I am a radical. Those who know me are most likely smiling because I appear quite conventional, an older man who lives in a rural neighborhood, keeps his lawn mowed, wears standard attire, and makes few waves in the world. But, I am a radically committed Christian by this definition – “a person who advocates thorough or complete political or social reform.” You won’t find me at a political rally or a demonstration in the street, but if you ask me you will discover my convictions about the centrality of the Lord Jesus Christ in all of life and the miracle of being born of the Spirit into eternal life.
The word ‘radical’ causes some of us to think of fanatics like those young men who shook our nation 19 years ago when they hijacked airplanes to knock down the Twin Towers, murdering thousands and killing themselves in the process. Or perhaps you think of one of those wild-eyed preachers on some late night TV channel who seems to need a psychiatric evaluation.
-Radical brings to my mind a young woman from my congregation who has invested herself in training so that she can to go to a poor neighborhood in Colombia to live among deaf children.
-It makes me think of a group of people who invest 3 hours every Sunday afternoon in teaching the truth of the Word to the children and youth of our church, largely without thanks or recognition.
-Radical describes those who give away a tithe (10%) of their income to support churches that preach the Gospel, feed the hungry, encourage the weak, and offer restoration to the broken.
-Radical makes me think of 5 young Americans who saw the plight of the Waorani people in the Amazonian jungle and chose to go to try to reach them with a message of hope. Those young fathers and husbands were speared to death shortly after setting up their camp on an Amazon River beach in 1956. But, from their spilled blood there came a surge in world-wide evangelical efforts and that tribe did change and exists today in part because of their radical commitment.
Christianity was never meant to be a life of moderation! Our Savior and Lord calls us to surrender of ourselves for a radical dedication to His Cause. How else can we read His words? “If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for me, you will find it.” (Matthew 10:39, NLT)
John records another of Jesus’ invitations to radical commitment. “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2:15-17, NLT)
What owns us? It’s a question we must ask ourselves often. To bring clarity to your thoughts, ask these questions. In what do I seek security? To what do I give the majority of my focused energies? What are my children learning about life’s values from my daily life?
Jesus asks “Why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” (Luke 6:46, NLT) He went on to say that if we just talk faith but fail to live faithfully we are like a person who attempts to build his house on a sandy beach without a foundation. Life’s storms will reveal the reality!
A system of ethics, a religious creed, a God is a merely a “Moral Therapeutic Deity” cannot save us and lacks the power to transform us from sinners to saints. If we choose a safe, moderate ‘faith’ that does not cause us to wrestle with temptation, make hard choices, and pursue the will of God, our religion will be barren, empty. We will throw it away when “God” (not real God at all, sadly) does not produce the happy life to which we believe we are entitled.
So how can we become radical without going insane?
Two choices are of prime importance:
1. We must recover a deep commitment to the study of Scripture and revere those words as the inspired and revealed Truth. Our understanding must be shaped by more than our private interpretations, including consideration of the long traditions of the Church and sound doctrine.
2. We must stay connected, living with other Christians with whom we remain in constant dialogue. The friction of community, the love required to deal with people who are flawed, who do not see the world as we do, who are working out their salvation as we are will keep us balanced.
Jesus Christ calls us to the radical Way. His call is not based in strange visions, weird rituals, or unbridled self-expression. It is an invitation to crown Him Lord of all.
Here is a word from the Word. Pray that the Spirit will bring them to life, drawing you to Christ Jesus, and to a humble surrender to Him.
“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!
Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.
Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.
Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.
Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.
It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized.
Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
(Philippians 4:4-9, The Message)
Jesus my Lord will love me forever
From Him no pow’r of evil can sever
He gave His life to ransom my soul
Now I belong to Him
Now I belong to Jesus
Jesus belongs to me
Not for the years of time alone
But for eternity
Once I was lost in sin’s degradation
Jesus came down to bring me salvation
Lifted me up from sorrow and shame
Now I belong to Him
Joy floods my soul for Jesus has saved me
Freed me from sin that long had enslaved me
His precious blood He gave to redeem
Now I belong to Him
Norman John Clayton © 1938, 1943 Norman J. Clayton. Renewed 1966, 1971 Curb Wordspring Music (Admin. by W.C.M. Music Corp.)
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