there is a danger in operating by labels…or letting labels define us. just because one calls him or herself a Christian does not necessarily mean that he or she is a Christian. i suppose the label “Christian” ought to imply that one has decided to give up his or her own individual way and instead decided to follow the way of Jesus. consequently…as one decides to take on the teachings and life of Jesus through the guidance of the Holy Spirit…there is sacrifice involved. there is a sacrifice of the old life. there is a sacrifice of the old ways. there is a sacrifice of the old self. maybe this concept would better be understood through the words of Jesus, “those who want to find life, will lose their lives.” if one wants to find true life…it must involve sacrifice.
when one runs around in endless circles on the periphery of life chasing those things defined by our culture as “life-giving” or “meaningful,” there are only so many circles that can be run until exhaustion sets in and the questions of life begin. what is life all about? isn’t there anymore to this life? is there any point in living? one is no closer to finding life at the beginning of running in circles as one is at the end. the lie we grow up believing in our culture is that to be fulfilled…or to find life…we must get, accumulate, or receive things. it isn’t true…not even if one can afford it. there is profound wisdom in pursuing a life in which one sacrifices everything. only there will one end up with nothing and everything. that is where life is found.
one problem is that we have not been told that becoming a disciple of Jesus involves sacrifice. people join our churches and have the disjointed idea that when they accept Jesus…they are now entitled members who receive their own personal Jesus. it is a personal Jesus that we can carry around with us and pull out at our convenience to prove we are Christians. we like to beat up others with our personal Jesus at times, but we keep it a safe distance from our own personal lives. we want a personal Jesus because another kind of Jesus might ask us to begin denying ourselves. we like a personal Jesus that doesn’t push us or challenge us or make us sacrifice anything. Deitrich Bonhoeffer calls this “cheap grace” rather than “costly grace.” is it any wonder why there are so many people in the church who are disgruntled with the church? when we look to the church to provide life…and when we believe that finding life involves entitlement and getting things…we will always be disappointed with the church that can’t meet our needs. maybe that is why so many people walk around in our churches who say they are not “growing spiritually” or are not “being fed.”
what if the beginning point of growing in our spiritual lives is realizing that it isn’t what the church can give us, as much as it is our recognizing that we need to begin sacrificing? what would it look like to be confessional with other brothers and sisters about our sinfulness? what would happen if we were committed to a disciplined prayer life that cries out to God in brokenness and steadfastness? what if we actually began to deny our bodies of their wants, needs, and desires by fasting and living lives that are simpler? what if we were hungry and desperate for God in each and every aspect of our lives each and every moment?
if we are to call ourselves Christians, it is more than just a neat little label or title. taking on the way of Jesus is a continual sacrifice of our lives in order to find true and meaningful life.
pursuing and sacrificing together…