You all know the people: those crazy, sold-out Christians who will do anything if they believe Jesus is calling them to it. They are the people who pack up their young families and move across the world to be missionaries in dangerous nations. They are the empty-nesting older couple that just took in three teenage siblings from foster care. They are the people in our churches continuously using their time, resources, and skills to be the hands and feet of God in their communities. They are radical Christians, or are they?
As Christians, we are Christ followers, so we need to look at what Jesus commands and models for us in the Bible. As Christians:
- We must admit that we are messed up sinners incapable of saving ourselves, and completely rely on Jesus for our salvation (Ephesians 2:1-10).
- We are commanded to love our enemies (Luke 6:27-28).
- We are to give sacrificially to the poor and care for people this world has deemed useless and unlovable (Psalm 82:3-4).
- We are to rejoice when we face persecution (James 1:2, Romans 5:3-5).
- We need to love Jesus above everything, even our own families (Luke 14:26).
- We are even called to willingly give our lives for Jesus if necessary (Matthew 16:25).
When we look at our lives is this what we see? Is this what the world sees? Or have the Christian life and American life become blurred? We are blessed to live in a country where we can openly admit we are Christians; our faith in Jesus doesn’t threaten our lives, rarely does it cause us to be rejected by family members, and right now it won’t get you put in prison. In our safe and comfortable American life, it has become easy to profess the name of Christ without needing to put our actions and lives behind that statement.
If we humbly and honestly look at the way we are living, we need to admit that many of us want Jesus to take care of our salvation and eternity, but that is it. We can handle the rest of our lives without him. Of course we love him, but are we willing to let him be the Lord of our lives; to follow his ways, not our own? The lie Satan has many of us believing is that selling out for Jesus right now means missing the “good stuff” this world offers. We want Jesus, but we also want our extravagant lifestyle. We want Jesus, but we also want sex and living with our significant other outside of marriage. We want Jesus, but we also need our pornography, gambling “hobby” and favorite primetime TV shows.
The problem starts when Christianity becomes something we do one hour a week on Sunday, segmenting Jesus out of the rest of our lives. It starts when we stop getting into the Bible on our own and letting the truth of God's Word convict us and spur us on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25). It starts when we forget the enormous cost and sacrifice Jesus made to purchase us with his precious life and blood on the cross. It starts when we no longer flee sin, but try to get as close to it as possible without it technically being sin, or even easier, we just redefine what is right or wrong and claim that the Bible isn’t clear.
When we separate ourselves from the life-giving truth of God’s Word and when Jesus becomes an add-on to our life rather than the source of it, we quickly lose our way. We start seeking joy, pleasure, satisfaction, excitement, purpose, love, and value through earthly sources. When we try to live life with a foot in the world and the other in the Kingdom of God, we end up as ineffective Christians. We struggle to let go of the things that hold us back from God’s work. Our sins distract us and we forget the urgency of our calling. Sadly, we start to believe that the radical life we see in the Bible is for a few select "super Christians." We blend in with the world and we no longer shine like a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14).
But look at what Jesus says to us:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10
If we've bought the lie that happiness is found in what this world offers, we need to remember that it is the Thief, the Great Liar, talking and all he does is steal, kill and destroy. Jesus offers us true life, and life to the full. No, this is not a promise of millionaire status, perfect families and dream careers, but here is what he does promise:
- It’s a life lived in the constant grace of God’s love and forgiveness.
- It’s a life of burden realizing the reality of life after death, and the urgency to spread the gospel to the lost all around us (Luke 10:2).
- It’s a life of purpose knowing that God knit us together not just to fill space and “live it up” during our 80 years here on earth, but to accomplish the work he planned in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
- It’s a life of freedom; freedom from the chains of sin, freedom from the pressures of this world, freedom from the fear of death and persecution (Galatians 5:1).
- It’s a life of joy in knowing our Savior and drawing strength and hope in his Word.
- It’s a life that is RADICAL. One that looks so crazy different from the dying world around us that others can’t help but ask what is wrong with us; why we live the way we do.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” - 1 Peter 3:15-16
Radical lives for Jesus give us opportunities to share true hope.
Finally, we need to remember we have no power to change ourselves; we can’t just try harder and get better. No, only in Jesus and his strength do our lives change. He only asks us to humbly admit our sins and come to him for forgiveness. Then, with softened hearts willing to hear the truth, we need to dive into God’s Word and let it convict, teach and strengthen us (Hebrews 4:12). God's Spirit lives inside of you and has the power to completely change who you are from the inside out. If God can change Paul, a Christian hater into a sold-out Jesus follower, then our struggle with materialism, porn, apathy, laziness, gossip or pride are not too big for him to handle.
Our mission to proclaim the gospel is too urgent to waste our lives reveling with the world. Apathetic hearts and lives don’t point lost souls back to Christ, but letting God turn us into passionate Christ-followers has the power to turn our world upside down. He already did this once when a mere twelve men, filled with the Spirit, ignited the Church as we know it. And God has the power to do it again in order to take the good news of salvation to the ends of the earth.
Yes, this life may sound crazy and it may sound radical, but it is also biblical. This is what it means to be a Christ-follower, a Christian, and it’s amazing.