Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many might works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ – Matthew 7:21-23
Does this unsettle anyone beside me? Have you ever even read it and seriously pondered it? There are so many things I want to say and can barely keep organized in my mind. It scares me to death and I express myself so much better in writing than speaking, so here I go.
Last Friday, I participated in a simulcast of “Secret Church”. The author of a book I recently studied talked about how on mission journeys around the world, he would meet in secret locations with people where the Church is not allowed. These people would be so hungry for the Word, he would end up talking for hours and hours, often in a closet-sized room with a single light bulb. That is the premise of an organization he founded to equip people to take God’s Word out to the world. On Good Friday, a six hour intense study of the Gospel was given. And if you saw any of my tweets, you know how profound those six hours were to me. I’ve never heard the Gospel presented so powerfully and authentically.
See, the thing is, I don’t think I ever really got it. I believe Jesus died for me and I am saved by grace, but have I ever really connected with that? I don’t think so. And I didn’t expect to in the span of six hours on April 22, 2011. But I did.
Why am I so mired in the same old sin that entraps me on a daily basis? Why am I only obedient in the things I want to be–and only then out of obligation–and disobedient in others? Why have the things that I do for my church become routine and job-like? Why doesn’t my want-to want to?
Because I haven’t let what God did for me really hit home. I have not let it embrace my full being. I accepted it as fact and came to a rational conclusion. But the truth is, God is completely irrational in human perspective.
God created me to love Him and abide in Him and yet in one moment we destroyed that relationship with sin. He is holy, so He can have no part of me as a sinner; He is wrathful and so abhors me for being a sinner; and yet He loves me so deeply He made a way to reconcile me to Him. And not only does he justify me, He calls me His son! WHAT?!
For 18 years, I have called myself a follower of Christ. But what exactly have I been following? What kind of Americanized model have I allowed to influence me and so keep me from experiencing the true love and freedom of God that comes from being completely abandoned to Him? How has the message gotten so watered down that I became satisfied with the status quo?
My eyes have been opened to the way we have trivialized the Gospel. We’ve made so many aspects of God to be one way or the other, when in fact–in all His mysteriousness–He can be both! Jesus was both 100% God and 100% man! God both hates sinners (yes, not just the sin…the sinner) and loves them! We are free to choose God (free will) yet He also chooses us (predestination)! We’ve developed an A-B-C Gospel that tells people “just say a prayer and you’re good”, when in reality, that is far from the truth. It is so much more than walking down the aisle at the invitation. It is repentance! It is faith! It is obedience! Just look at those verses in Matthew 7!
I don’t know about you, but I can’t tolerate the American Church anymore, where we argue over programs, money, and music styles while our brothers and sisters around the world are literally dying just on the chance of getting together and hearing the Word! I want to be hungry for the Word like they are. I want to risk everything like they do. I can’t just dress up, sit passively in a pew on Sundays, check my religious boxes, say that it is someone else’s role to go, and be content with my Christianity anymore! I’m afraid those are the Matthew 7 people that are going to be shocked when they stand before the Lord.
No, what Jesus told the people who wanted to follow Him was that in order to do so, they would have to be totally sold out to Him. In the three years he ministered, He said nothing about ABC prayers or coming forward after the sermon while people sing “Softly and Tenderly”. He assertively told them what it would take to be His follower. No mincing of words, no pithy Christian cliches, no cute programs, no fancy productions. He said that their love for Him had to be so great that the love they had for their parents, siblings, or kids had to look like hate in comparison! That they had to be willing to give up anything and everything.
That’s the most terrifying thing to me! Ha, fear of snakes has nothing on my fear of giving up what I have and am. I’m comfortable with my life. I like the things I have! I don’t like the notion that at any moment Jesus could tell me to give some or all of it up! I’m so shallow, I even worry that God could convict me to stop watching certain TV shows! But why have I felt that way? How can I say I’m a follower of Jesus if I think that way? I can’t!
David Platt, the teacher at Secret Church, said that if I am settling for anything less than Christ, then my desires are too weak. So true! For years and years, I’ve become more and more discouraged that I would never be able to conquer the sin in my life. I’ve turned to these things to satisfy a hole that can only be satisfied by Christ! I know that is the cause of my distant relationship with God. And in those night hours of study on Good Friday, I came to understand that it is because I never trusted God to change my desires. I can’t afford to do that any longer! Praise to God, for the first time in my life, I feel like there is hope! God has made me right, calls me His son, and will help me persevere! Do you know how much this excites me? I don’t feel like my words here are expressing it quite right. I can’t quite explain what clicked inside me, but it did.
18 years, I have led a passive Christian lifestyle. I’ve focused on my rights and privileges, when really I have none. Everything I have and am belongs to God. I’m beginning to understand that I’m okay with that! I’m saying that in the space of this Easter weekend, I am a changed man. I can truly feel it. And a passion has awakened in me. There are people out there that need to know this Good News that has given me a sense of purpose and belonging and love. I’m uncertain of what I need to do and I don’t even know how to do it. But I can feel deep inside me the stirring of a God-sized plan for me. I look at the ways that God has blessed me in the past years–even mired in sin and disobedient as I was–to shape me for this moment. To enable me to do what it is He is planning for me. I’m terrified of how other people–even my family and friends–will react. I don’t handle rejection well. I’ve always been a doer and considered myself successful in my endeavors. But I’m also afraid of pride and arrogance settling in; two of my biggest character flaws. I’m also praying that this isn’t some emotional high.
But my faith in Christ has been renewed like it never has been and I know that if I truly believe it, then I’m going to live obediently–not out of obligation, but out of love. If I truly believe it, then overflowing fruit is going to spill from my life. Works are evidence of true faith, after all! And if I truly believe it, then I can’t contain it within me; I’ve got to go out and share it.
I have no idea what all this means. But consider this your fair warning, as my family and friends: all I know is, I have to go!