Sunday, March 27, 2011

GOD IS NOT INTERESTED IN HAVING YOU BELIEVE IN HIM

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." - Jesus (John 3:16)

If there's one word I could remove from the Christian Lexicon, it's the word "believe". Why? Because we've mangled it so badly it's hardly recognizable from the original meaning the writers of the New Testament intended.

We have reduced "believing in Christ" down to the level of believing in the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus or Sasquatch. We've told people, and each other, that all we have to do to be "born again" is to simply "believe" that Jesus was real, or that he was the Messiah, or that he was God's son.

However, the verses we base this misunderstanding on suggest otherwise. The most famous one being John 3:16. In context, Jesus is having a conversation about the Kingdom of God with a pharisee named Nicodemus. The pharisee wants to know how he can enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus explains to him that he cannot see or enter the Kingdom of God unless he is first transformed from within. This is when Jesus says, "...whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life" and he doesn't mean, "whoever thinks I'm real" or even "whoever thinks I'm God."

First of all, since the verse is in the middle of a conversation, we know that Nicodemus wasn't having trouble accepting Jesus as a real-life person. They were in the middle of a conversation! So "believe in" here does not mean "to accept that Jesus is/was real."

Secondly, if belief were enough in itself, then what about what we do with the rest of our lives? Isn't it possible to believe in God and still having almost nothing to do with Him? As the Apostle James says,

"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." (James 2:19)


See, the demons "believe" in God the way that we sometimes think we should believe in God. In fact, as James points out, they not only know that Jesus is real, they've seen Him with their eyes, and they tremble with fear! But is that kind of belief enough to save the demons? No, of course not. The demons "believe" in God but they do not put their trust in God. They will not submit their lives to Jesus and allow Him to transform them into beings who are just like Him.

God is not interested in having you and I believe in Him. He already has legions of demons who do that just fine. No, what God is searching for is a human being made in His likeness who willingly surrenders their life to Him and trusts Him enough to say, "I will submit my whole life to you and receive your amazing love for me."

God wants our love, and our complete trust in His wisdom, power and goodness. Believing is only the first step. We have to go all in.

-kg

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tell me what a congregration sings and I will tell you their theology

GUEST BLOG ARTICLE
Tell me what a congregration sings and I will tell you their theology
by Dwight Smith

NOTE: Dwight Smith and his wife serve the homeless community in Santa Ana, California. He shared the article below with me today and was gracious enough to allow me to re-publish it here. I hope it blesses you as it did me. - kg

**
To the Christian Century,

We run a house of hospitality and a soup kitchen in Santa Ana, California.

Today as we served lunch to about 200 souls in the government plaza, I wondered if I was becoming childish. As the acolytes of local government passed by, scowling, I "turned up the volume."

For fifteen years we Catholic Workers have been "reading the alphabet" while we arrange and distribute the US mail along with our soup. Knowing how utterly dependent homeless people are for the mail to contain the funds or documents they need for "redemption," I, years ago, became almost inured to their repeated requests that I "check again" or "keep a lookout" for their salvific correspondence.

To allay their fears that we might miss something, we began pulling an entire sheaf of incoming envelopes, gathered by the first letter of the last name, and crying out, "Doing the "M's," or "Doing the R's!" Then we would proceed to sing out the surnames so everyone in the soup- line could hear their "call."

Over the years I became culturally more sensitive. I pride myself on being able to pronounce Spanish and Vietnamese surnames. In a lower voice I can often guess how the mortified parents from Detroit and Mississippi would have their kid's names properly pronounced all these years later in this God-forsaken place so far from home.

By saying aloud every surname beginning with a given letter of the alphabet for every single communicant, we have arrived at a process that largely allays the fears of those for whom no check ever comes.

This process, a hymn of sorts, is the way we sing the names of the children whose ship won't be coming in; for those whose only ship is deportation; and for those whose forebears "already got their trip" on a slave ship many years ago. We sing the names of those who will not be rescued this time around - at least not in the way they want.

We sing out these names, a tiny balm over anxious and troubled waters, and we sit with the empty-handed until, on rare occasions and after many, many years, they raise their own voices in song.

It is then, thanks to your Pastors' message to a young seminarian, that I now recognize the hymnal of our theology: I now hear the loud, clear voice of those who have turned, undistracted by wealth or power or even sustenance, utterly toward the Cross.

