Are You Ready? Part 4
In Part I, we discussed the general concept of “getting ready” – preparation, training, practicing.
In Part II, we evaluated our current state of “readiness” – how prepared we are for the specific things to which we are called as followers of Jesus Christ.
In Part III, we applied the concept of “readiness” in a practical way – by knowing what we believe, living what we believe and proclaiming what we believe.
In this final installment, we’re going to get real.
Imagine me speaking with a bit of a snide tone in my voice, a little wry inflection in the enunciation:
The modern day Christian can talk a really good game and put on a pretty solid show. It’s generally acceptable to attend church a couple of times every few months – there aren’t many American Christians being persecuted for doing so. There aren’t many who will fault someone for attending a men’s breakfast, a ladies book study, a weekend retreat (that involves plenty of leisure time activities to “refresh and renew”). One will likely be commended for serving at the local soup kitchen, visiting the ill at the hospital or shoveling the elderly neighbor’s driveway. Throw around a couple Christian catch phrases (“have a blessed day”, “better than I deserve”), say “amen” a lot, and greet every fellow believer as “brother” or “sister”. Put the fish sticker on your SUV, the gold cross on your necklace and the rubber bracelet on your wrist. Do all these things and more…
Next, add a touch of sarcasm to my speech pattern:
Then simply continue to feel great about yourself and fully assured of your salvation. Continue on with your daily routine. Get mad at the idiot in the morning commute traffic. Don’t bother to witness to your co-workers since they don’t want to hear anything about Jesus anyway. Make sure you have plenty of personal activities crowding your calendar to avoid sacrificially serving. Give just enough of your money to feel like you’re giving more than most others. Hold contempt for that old relationship that caused you pain. Hold onto your secret sin. Harbor resentment in your heart. Criticize. Complain. Critique. Condemn. On and on and on…
Now, imagine that my pitch has been raised a little, the words are coming forth at a somewhat quicker pace, and maybe my eyebrows are becoming tighter to my eyeballs:
Live the double life so common in modern Christianity. Outwardly, you’re completely acceptable to the lost world – they know that you’re a “church goer”, but that’s not much different from their Catholic up-bringing or their Hindu co-worker or their Jewish neighbor or their Mormon in-laws. Because that allows you to exist without being a threat, an imposition or an intruder on their lives. You’re just doing your thing while they’re doing theirs.
Finally, the tone has turned stern, almost angry, almost yelling:
How completely contrary to the lives we are called to by our Lord and Savior. How absolutely alien to the example displayed so obviously by His time on this planet as man. How dizzyingly divergent from the clear direction provided by scripture.
Okay, taking a deep breath and getting settled back into composed calmness.
I’ll apologize now if I present as offending (that’s not fully my intention). This series is as much a study in self-reflection as an external exhortation.
We – you and I – get it wrong all the time. And the reasons why are simple. While it starts as simple ignorance (not knowing) and progresses to apathy (not caring), it always come down to one thing: valuation. What commands your energy, your passion, your resources, your time? What consumes your thoughts and influences your decision making process? What holds ultimate value in your life?
Being a true believer is hard. Choosing to be a sold-out follower of Jesus Christ can be the most difficult life anyone can live. Making that bold statement and truly living that separated life is almost guaranteed to cost you dearly. It could mean that relationships must end. It could mean that career paths are radically stunted. It could mean that opportunities and responsibilities and favors and recognition and admiration are no longer afforded to you. In very stark terms, you may be outcast, shunned, mocked or even hated. And if you reside in a geography with significantly less freedom than the homeland of this author, you may be faced with the very real prospect of physical persecution, even death.
It is not a matter to be taken lightly or to be entered into flippantly. Real Christianity – fully surrendered, fully consumed – may require more than you are ready to fully comprehend.
That’s why the topic of “valuation” is critical. You see, it’s all about perspective. How honest are you with yourself? Really. Think about it. Do you truly have a right view of your sin? Are you able to look at it the same way God does? Is it repugnant? Does it make your stomach churn and insides knot up? If it doesn’t, you’ll struggle mightily to get to the second required stage of proper valuation. Because without seeing the filthiness of your sin as God does, you cannot fully grasp His mercy and grace. Only when the utter darkness of your being becomes real, does the glorious light of salvation become tangible. Once it does, the topic of “valuation” – do you value your earthly life or your eternal destination? – almost becomes a moot point. If we can truly grasp and fully understand the disparity between what we are versus who He makes us, it’s not even a matter of discussion. If you struggle with some of the areas below, perhaps it’s time to gain some perspective.
How much do you value your career?
“Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.” -Matthew 4:18-22
How much do you value your comfort?
“Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” -Matthew 8:18-20
How much do you value your obligations?
“Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.” -Matthew 8:21-22
How much do you value your family?
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” -Matthew 10:37
How much do you value your life?
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” -Matthew 16:24-25
Over and over again, Jesus directly addresses those things that we hold dear – that we value most in our lives – and places them in sharp contrast to Himself. God’s requirement is clear: everything else in our lives must be subjected to secondary status in comparison to Him. Everything. Completely. Genuinely regarded as being of depreciated worth, of lower significance, of lesser value. That in the light of His authority and majesty, all else is relegated to the shadows.
The beauty of this mandate is that Christ fully lived it out Himself. In so many examples, in both action and word, His time in the flesh provides the very basis for how we are to live our lives.
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” -Philippians 2:5-8
To put it in worldly terms, Jesus “had it all”. He was God. In the words of the Nicene Creed: “Very God of Very God”. Yet, He surrendered that most valuable position, to take on flesh. To become a man and live among us. To ultimately suffer unspeakable atrocities and die on the cross.
Why? It makes no sense. Why? It’s complete insanity. WHY?!?
“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 2:2
“For the joy set before Him”. That’s why. That “joy” wasn’t power, possession, status, comfort, recognition or accolades. That “joy” was us. Jesus Christ forsake everything of value, because He considered us abundantly more valuable. Because the very reason for our existence, the sole purpose of our creation, is to enjoy a right relationship with our Heavenly Father. And God values that relationship more than anything and is willing to do anything, even death on a cross, for us. What about us? Can we say the same about ourselves?
So, after four writings composed of 6,797 words, it comes down to this:
Are you prepared for what’s to come? Have you evaluated the cost? Is the application of your faith occurring on a daily basis? Do you value your relationship with your Lord above all else? Are you ready to walk away from it all to walk with Him?
“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” -Mark 8: 36-37
ARE YOU READY?