I have recently been really stirred up in my walk by reading books about truly living for Christ and living out what the Word of God says. Have you ever read any of David Platt’s books? I have Radical and Follow Me. I am just now getting into them after reading In His Steps, by Charles Monroe Sheldon and Fresh Power by Jim Cymbala–Both of which forced me to question if I was really living like the Bible says I need to. Isn’t it funny how after so many years of being a Christian, reading my Bible everyday, serving in ministry, and teaching the word–there are moments when you realize, “No, I am not doing what Jesus would do, I need a fresh filling of His power, and I need to get off the pew and reach out to the lost.” UGH!!! Conviction!!! haha
I think, for me at least, church culture hides this from our eyes. I am serving, I am in the Word all the time, I have Christian fellowship, I listen to studies, etc. BUT it is so easy to settle for living just the “good Christian life”–like all the other Christians in the church. I actually consider myself pretty on fire for God. And yet I need to be SO MUCH MORE BROKEN for the lost. SO MUCH MORE.
Today I was reading in my One Year Bible, and Luke 10:26-36 broke my heart. It is the famous story we all refer to as the story of the “Good Samaritan”–and the word that got me was COMPASSION. There are apparently a lot of Christians who are worried about a trend towards a social gospel and works based salvation. I get it; we are saved by faith. But James says that true faith will affect our works. And in the passage in Luke, a man asks Jesus what to do to receive eternal life. Jesus asks him what he thinks the Word says. The man responds by saying, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And to love our neighbors as ourselves.” Jesus confirms this, and when the man asks who his neighbor is, he begins the story that points us to the word compassion.
A man was beaten, naked, lying on the side of the road bleeding. Jesus says that the religious people passed by on the other side of the road. Oh my goodness. I am crying right now, just thinking about that. It wasn’t that they were busy, that they didn’t want to be unclean, or any number of reasons I could use to justify my own blindness–they passed by because they did not have compassion. Compassion compels.
And church culture [sometimes] justifies a lack of compassion–“homeless people are dangerous,” “they will just use the money we give to buy drugs or alcohol,” “they could get a job; they probably make a lot of money holding that sign,” etc. I think that we do, absolutely need to be careful and wise. But have we become calloused??? Have we have become blind? Have we started choosing to pass by on the other side of the road, not even really looking. Not feeling anything. Desensitized to suffering. Are we also blind to the needs of the affluent? They have the whole world, but what about their souls? When was the last time we cried for someone?
Lord forgive me for not seeing the fiery chains on their ankles.
You may go to a really amazing church, that really helps people and shares God’s love in the community. But where I sit on Sunday, we have a normal church–outwardly. However, 99% of our ministries are serving the fellowship alone. It is good stuff–retreats, brunches, conferences, etc. But I can’t tell you the last time we had any outreach to those outside the walls, at least that the church was a part of. We have a few missions trips a year, but missions is not the heart of our church. We are not really broken for the lost. Our mantra is, “Invite them to church.” But do they come to Jesus?
I share this because I venture to say, that we are not altogether uncommon.
But I NEED TO CHANGE ME.
I need to lie broken on the floor begging God to give me the compassion that motivates me to LOVE, to serve, to help, to minister (not just to the saved) but to the lost. I need the love to compel me with knocking knees to speak truth and life and Gospel to the families we share our community with.
I want to LIVE RADICALLY as a Christian.
I think that time is short. I don’t want to stand before Christ, knowing I could have loved Him with more of my heart, soul, mind and strength– or that I could have loved my neighbor, more.
The good news is, that there is absolutely NO WAY I can do this in my own strength (that would be impossible to try). So I will keep reading, keep praying, and keep desiring to see my BIG GOD help me live like the people in the Bible lived.
Here are some very important statements that David Platt makes in an interview. I wanted to share them. It would be so nice if we could all be stirred up to LOVE MORE.
Many believers, you observe, have “replaced challenging words from Christ with trite phrases in the church. We’ve practically taken the lifeblood out of Christianity and put Kool-Aid in its place so that it tastes better to the crowds.” How do you see this temptation particularly evident in “young, restless, and Reformed” circles today?
