I believe most people are sincere in their commitment to follow Christ. We really do want to make Him the Lord of our lives and to put Him before everything else. Satan knows this as well which is why he is constantly looking for ways to discourage and distract us. It’s not the catastrophic failures that tend to doom us; it’s the small, incremental distractions that knock us off course to the point that we one day wonder how we got where we are. So often a bad day finds us looking to anything other than God to salve our frustrations. We seek comfort in mindless entertainment or destructive addictions in hopes of numbing a life that has gone off plan and seemingly has no solution in sight. We neglect our first love (1 John 4:19; Revelation 2:4), and Satan is delighted. No matter what’s going on in your life, you must never let your affliction cloud your affection.
Who wouldn’t want to live fully alive? We all want to be the best version of ourselves that we could possibly be, to achieve all that we were created to do. God has equipped each of us with a unique blend of passions, talents, and gifts. The reason we have been so blessed to receive these things is so we might accomplish all He has purposed us to do. To not utilize our gifts, to shrink back from obstacles, or to turn away from what we fear results in living a life less than the one we are capable of living. None of us want to reach the end of our life knowing we could have done more. So how do we live life fully alive? I think there are three keys…
It’s the greatest invitation ever given, a greatly compelling recruitment speech: Jesus said to come and die. He told everyone who followed Him that if they continued to do so they would face persecution. To sweeten the pot He informed them that they would become homeless, rejected by their families and in the end be put to death. Can’t you just see the people rushing to sign up? But this is the call of Christ, to come and die.
Are you willing to give up everything you own for the cross of Christ? Are you ready to die for the sake of pursuing His mission? Would you pursue Him without promise of any reward for yourself? A life spent following Christ is a life full of risk and adventure. We risk what we perceive to be safety in this world for the sake of knowing Him and continuing the mission to which He calls us. In a “me first” generation, sacrificing our own lives for the sake of another is a foreign concept. If we are going to lay everything on the line, we expect a certain return on our investment. But that’s not how the Kingdom of God works. To be a true follower of Jesus, we must give up everything we are solely for the chance to know Him better. Christ is the reward, and to receive it we ultimately must die.
Most of us in the United States have grown up being taught to pursue the American dream. We are expected to acquire material goods to prove our success. Possessions are tangible items that make it a simple matter to measure our progress against that of another. In the race to achieve higher and higher goals while gaining more and more goods, we ignore the very simple message of the Gospel. Jesus said that to find Him, we must lose ourselves. If we are to gain life with Him, we must first die to ourselves (Luke 17:33). Anyone who is living for themselves can never truly love those around them. If we don’t love others, we can’t love Christ (1 John 4:20).
In the Western world, Christianity has come to be synonymous with prosperity and success. For many years, this bad theology has been propounded to the masses and is now accepted as gospel in many circles. The teaching is false and not found in the Bible. The Israelites were told if they would follow all of God’s statutes then they would prosper in their land (Deuteronomy 5:33). That’s about as close as one gets to Biblical approval of the so- called “prosperity gospel”. However, which one of us has succeeded in obeying all of God’s commands? We all have fallen short and missed the mark (Romans 3:23). This is why Jesus came to sacrifice Himself for us. Without His blood and His resurrection, we would all be hopelessly lost. With our sinful tendencies we cannot perfectly keep the law of God. It is only by the grace of Jesus that we have hope of eternal life with Him.
By coming to die, Jesus set the example for us. He did not turn away from the cross that was set before Him, but rather He embraced it knowing that through His sacrifice, many would live. As followers of Jesus, we have the same call on our lives today. Life is not about what we can acquire or how successful we might become. Rather, it is about sacrificing ourselves for the good of others. It is about setting aside our own ambitions so that everything we do might point back to God and bring glory to Him. Our lives are to be lived for a single purpose, the opportunity to reflect the love and beauty of Jesus Christ to a world in desperate need of the truth. If we will live with Jesus Christ being our only goal, then we will achieve true fulfillment; we will receive His blessing on our life and His mercy at our death. Along the way we may be asked to give everything we own away; we may face persecution and watch those we love be taken from us. Following Jesus is dangerous because we are warring with the powers of darkness. To those who choose this path, to those who persevere, there is light and there is life. If we would follow Jesus then we must embrace our death. Jesus said to come and die. Is He worth it to you?
There’s a small passage hidden in a little book in our Bible. It’s apparently very easy to overlook; in fact, Christians in America seem to have an especially difficult time locating these two verses, more so than perhaps any other country. The passage is I John 3:17-18, and it goes something like this:
“If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off his compassion from him—how can God’s love reside in him? Little children, we must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth;” (HCSB)
Have you ever read this passage? I confess, I have read the Bible through a couple of times in my life, and while I am certain I must have read these verses before, it certainly did not ring a bell. I suspect I know why.
Do you sense the gravity in these two small verses? Are you gripped by the weight of what they mean? We are blessed beyond comparison with any people in history. We live in absolute comfort compared to more than three quarters of the population of this planet. We may not have as much as our next door neighbor, but we have infinitely more than those who are half a world away from our front door. There are literally millions of Christians who will wake up tomorrow without indoor plumbing and without any clean water to drink. They have only the clothes on their back, and even those are beginning to show considerable wear. They have no shoes and they must walk for miles to find clean drinking water. Their bed is the ground within the four shaky walls that they call home. There is one room in their house, which serves as sleeping, eating and living quarters. Income is non-existent and the prospects of that changing are very grim. If they are lucky, they will have a single, simple meal today. This is reality. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Read the passage of scripture again. Can you honestly say that you are unaware of any brothers in need? In our modern era of cable television and the internet, one no longer has the excuse of ignorance. We know the situation in many parts of the world; even if we make every attempt to ignore these facts, the truth remains. We know! Perhaps worse still, in light of the passage above, We know we have more than we actually need. We more than likely do not have more than we want, but we do have more than we need. We have indoor plumbing, clean water at our fingertips whenever we so desire and a comfortable mattress to lie down on at night. Truth be told, we probably even have a guest bedroom that is vacant more often than not. When you lie down to sleep tonight, I hope one thought fills your mind; that thought is that you know. You know you have more than you need, and you know you have brothers in sister that are in need.
In light of I John 3:17-18, how will we respond? If we do not share with others, then we cannot claim to have the love of God within us. If we do not have the love of God within us, we cannot be followers of Christ; to think otherwise is simply rationalizing to make ourselves feel better. Rationalization, however, does not change the truth.
So now you know; what will you do? Will we continue to pretend to be unaware of the needs of our brothers and sisters while enjoying our creature comforts? How will we explain our actions when God demands an accounting from us? If we would be followers of Christ, we have no option. If we would have the love of God in us, we must respond promptly and with compassion. This is not an easy teaching and some will fall away at this point. If you desire to continue a passionate pursuit of Christ, then you must at once begin divesting yourself of the superfluous trappings of this world and giving them instead to your brothers and sisters in need; because now you know.