It is time to end the cycle of telling ourselves that we are already doing “enough” for the Lord, that keeping the Ten Commandments most days gives us a free pass to be lukewarm Christians. Instead, we must ask God to reveal areas in our lives that hinder our spiritual growth.
I gazed at my phone's blank, black screen. Did I just quit my job to stay at home full-time with my children and write a book? Discounting that I had never even posted a blog, until that moment, my career in sales had been my identity.
For some time, the Lord had been calling me to leave my job, but it was difficult to just walk away. So, I struck a “compromise'' by working part-time. However, after much inner struggle, I finally bowed to Him, praying, “If this is your will for me, then remove this obstacle from me entirely.”
Soon afterward, my boss called to inform me that my job was changing, requiring me to travel and to resume my full-time position. Prayer answered.
Suddenly, I realized that obedience to God’s will meant more than just a conscious effort to avoid sin. Following Jesus not only requires sacrifice but also shifting our perspective from a perishable, worldly one to an eternal, heavenly one. This comes by focusing and refocusing on Christ, filtering thoughts and actions through the lens of the Word of God.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Yannick Pulver
Following Jesus Requires More Than Not Sinning
The Bible tells us that being a disciple of Christ requires personal sacrifice, daily taking up our cross and denying ourselves by putting off carnal, fleshly desires and putting on Christ. For some, sacrifice means giving up personal comfort, financial gain, popularity or certain relationships. For others, following Jesus may demand giving up one’s very life.
Beliefs dictate behaviors, as illustrated in Luke 9:57. A man approached Jesus and proclaimed, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus invited him to join Him right then, but the man replied that he needed to bury his father before he could do so. Another boldly asserted the same; yet, when told to forsake all, he also claimed that he must first “take care of things” before he could actually follow Jesus.
Like these two men, we outwardly profess that we're committed to a life that puts Jesus first. We might convince others of our sincerity, but inward examination would reveal that we are not nearly as committed as we claim. We "follow" Christ when it is convenient; if we aren’t committing the “heavy-hitter” sins, this should be enough, right?
Lord, I’ll tithe when I earn this amount in salary.
Lord, I’ll spend more time serving at church when my kids are older.
Lord, I know you are calling me to do this, but what will people think about me?
It is time to end the cycle of telling ourselves that we are already doing “enough” for the Lord, that keeping the Ten Commandments most days gives us a free pass to be lukewarm Christians. Instead, we must ask God to reveal areas in our lives that hinder our spiritual growth. Growing in godliness takes work; throwing off the things of this world to put on the things of God is contrary to human nature (Ephesians 4:22-24). It requires sacrifice, but not without the promise of reward.
Following Jesus Requires a Shift in Perspective
The Christian life is a testing ground for delayed gratification, like when an adult places a marshmallow directly in front of a child, tells him to wait five minutes before eating it and then walks away. If the child does as told, he then receives an entire bag of marshmallows as a reward.
Christian faith is based on what we cannot now see, yet certainly hope for. Results of "kingdom work'' often seem elusive; nonetheless, the Lord wants our trust, obedience and perseverance. He knows the wonderful riches that await and so eagerly desires to shower them down upon us, but trusting God's future promises isn’t easy, especially when the world constantly blasts messages like “The time is now,” and "If you want it, take it, no matter the cost!” By shifting our perspective, "We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Reflecting back on his very full life, King Solomon noted that the things of this world are "meaningless, a chasing after the wind" (Ecclesiastes 1:14). Many of God's children have lost proper perspective by placing joy, comfort, peace and hope in the here and now, the earthly things. No wonder we continue to feel disappointed and discontent.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Ryan Rad
Following Jesus Requires Renewing Hearts and Minds Everyday
Following Christ requires fixing our minds on Him and His truth to guide us as we live out our faith in God's redeeming work. It requires daily renewing our thoughts and hearts (Romans 12:2), forsaking our former selves and walking as new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Justification, sanctification, glorification—words with great spiritual implications but often foreign to us. Their essential role in the life of believers cannot be overstated.
Sinners are justified or declared righteous before God through faith in Christ’s atoning work on the cross, a one-time act. Sanctification is the ongoing process of growing in righteousness by conforming to the likeness of Christ, often through suffering and sacrifice. When God takes us from this world, no longer burdened by sin and fleshly desires, we will live with Him, to His glorification for all eternity (Romans 8:18, 1 Corinthians 12:12).
Our sanctification is the will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Growing in holiness demands more than managing not to murder or commit adultery (1 Peter 2:2), or simply reciting the sinner’s prayer and then using God's grace to continue to sin. Although Christian conduct and behavior testify to the grace by which we're saved (John 13:35), God desires inner transformation, obedience out of love and gratitude, not obligation and self-promotion.
Until we see Jesus face to face, Scripture says to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). What does that mean, exactly? We demonstrate true discipleship by obeying God and worshiping Him for who He is, the most high and holy Creator, Savior and Judge. Unlike the man in James 1:23-24, who studies himself in the mirror, only to immediately forget his reflection, we must look deeply into the mirror of God’s Word, asking God to create within us a clean heart and a right spirit that reflects the living Savior (Psalm 51:10).
Has your commitment to Christ become lukewarm?
Are you moving closer to Christ’s image or to the world’s?
Do you worship God along with other "idols," too?
Honest examination of our attitudes and actions, which spring from thoughts and the intent of our heart, may prove convicting, thereby uncomfortable, but the pursuit of holiness requires it.
The Christian life is not simply about sinning less, but about total surrender to the sinless One. Jesus is the perfect example, sacrificing his sinless life so sinners could stand righteous before holy God (Philippians 2:5-8). Yes, true discipleship costs, but in the words of Jim Elliot, killed while taking the gospel to the people of Ecuador, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Aaron Amat
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