It is the song of those reconciled to the singular sufficiency of the Redemption Himself; of those for whom no lesser counterfeit will suffice.

Thank you for your much needed and salvific interpretation. Tomorrow I pray that I might listen anew to the sound of my friends, silently singing of the Love that will at last their terrible suffering suffice.

Thank you for showing me how to follow this sweet, sweet sound.

-Dwight Smith

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

OUR UNITY IS BASED ON JESUS AND NOTHING ELSE

I’ve written a little before on the unique blending of denominational backgrounds within our little Mission House Church. Somehow, even though we each come from divergent and oftentimes hostile denominational streams, everyone within our simple church family has managed to overlook our differences and love one another in spite of this.

So, why am I writing about this again? Well partly because I’ve started to notice that a lot of the other organic and simple churches in our area share a common denominational background, which means that their unity isn’t strained by the same forces that a group like ours might encounter. In our group we can't appeal to a common set of doctrines. If anything, we've all abandoned our identity as members of a particular denomination and embraced our core identity as followers of Jesus.

On paper, then, our house church family shouldn't be so united. We come from Pentecostal, Calvary Chapel, Vineyard, Brethren, Baptist, Lutheran and non-denominational backgrounds. How can we all sit together and worship together without sparking an argument? Simply because we have intentionally avoided centering our gatherings together on issues or doctrines that we know are potentially divisive.

Because we’re sensitive to these theological landmines we’ve instead focused our meetings on the One Thing we can all agree on – Jesus.

Not that other groups aren’t centered on Jesus and what it means to follow Him daily. I'm certain that they are. But since our group is not all on the same page when it comes to doctrines I think we have a tendency to emphasize following our Lord Jesus and discovering together how we can put His teachings into practice in our actual lives.

This also doesn’t mean that we don’t tend to stray over into areas where there are differences of opinion. We have had our share of disagreements and in those cases we’ve done our best to allow everyone an opportunity to communicate their perspective on scripture. Thankfully we’ve stopped short of trying to impose a particular perspective on everyone else in the church. No one has to agree with me, or with anyone else, on a peripheral issue in order to remain a valued and loved member of the church family.

For example, my wife and I have a huge personal conviction when it comes to our calling to love and serve the poor in the context of following Jesus. We formed the Mission largely because we wanted to plant a church where 100% of the offering could go to help people in the community (and even within our own church family) who were struggling financially or in poverty. We regularly serve at a local motel and share free groceries with families living there each month. But at no time does anyone in our house church family feel guilty for not joining us in this service. (Yes, we've asked them to make sure). Of course, we freely invite people to come along with us, and we regularly share testimonies of what God is doing through this service, but we don’t impose our conviction on anyone else in the Body.

Again, it’s not as if our group is perfect. We’re continually learning from our mistakes. But one thing we’ve tried to hold on to is the idea that everyone is free to share in our church family and everyone is free to disagree as long as no one attempts to sway the group to “go their way” in a certain practice or doctrine.

As Christians we have to admit that our calling is to love one another, not to argue one another into agreement on doctrines that are non-essential. We’re totally ok with people sharing their perspectives on the scriptures. That's how we grow together! But what we advocate is an attitude that listens and doesn't have an agenda to change the other person's mind.

Think about it: If you wanted to find something to argue about in your church fellowship I'm sure you wouldn't have to look very hard. The question is whether or not your desire is to seek for what things you disagree on, or if your desire is to seek for the things that you all agree on?

Here’s another example. A few months ago we had a new visitor to our group. In the course of our open sharing time someone brought up an issue of healing. This new brother shared his firm conviction that it is always God’s will to heal. He was allowed to share his perspective and no one interrupted him. After he was finished I shared that my perspective (and I was clear to state that I could only speak for myself) was that sometimes God choose not to heal and instead used the sickness or the struggle to work the character of Christ into our lives.

Again, my goal was not to convince him that he was wrong or to change his mind. I knew that I probably couldn’t do that anyway (and I didn’t). To be sure that this brother was ok with my sharing a counter point I invited him to lunch the following week and he and I talked together about our group’s commitment to allow differences of opinion. The great thing was that this brother understood and celebrated our open share time and our desire for freedom and acceptance of one another.

