So often, when we share the truth of the Gospel with others, we can have a tendency to end our presentation with the following: choose whether you want to go to Heaven or Hell. We want our faith to sound easy and appealing so that others will be attracted to it.
The thing is, many people are quite okay with letting a God take care of their punishment and then just living their lives the way they want. Sure, they’ll try to do some good things (don’t kill anyone, be a good person, read your Bible, pray, be involved in a church, start a youth group, take care of the poor and needy, counsel others, etc.), but at the end of the day, their lives and everything about them is more-or-less the same.
Here’s my point: Christianity isn’t about making one big choice and then continuing to live your life no differently. Christ didn’t come and die for us simply so we can say “thanks” and keep going on life’s journey however we’d like. This misses the entirety of what Christianity is.
Christianity is about making the decision to follow Jesus, and then, through God’s grace, basing everything about your life on that choice.
Christianity is about Christ, not us.
You see, when we profess to be a Christian, we proclaim that we have decided to step off the throne of our hearts and give that throne over to Christ. God’s rules are no longer seen as restricting laws from an oppressive ruler, but as delightful services to our beloved King. So now, whatever Christ asks us to do, that is what we desire and strive for. Never mind if it’s weird or culturally unacceptable or contains undesired implications – being a Christian means that we put aside what we would naturally think or want, and take on what Christ says and desires. Being a Christian means that we will pursue Christ-likeness and holiness at all cost and seek to remove through God’s grace whatever feelings, emotions, or attitudes that would prevent us from doing so.
When I read this, I can’t help but think how weird it must sound to some. I mean, seriously:
-> Be ready to give up your dreams
-> Stop living for yourself
-> Go against the cultural norm
-> Accept that following Christ could potentially cost you everything, including your life
How is that suppose to sound appealing? If these are potential implications, why would anyone consider Christianity?
The truth is that Christianity was never meant to be easy or naturally appealing – Christianity is a call to die, but ultimately to live. It is a choice to die to ourselves and our desires, and to give everything up for Christ. But in doing so – giving up ourselves in total surrender to our Saviour – we realize that it is only now that we are truly finding life.
Jesus certainly never tried to get the world in His favor by making Christianity appear exciting or fun. Instead, all throughout the gospels, Jesus told us what we should expect: the true cost of following Him.
“As they were going along the road, someone said to him [Jesus], “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:57-62
“If the world hates you, know that is has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is no greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” – John 15:18-20
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake would find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25
What we need to remember is that the Gospel was never meant to sound easy or appealing. The truth of the Gospel is meant to change us from rebellious sinners into a people that love God more than themselves. That means that so many times it will be hard and painful, and it means that it may (and often will) hurt us one way or another to share the Gospel, because we will not be popular or widely accepted for doing so.
But the joy of belonging to Christ and faithfully serving Him is worth all the hardship and pain we may face.
This is the heart of Christianity – to live out our faith radically to praise and glorify God for all that He is. We are a people that are learning to love God so much, we are willing to give up any and every thing simply to obey and please Him. We choose to live lives that are often radically different from the rest of the world – and we choose to live out our faith openly before the world to testify of Christ and all that He is and has done. Though we are faced with many temptations and still so often struggle with choosing our own way over God’s way, we continually run back to the Throne of Grace and cry out in repentance to our Saviour – the One who freely forgives us and restores us to Him. We are so far from a perfect people, but we have a perfect God: He is our hope and righteousness. We live every day in thankfulness and wonder and amazement that God would love us so much to sacrifice His Son, to redeem us for His glory. For that, we are driven even more to give God all glory and praise through our lives.
Being a Christian is to shout out “Soli Deo Gloria! Glory to God alone!” We give up our lives and present it as a living sacrifice to God.
Christianity is ultimately a call to live radically different for Christ.