive devotion.
As Platt puts it, the proper response to the call of Jesus is a “new heart, new desires, and new longings. For the first time, we want God. We see our need for Him, and we love Him. This means seeking after Him, discovering the great reward of our salvation.”
Jim Elliot, a missionary who died for the gospel, once said, “Surely those who know the great passionate heart of Jehovah must deny their own loves to share in the expression of His.” This is the kind of heart I want. This is the love I desire to have for my Savior.
This is the kind of heart that propels men and women around the world to risk their lives to know more about Him. This is why our cheap version of Christianity that molds Christ to something we are comfortable with is not enough. This is the reason why we cannot settle for anything other than a God-centered, self-denying gospel.
In America, we have been taught since we were young that we can do anything we set our minds to accomplish. The American dream exalts our abilities. But this world is not about us, it’s about glorifying God.
The truth is that we are ALL called to “make disciples of all nations.” Every saved person is in debt to every unsaved person on earth. We are all called to go, to radically abandon everything we have. This calling is not for a special group of people deemed “missionaries.” It’s for the homemaker, the businessman and the teacher. We owe Christ to the world — to the least and the greatest person, to the richest and poorest person, and to the best and worst person.
We do not need to wait for God to place a divine calling onto our lives. Read the last sentence in Matthew; He already did that. Anything less than complete, passionate involvement in “going and making disciples” is selling God short by thwarting our very purpose on earth.
Jesus never said this radical obedience would be easy. It is a dangerous road full of trials and hardships.
Through reading Radical, I realized that I could be a better steward of the money God has given me. I was challenged to sacrifice my money for a specific purpose, and have decided to start saving the money I would have spent eating out after church, and putting it towards fighting social injustice. That’s my personal conviction. What sacrifices do you feel God is calling you to make?
Platt writes that the lifestyle Christ calls us to, “is not smooth sailing aboard a luxury liner; it is a sacrificial duty aboard a troop carrier. It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. It’s all about risking everything. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.”
I’m ready to take back my faith from the American Dream. How about you?