“You should live in a way that proves you belong to the God
who calls you into his kingdom and glory”
– 1 Thessalonians 2:12 –
it is such an evolving, ever-moving target in this life of finding and following the King of Heaven. It is also a concept and a process that, at least in my life, has no doubt been heavily tainted by American cultural trends and values – you know, the ones that emanate from obsession with consumerism and hedonism which support the love-affair with me, myself and I ahead of pretty much anyone and anything else.
For me, spiritual surrender began in my childhood as a transaction that forged a new destiny: heaven instead of hell. The concept of surrender expanded (though painfully slowly at times) in my teenage years to divine lordship in the everyday, especially in thoughts and actions.
Surrender in my college years began a lengthy process of learning to walk with Christ rather than run ahead of him and surrender in my early to mid adult years was all about coming to believe in and trust in the grace of God more than my performance for God.
All of that to say that now looking back …
I realize that much of my faith . . shall I say my Americanized faith . . for the first 40 years was much more about subtraction vs addition. In other words, my focus was locked up in a wilderness where I measured maturity in Christ more by what I was no longer doing or simply not doing – you know, the vices and foolish pursuits of those outside of the kingdom. If I was not doing more displeasing things than ever before, I must have really grown in my faith, right? . . AND, I was best positioned to merit God’s blessing, protection, favor, kindness etc., right?
The problem is that way of thinking makes it oh so easy to subtly go day after day and year after year with the mentality that God belongs to us vs. the truth that not only does a Christ-follower belong to Him, but we were made by Him for Him . . for His praise and His glory.
The problem with American religion is it’s love affair with “my safety, my security and my satisfaction” in the here and now . . and consequently how little it asks of a Jesus-follower.
We can’t purchase God for our guaranteed treasure-trove of safe and satisfying pleasures and pursuits – we don’t get to use Him, manipulate Him and manhandle Him just have our “heaven on earth”; instead, He has rescued us from ourselves and bought us with the life and blood of His very own Son, a cost so lavish that it demands nothing less than a life of honor . . and honor always comes at a price . . and no where is it more costly than in the Kingdom of God.
In God’s economy …
honor is about so much more than subtraction – leaving evil off the table; it is about a wholehearted pursuit of Christ in word and deed. Ultimately, the measuring stick for authentic faith is not so much the distance between carnality and our present standing (though that is important), it is instead the distance between who we think we are and say we are in Christ and our actual proximity to His cross.
How did Jesus define a life and lifestyle that, as is stated in 1 Thessalonians 2:12, “proves we belong to God”?
I am glad you asked . . look no further than Luke 14:25-34:
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus,
and turning to them he said:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life –
such a person cannot be my disciple.
And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me
cannot be my disciple.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower.
Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost
to see if you have enough money to complete it?
For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it,
everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘
This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king.
Won’t he first sit down and consider
whether he is able with ten thousand men
to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?
If he is not able, he will send a delegation
while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.
In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything
you have cannot be my disciples.
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
Do you and I
have ears to really hear …
the invitation of the One who put His all on the line for you and I?
There is no doubt in my mind that God wanted to push the subject of “surrender” forward like never before when He asked my wife and I in 2008 if we were ready to let go and follow Him without “self-preserving and self-protecting” safeguards in place.
There were three phrases right here in Luke 14 that perhaps for the first time began to relocate from our theology to our footology – you know, that place where by God’s grace you walk in faith more than you talk a good faith.
Here are those three phrases:
- “Hate father and mother . . even his own life”
- “Carry their cross”
- “Give up everything”
Truth is, most American believers like myself do a pretty good job of diminishing and dismissing the substance of these “non-negotiables” as issued by Christ Himself.
Have you ever seriously wrestled
with the three
uncompromising demands of Christ
which are revealed
in these three phrases?
“Hate father and mother”: the demand to be unentangled
Focus on the family is good but we simply fail if we make family and all that is known, safe and non-risky THE destination. Jesus knew we could never move past a stunted faith when smothered by family affairs and a self-soothing lifestyle. The call? Focus your family on the kingdom for our citizenship is in heaven not the here an now (Phil 3:17-21)
“Carry their cross”: the demand to be broken
When you truly begin to position yourself in a way where God can lead you wherever to whoever whenever your faith moves from a “serve me” to a “serve through me” posture where prayers and priorities are broken of my will to Thy will. You won’t engage and care for the broken until you are broken (Matthew 6:9-10)
“Give up everything”: the demand to be emptied
It is one thing to say “All that God has given to me belongs to Him – or we have dedicated our homes and cars to Him” . . it is another to let it go, to give it all away. Your true testimony is not your Sunday praise or your Friday small group huddle share . . your lifestyle defines what owns you and reveals either obsession with comfort and routine or contentment in Christ alone. Ephesians 5 is about so much more than wine or alcohol, it is God’s reminder to beware of becoming drunk on stuff – He display’s His power and presence in those who make room for Him and depend solely on Him (Ephesians 5:17-18)
and sometimes not so subtle question
is destination – where are you going?
If we have been given an inheritance and a citizenship in heaven, and we treasure that above all else, why would we act anymore like the world is our home?
My wife Cheri and I still have a long ways to go in unpacking surrender in our walk with Christ, but the call is just as real to you and your family today as it was to us in 2008 and every day since . . let go and be all things Luke 14.
If you are wondering where Christ can be found . . where His anointing, His power, His presence, His joy, His love, His encouragement, where His peace are alive and flowing . . then look no further than your unentangled, your broken and your empty . . places that I only truly began to discover when I started . . deconstructing my American faith.
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