Take Up Your Cross, Follow Him

 

I just want to write.

Whenever I talk about spiritual things, I really like to provide scripture because I try to shape my life and my actions and decisions on the word of God rather than my own opinions or popular trends, beliefs, advice, etc.

Unfortunately I don’t have the time to present all of the passages and verses, but I do have a desire to share what has been on my heart and mind lately. I would strongly encourage you to seek out what the Bible says about the convictions I’ve developed recently.

This world is not my home. I’m not saying I was unaware of this truth(I’ve sung it, I’ve said it), I’ve just come to fully see the picture: how we do things in America is not the standard of what is normal, right, or good. I live a decently “poor” life, I don’t consider myself materialistic, I don’t love and dedicate my life to the accumulation of money. I don’t have a beautiful house with impeccable interior decorating. I consider myself to be spiritually-minded and driven, and my husband and I consider the church our family and our closest friends. Comparatively, we are more involved with the church (he’s a preacher, our best friends are those we’ve met in the church, we attend lectures, gospel meetings, studies, singings and debates. We actively try to teach others and invite them to services) than many people. Yet, I realized that all of that, that attitude of “Oh yeah, I’m doing pretty well” comes from comparing myself to America and to others here who would proclaim Christ.

But, what do we see in the Bible? I’m such a firm believer in going back to the Bible and using it as our standard and yet it’s unreal how easily I was blinded to this area of my life.

The early church was far more dedicated than I am. Paul says he did not count his life dear to him, he counted all things loss, Christians had all things in common and were together, studying, teaching, breaking bread, singing, prayingdaily . They sold their possessions and property so that their brethren had no lack. They sacrificed so much for this brilliant treasure they discovered. Do we do that? Does our faith change us? Transform us? Renew us? Convict? Does it change our lives? Do we forget any dreams or goals or comforts or longings that we had once we find Christ?

Because that’s what I see when I read the Bible.

But today, in the United States, I see Christ and “church” added to our schedules like an accessory; a belief in Christ is equivalent to a love of Chinese food or shopping. And I think it’s important to admit that the U.S. does not represent the world and is actually only a very small percentage of the world. It’s important to admit that so that we don’t fall into the trap of thinking what we might define as “radical” faith or “radical” Christianity is in fact “radical”. Not only can we read about the very “radical”, “extreme” and committed faith of the early Christians, we can go to the less developed places of the world and see that same passion and joy and dedication amidst physical poverty and hunger and actual persecution. Here in comfy, dreamy, fluffy America, “Christians” complain of confrontation and debating, contending of the faith because we’re so spoiled with an unhealthy atmosphere of tolerance and entitlement and selfishness. If we proclaim to be a Christian in this country, but we’re disgusted when someone questions our actions in light of scripture or our doctrinal beliefs in light of scripture,should we perhaps examine ourselves?

Who would we be in a country where worshiping Christ is illegal and punishable by death or persecution? It would take a deep faith, a deep longing to please God and be with Him to endure that hardship.

That same genuine longing for Him is what motivates true Christ-followers to want the help of their brethren, to want to know truth, to question their own beliefs and intents and actions.

We’ve been so blinded.

And that wasn’t even my intended tangent, so going back to other countries and the true, changing, convicting, transforming faith of those who are destitute- do we give thought to them? If we are the church, God’s body, are we acting out what is in His mind? If we believe He died for all and wants all to come to repentance, what are we doing to fervently reach the lost? Or does that inconvenient definition of Christianity not appeal to us? Do we prefer to have God on Sundays and pursue our own goals, our own “bucket list” every other day?

I’ve been convicted to go out and pursue foreign efforts, but I am not saying we can’t get to heaven without doing that. However, if we’re going to stay in America, it may take double the effort: we’ll still have to work at saving the lost and refuting false doctrine, but we’re also going to have to exhaust ourselves in making sure we don’t get too comfortable in this wealthy nation. This world is not our home, so we can’t let it fool us. Don’t build your home here, don’t lose sight. Remember the actions of the early Christians: give, give radically. Serve the brethren especially, and then serve those on the outside.

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:38-47

I’ve always been in awe of the way the church is described here, and how sad it is that “church” is entirely different today. It’s an activity. It’s become a social community event. It’s added onto our hobbies, instead of wiping away every other care and replacing everything in our life.

The church is not a building, it’s the Lord’s body: the church is the members, the saved and “called out” people. We need to stop treating it like “I go to church on Sundays”. We are the church and we need to act like other baptized followers are our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers.

Not only that, but the Bible says that those on the outside of the body are dead in their trespasses and it describes that when we are baptized, we are made alive. That sounds like a pretty big difference: think of the literal difference between a person buried under the ground, lifeless, and you, right now, breathing, thinking, living, acting. Apparently, God thinks that when we become saved, we need to be transformed, we need to allow Him to work through us and we need to bear fruit of the Holy Spirit. What does that mean? That means we stop thinking and acting for ourselves. We stop pursuing the things in life that we did before we believed in Christ.

