Not Our Own
There is a subtle, mistaken thought in Christianity that we can be saved, but not fully give ourselves over to the Lord and what He says concerning how we should live. Yet, what does it mean to be "saved" in the first place, if not to be taken out of the lives we once led apart from God in our sin, and be placed into the new, sanctified lives He gives us through Jesus? Since it is His life in which we now live, we no longer have control over our lives, because we are no longer our own. As Paul says in Galatians, "I have been crucified with Christ: and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me".1 Failing to live as whom we have been made to be in Christ brings about negative effects in our lives, as well as in the lives of the people around us. These negative effects include unbelievers not wanting to hear about Jesus because they see little or no difference between our lives and theirs.
Facing the Disconnect
This point leads to a thought I have been having of late concerning the state of the young people in this up-and-coming generation. I often hear concern expressed over how few of them are believers, or how few come to church, or how lost most of them seem to be. I agree, and am concerned myself, for the Lord desires them to be in His Kingdom—He loves them! We also speak of calling forth the Christians in this young generation to be set apart unto the Lord, to see them come into what the Lord Jesus has for them in Him and be a light to those of their generation who are unsaved. But I feel a disconnect in all of this when I look at those of us who are older. These desires are good, but how can we ask young people to do what we who are older in the faith often will not do ourselves? Is consecration for the young only? Is being fully committed to the Lord only attached to youthful zeal? Or is this a call meant for all of us together, young, middle-aged, and old alike? I submit that it is, and there is no getting out of it. We lead by example, not just words.
If we want to see the youth and young adults come and set themselves apart to the Lord, then those of us who are older must do so ourselves first. Young people desperately need to see us living the reality of who we are in Christ. I say this in particular to those of us who are immediately after them in age. They watch us more than we think they do. We are, in general, a rather lackluster bunch, ever-dwindling in number in the ranks of the Church. The feel-good Christianity we grew up with as children and youth has taken its toll. I cannot tell you how many people I have met in this age bracket (30-ish to 45-ish) who had some experience with the Church while growing up. Whether that experience was good or bad, they are now, generally speaking, indifferent to Christianity. Why? One would like to blame our culture and its gradual descent into further ungodliness over the past few decades. This has a hand in the problem, to be sure, but the main problem has been the Church. Our half-baked, Jesus-pill approach has failed, and failed miserably. People need life to bring them out of the death they are in spiritually—the life of Jesus Himself. If they do not see us living in that life Jesus gives us, to what are they going to be drawn? A light show and the best guitarist in town? A short, "culturally-relevant" sermon? Perhaps initially, but many will find themselves still lacking spiritually after a while, and eventually lose interest altogether. We in the Church need to be living the vibrant, consecrated lives we have been called to live as believers, loving Jesus and one another wholeheartedly, and not just "with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth".2 Our witness must be faithful and consistent, both inside and outside the church meeting. When people see Jesus lifted up by our words and deeds, then they will be drawn to Him. And not just drawn, but brought into His Kingdom and changed.
This article is not a call to be "radical" for Christ. It is simply being whom you have been created to be in Jesus. You are not your own; you belong to Him. That means He directs your course, not you. Actually allowing the Lord to have control of one's life is an unnerving prospect for some. We have been fooled into thinking it will be boring, or weird, or extreme. It is none of those things. Total, abandoned surrender to the awesome King and Creator of the universe is the most exhilarating experience known to man. Of course the the thought is terrifying to our natural minds, but we are not supposed to lean on our own understanding in the first place (remember the oft-quoted, but seldom followed verse from Proverbs?). Yes, unbelievers will think you are strange. We do not live for the approval of those who do not love Jesus, however; we live as unto the Lord so that they can come join us in the freedom that is in Him, and Him alone.
So, take the word "radical" out of the equation. It does not exist in the language of the New Testament. ("Zeal" and "fervor", yes, but not "radical".) Put in its place, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments".3 It's that simple, and those words are for every believer. We make following the Lord wholeheartedly sound much more difficult than it is. It is a day by day walking by the Holy Spirit, obeying the Lord in His strength. Will you stumble? Yes. But His grace picks us back up. The key here is to have a heart after the Lord Jesus that desires to do His will above all else. When we do His will, dead works and self-effort fall by the wayside. Sins and distractions that sidelined us are cast away as we draw near to our King. Praying, studying the Scriptures, worshiping, and just sitting in God's presence become a delight rather than a chore. Selfless love for the brethren and unbelievers becomes a reality. Faith and trust in Jesus moves in, and unbelief and fear moves out. In short, consecration to our Lord is not a pain; it is a joy that brings freedom. We may feel some pain as we let go of lesser things, but what we gain in place of those things will last forever.
Let me ask you in closing: is Jesus more important than anything else to you? Don't answer that question off-hand; sit and consider it. Ask the Holy Spirit, "Have I really devoted myself wholly to You? Do I really live like I am not my own, or am I still running my life?" Be encouraged no matter what the reply is; He will not leave you in a lesser place if you yield yourself to Him. "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."4
1. Galatians 2:20, NASB
2. from 1 John 3:18, NASB
3. John 14:15, NASB
4. Philippians 1:6, NASB