Instead of thinking about the YRR in general, I think it’s helpful for each of us to individually examine the subtle tendency and temptation we face to (almost unknowingly) redefine Christianity according to our own tastes, preferences, church traditions, and cultural norms. We can so easily begin picking and choosing what we particularly like (or don’t like) from Jesus’ teachings, emphasizing the truths in his Word that most square with our lives and ministries while minimizing those that most challenge us. In the process, we all (including myself) begin diluting what he says about the cost of following him.
Particularly in our culture, for example, we’re prone to practically ignore what he says about materialism or to functionally miss what he says about mission. In the process, we transform Jesus into our image (whether that’s a “YRR” Jesus, a “nice, non-offensive, politically correct, middle-class American” Jesus, or any other version) instead of trusting him to transform us into his. So we all need to guard against the temptation to customize Jesus—especially when what he says confronts (and often contradicts) the assumptions, beliefs, and convictions that we hold dear in our lives, our churches, and our culture.
Is it possible to be an unconverted believer?
Certainly, in the sense that demons believe Jesus is who he said he was and did what Scripture says he did (James 2:19). Though such belief doesn’t save, it’s common across the world today. Just about every intoxicated person I meet on the street says he believes in Jesus. Scores of people I meet around the world—including some Hindus, animists, and Muslims—profess some level of faith in Christ. All kinds of halfhearted, world-loving church attenders confess belief in Jesus. Further, Jesus seems to make clear we can all profess publicly a faith we don’t possess personally (e.g., hear the cry of the damned in Matt. 7:21-23). So biblically and practically, it’s very possible for one to assent to certain intellectual truths about Jesus and even participate in various church practices—completely apart from supernatural regeneration of the heart.
You observe, “Masses of men, women, and children around the world are sitting comfortably under the banner of Christianity but have never counted the cost of following Christ.” Besides robust expository preaching, how can a local church create a culture in which discipleship is perceived and practiced properly?
I certainly want to accent “robust expository preaching” because it’s truly the week-by-week teaching of every part of Scripture for what it says (not what we wish it did) that keeps us from the dangers of cultural, casual, customizable Christianity.
Beyond this, I can think of several other practical ways to create a culture of Christ-exalting, risk-taking discipleship in the church. Here are just three:
(1) Prayerful dependence on and desperation for God’s Spirit in the church. We’ll never grow as disciples or give our lives to making disciples so long as we’re doing so in our own power, ingenuity, innovation, and wisdom.
(2) Healthy biblical community involving grace-driven, gospel-saturated accountability for growing as disciples and giving ourselves to making them. I’m zealous to war against the spectator mentality that sees the Great Commission as a cozy call to come, get baptized, and sit in one location instead of going, baptizing, and teaching in all nations. I’m convinced biblical disciple-making demands the intersection of biblical community and biblical mission. Our churches, then, must have an outlet for such disciple-making in a way that both nurtures community and promotes mission.
(3) Healthy understanding of both local and global disciple-making. Since wherever we live is the chief place we’re going to make disciples, we must encourage one another to lead others to follow Christ in our homes, neighborhoods, communities, and cities. At the same time, we must understand there are homes, neighborhoods, communities, and cities around the globe with little to no gospel access. Not only haven’t they heard, the chances of them ever hearing are slim unless something changes. And something has to change!
We must change the ways we’re praying, giving, and going so that all the peoples of the world might hear Christ’s gospel and exalt Christ’s glory. This won’t happen by simply creating a missions committee, taking a missions offering, or tacking a “missions week” onto our annual church calendar. This will happen when we infuse God’s zeal for his global glory—both in our neighborhoods and among all nations—into the very fabric of our churches on a weekly basis, calling persons to pray, give, and go with a special view to those who’ve never heard. Local ministry is totally necessary, no question. But global missions is tragically neglected. So we must give ourselves to both—and call all followers of Christ to give themselves to both. This is the only obedient response to a King who’s commanded us to make disciples of all nations.