We also need to break free of this American lifestyle. What in the world does God think of us? What does He think of His children who have come to the knowledge of the truth and are abundantly blessed in comparison to so many others and yet who simply waste it all by doing the 9-5, the sitcoms each evening, Facebook every 15 minutes, surfing the internet in our downtime, getting more fired up about sports games than any cause for Christ, spending shameful amounts of money on decorative items, clothes, even groceries, hobbies when there are actually people out there literally destitute, poor, without food and clothing and most importantly, without the knowledge of God’s word? Is our life more valuable than theirs? Are we so selfish and content and greedy that we actually don’t care to sacrifice our lives for the furtherance of the gospel? So often I hear “what would Jesus do?” and while that’s truly helpful, sometimes we have to kind of make assumptions: we assume Jesus would say this or that or act this way or that. Fortunately, we actually know what Jesus would do in this life concerning the use of our time and sacrifice and service: He would seek and save the lost. He would preach and teach and simultaneously care for those He came in contact with. He would not care enough to build a home for himself on this earth. And as a side note, I feel that many who are convicted to help those who are poor and needy often miss the point: Jesus said the poor will be here always. The mission of Christ was not to provide physical needs, though He did and also expects us to do the same, rather His mission was to save. We cannot neglect doctrine and putting on the new man and truly following Christ, heeding the commands of the NT and glorifying Him with our conduct. The focus is not to go feed the world, it is to save the world and preach and teach, and also provide for them, especially once they obey the gospel: in Acts, we see that there were no needs in the church because the body took care of itself. God gave us a compassionate heart and mind for a reason, and we need to be sure to shape that and use it in a way that glorifies Him. Our goal is to bring others to God and to His word, because that is the truly devastating aspect of our world: that there are people who enter it, suffer and die without ever hearing about salvation or God’s will. In fact, the early church suffered immensely and Christians were persecuted and murdered and crucified, but the beauty of it was they have a place in heaven. This world will never be free of suffering and poverty and abuse and hunger, but if we could take comfort in the knowledge of a heavenly reward how much more peace we could have!

Now that I’ve made that clear:

Paul said to imitate him as he imitated Christ.

Why do we only half do that?

I thought I was committed, and I did have the right intentions, but I’ve really been convicted that I was still way off. I was judging myself in terms of “normal” as defined by America. I really do take the word seriously: I am mindful of how I worship, I respect the authority of Christ, I’ve made significant changes to my character and my actions, my words, dress and thoughts, and I do help others, but all while still focusing on my family and my normal life and my physical home and food and the pleasures of this nation. Suddenly, I don’t feel so comfortable just being a Christian the American way. I feel like I could glorify my Father in much better ways.

Again, I don’t think everyone needs to abandon their homes and move to third-world countries. But I do think you should consider these thoughts I’ve been having, and more importantly, you should study and see what God has said and maybe re-examine your own life and then pray and then make those changes. Maybe you’ve fallen into the comfort trap as I had, despite diligently studying daily and doing things for Christ and for others and in the church. I was a doer of the word, as James exhorted, but I was not doing enough. I was doing “good-enough”, I was doing “better than I used to do”, I was doing “more than that other guy.”

We’ll be judged by the Word on the last day though(John 12:48), and I don’t think that allows for contentment in our service to Him.

Maybe we need to give up some of our desires. We’ve been thinking a lot about children. If you know anything about me, I really want children. I placed my son with an adoptive family when I was 17 and since then, I’ve just so desperately wanted to be a mother. God eventually blessed me with an amazing, spiritual husband and now a healthy, beautiful son but we had planned on having maybe one or two more because we both love having Isaac and we want to raise a family and personally, I would really love to have a daughter as well. But we’ve been thinking, especially since my husband is trying to serve God through evangelism: first, children are expensive and we don’t want to burden the church or not be able to serve in a certain capacity because of our (somewhat selfish?)desire to grow a family. Second, there are sooo many babies, infants, toddlers, young children and even teenagers across the world that have no one. Do you see how amazing and pleasing to God it would be to bring one of those hopeless souls into a Christian home? To provide for them and love them and save them, and then share God’s word with them and potentially see them love and serve Him and help His kingdom, the church, grow? Isn’t that what He has done for us?

So, we’re praying and waiting and holding off on having more children, though my heart longs for that. Isn’t that what sacrifice is, though? Isn’t there a way that will gratify our desires, and then a better way that will glorify and please God?

I don’t know, that’s just what we’ve been thinking about in our studies lately. And we’re working on applying it, but we still have such a long and humiliating way to go. All I know is that I want to show God how much I revere and love Him by putting actions behind those words. I want to take up my cross (crucify myself) daily for Him, and imitate the life of Christ because that’s the least that I could do for such a long-suffering, sacrificial, just and merciful God.

“what is man that you are mindful of him?…” – Psalm 8:4

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” – Ephesians 4:1

our mission

(Picture source: uchild.com)

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4 thoughts on “Take Up Your Cross, Follow Him

  1. Pingback: Baptized, But Not Converted «

  2. Will you join the Son in displaying the supreme satisfaction of the glory of grace in joining Him on the Calvary road of suffering? Because there is no other way the world is going to see the supreme glory of Christ, today, except that we break free from the Disney Land of America and begin to live lifestyles of missionary sacrifice that looks to the world like our treasure is in heaven and not on the earth – it’s the only way. – John Piper

  3. Pingback: Page Not Found | THE CRUNCHY CHRISTIAN

  4. Pingback: A Follow-Up For Yesterday’s Post | THE CRUNCHY CHRISTIAN

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