Our group only asks: “Are you following Jesus daily and is it your aim to know Him and to let the Bible be your guide?” If the answer is “Yes” then you’re in! We ask nothing else of those who desire to fellowship with us, as long as their desire is also to walk with others who may, or may not, agree with them on everything.

Our aim is to avoid being distracted from our main goal which is to love God and to love one another and to follow Jesus in our actual lives.

I think that whatever church you’re part of, you have to be ok with sitting next to someone who holds a different opinion about eschatology or baptism or spiritual gifts, etc. and still call that person a brother and love them simply because they are part of the same family of God.

If someone denies the Gospel or teaches a strange doctrine that distorts the Gospel or character of Christ, then yes, of course, you need to correct that. But we're not saved by having the correct information about the Bible, nor are we saved because we can communicate complex theological ideas, we are saved because we have a transformational encounter with the living Jesus and we fall in love with Him and His Word.

By the Grace of God our church family will continue to love one another and to accept one another on the basis of Christ and not on the basis of agreement on a set of doctrines.

-kg

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

BEING CHURCH?

Those of us who are part of a house church or an organic church often speak of "being the church" rather than "attending a church".

A fellow house church leader recently emailed me and a few other house church practitioners to ask us how we would answer this question: “How are your house church communities doing at ‘being the Church’ rather than ‘going to Church’?”

Here’s my response.

Over the last few weeks I've had conversations with several in our house church family and they’ve indicated to me that they've started to experience a paradigm shift between "going to church" and "being the church". Here's how some of them have expressed this phenomenon:

*"Once I realized that being who God created and called me to be was all that He expects of me, I started to realize that I have a ministry to children already. I don't have to travel to Africa or even to Mexico to minister to children who don't know the Gospel. They're in my 5th grade class I teach every day."

*"I had only been coming to this house church for two weeks when I offered to host the next meeting in my home. Everyone was like, 'That's great!' At first I thought, 'Don't you want to see my house first?' but then I realized that it didn't matter to anyone what my house was like. They were all eager to allow me the freedom to contribute to the Church in whatever way I wanted to."

*"All my life at other churches I was always on the outside of that myterious inner circle of leadership, but now I'm one of the many other contributing members of the Church. Suddenly my voice counts for something. My gifts are relevant. My family is truly known and loved. This is what Church is all about!"

*"Growing up in Church I never understood what the pastor was saying. But now I'm free to ask questions and people are free to question me and to challenge me in my walk with Jesus. It's the Body of Christ that has changed my life where all those sermons never did."

*"For the first time in my life as a Christian, when I think of "my church," I now think of the people in it. Not the building or the pastor because we don't have any. The faces of the people I fellowship with come to mind."

*"Instead of going to church and attending a meeting, the house church experience has allowed me to see that all of my life is a ministry to God. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, the Spirit of the Living God is alive in me and that's where 'Church' can happen."


Our house church is called “the Mission” because we hope to encourage everyone to see that they are missionaries equipped by God to minister the Gospel in their own neighborhood, workplace, community, etc.

In addition to these statements, I’ve personally witnessed individuals in our house church family as they discover their own personal mission. Some have felt a calling to start a weekly prayer meeting in their home. Some have felt compelled to take regular trips to an orphanage in Mexico. Some have taken it upon themselves to put together survival kits for the homeless. Some have responded to God’s calling to use their teaching gift to lead weekly Bible Studies with people outside our house church family. Some have stepped out to help teach Chinese students how to speak English as a second language. Others are still trying to understand what their personal mission is and we’re patiently standing by them and encouraging them as they continue to follow Jesus daily.

While no one in our house church family feels pressure to participate in anyone else’s ministry, they do know that they are free to join in if they want to. No one feels pressure to start a ministry of their own either. Unless God is genuinely speaking to them about stepping forward, we’re content to meet them wherever they are.

Our house church family has a saying that goes, “We’re all in process.” That means we recognize that none of us is in exactly the same place in our walk with Christ. While we encourage everyone to grow deeper with Jesus, we don’t set our own expectations of what that should look like. We allow the individual person to listen for God’s voice and to respond accordingly. We strive to have grace for one another and not to impose our passion on others.

