God is challenging my thinking these days – “to the max” as we said in the 80s. As He is doing so, Satan is working to defeat me before I even start! I feel like lately I’ve been bombarded with the true (and also radical and provacative) teachings of Christ and yet I do not know where to start in rearranging my life to actually look more like this. I realize it starts with my heart change … the things people can’t see and don’t even know reside there like envy, jealousy, lack of faith, unforgiveness, root of bitterness, judgemental attitutudes, selfishness, spiritual pride, etc.
I’m reading a book entitled Ten Things I Wish Jesus Never Said written by seminary professor and Academic Dean Victor Kuligin (Namibia Evangelical Seminary in Namibia, Africa).
As well as this book, I’ve been challenged by the thoughts David Platt has in his book Radical.
AND, just this past Sunday, Brent began his series on the sermon on the mount, in which many of the radical things Jesus taught are all found in one setting (but will take Brent weeks to unpack!)
Kuligin says in his preface:
However, if your Christian walk is characterized by constant victory, then I fear much of what I am going to say in this book will make little sense to you. You may be tempted to think I am making the Christian life more difficult than it was intended to be. I envy you. I do not find taking up my cross easy, or loving my enemies particularly palatable, nor do I enjoy plucking out my right eye or cutting off my right hand because, frankly I often enjoy sinful things … How is this yoke easy and this burden light? Lord, help me.
As I read those words, I thought, rather piously to myself, well I don’t ENJOY sin. But even at that moment I had to admit there are obviously sins that still do enjoy! For example, laziness is a sin. I confess, though, that I enjoy being in my bed watching tv or doodling on the computer even when there are many other things I should be doing which are much more productive (especially in light of eternity). Now it is true that I may feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit as I waste time, but to this point in my spiritual journey, I have not been able to totally release the power of lesser pleasures that the world has to offer in return for greater pleasures of serving God with no fear of man or fear of loss.
Kuligin goes on to say in his beginning chapter:
Luther, Wesley, Augustine, Bunyan …. all speak, as if with one voice, that the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ is wrought with difficulty, frequent bouts of depression, and bitter disappointment. Yet in all things God’s grace overcomes – if only we trust in His ways.
So I will be meditating (and possibly blogging) in these coming days about these things. One of the introductory thoughts caused me to stop and think. Although there have been books written on the hard sayings of Jesus, they are written more from the perspective of understanding what Jesus was teaching, not necessarily applying it. Although there must first be the academic understanding of what Jesus means, once we discover it, are we not to then DO it?! Hmmmm…..
Even as I blog this morning, I’m faced with the questions rising in my heart from the Lord. Will you trust Me? Enough to obey Me? even if it’s radical??
I conclude with some thoughts from the book that penetrate to my core. Because I know that if I take Jesus at His word, seek to understand what He really meant, and attempt to obey it, I must surrender all. And even though I’ve sung it for years, I know in my heart that it’s a constant battle to mean it. Someone said once that Christians don’t tell lies, they just sing them! I know that’s extreme. But for me, I also know there’s truth to that. I can say that in these last years, I sing those “whatever it takes” songs with a lot less gusto and much more prayer. Sometimes I have to sing “I WANT my heart to choose to say blessed be Your name….” for it to be true.
… I often find the teachings of Jesus to be shocking … they go against the grain of selfishness and self-centeredness in my life that part of me would prefer they not exist, that I be left alone to wallow in my own selfish pursuits and pride than to be told to conform to teaching so alien to my being.
To be happy (blessed) in Jesus … trust and obey!
Yes, even the radical things He said.
Yet, in ALL THINGS GOD’S GRACE OVERCOMES … if we trust Him.