For example, my family has been serving at a local motel for nearly 9 years now. We go every month and pass out free groceries which our house church family purchases using the offerings that are freely given to help the poor. Not everyone in our house church goes with us when we serve at the motel, but they know we'd love to have them join us if they wish. They also know that they don't have to give their offering to this cause if they don't want to. No one forces them to give or looks to see who is giving or how much. We don't impose our vision and mission on them and they don't try to convince us that their personal ministry should be everyone else's.

Rather than exploit one another to benefit our ministry, we empower one another to step out and serve others in whatever way we feel called. We help when we can. We encourage one another, and we cheer each other onward.

So, in a nutshell this is how our little house church family is learning to “be the Church” to one another and to people we come into contact with each and every day.

How are you learning to “be the Church”?

-kg

Sunday, March 13, 2011

HE DID IT!



So proud of my son, David. I gave him a puzzle on his 13th birthday (December 31st) called "One Tough Puzzle". It has only 9 pieces and it says on the outside of the box, "10,000 wrong answers, but only one right answer". (Kind of like our lives, right?)

Our whole family took turns trying to figure this one out but one day I came home from work and David had figured it out - mathematically! (I can't explain to you how he did it, but when I asked him how he found the answer he proceeded to explain a complicated calculation that boggled my brain, but I know it all makes sense, otherwise he wouldn't have been able to make it work).

That's my boy.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Terms of Surrender

"Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" (Matt 19:16)

"Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Matt 19:21)


Someone recently emailed me to ask about what this verse means for believers today. Are we expected to go and sell all of our possessions and give to the poor in order to follow Jesus?

It's a huge challenge to consider these instructions from Jesus and even more challenging to consider applying them to our actual lives.

Here are some things to consider as you meditate on this scripture.

First, notice that the Rich Young Ruler's question to Jesus was "What good thing must I do to get eternal life?" (v.16)

In response to that question Jesus says, "Sell all that you have and give it to the poor and then come and follow me." (v.21)

Throughout the Gospels several people come to Jesus and ask him what they must do to inherit eternal life or to enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus never gives the same answer to anyone twice.

Why?

I think it's because Jesus is able to look into the hearts of those who are asking and he can see what is holding them back from submitting themselves to him as their King, and therefore what needs to change in order for them to enter the Kingdom of God.

For Nicodemus, a wise and well-respected Pharisee, the terms of surrender were to become like a baby again and start over from the beginning with a new birth.

For the Rich Young Ruler it was letting go of his wealth.

For Peter it was walking away from the biggest catch of fish he had ever had in his entire life.

For Matthew it was quitting his job as a tax collector on the spot to follow Jesus for the rest of his life.

For Zaccheus it was giving half of his possessions to the poor and paying back four times the money he had extorted from his fellow Jews as a tax collector.

In every case, the terms of surrender were unique to the individual.

So, what is it that's holding you back from following Jesus with your actual life today? If it's your great wealth or your love of money, then maybe that's what Jesus would ask you to surrender to Him. If it's your intellect and your position of respect and authority in the community, maybe it's complete humility and the willingness to become simple and foolish in the eyes of men in order to identify yourself as a follower of Jesus. If it's your job, then maybe you should walk away from it like Peter and Matthew did and follow Him.

For each of us there is probably one thing that we would find difficult to surrender to Jesus in order to enter the Kingdom. We should certainly be willing to let go of whatever the Lord Jesus asks us to surrender in order to follow Him and die to ourselves and carry our cross in obedience to Him. But we shouldn't take it upon ourselves to assume that just because Jesus asked one person to do something that you and I automatically need to do that same thing.

What is Jesus saying to you? What is it that Jesus would ask you to surrender? What, if anything, is keeping you from seeing the Kingdom or following Jesus today? Honestly, that's all that we really need to ask ourselves.

-kg

FRED ROGERS: ACCEPTANCE SPEECH FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD



Just in case you needed to see this for yourself...

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

And This Is How It's Done

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood won four Emmy awards, and Rogers received one for lifetime achievement.

During the 1997 Daytime Emmys, the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Rogers. The following is an excerpt from Esquire's coverage of the gala, written by Tom Junod:

"Mister Rogers went onstage to accept the award — and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, "All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence."

And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, "I'll watch the time." There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn't kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. And so they did. One second, two seconds, seven seconds — and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly "May God be with you," to all his vanquished children."


Someday I hope to live in this man's neighborhood. For now I'm happy just to drive through and admire the architecture.

May all of us live such simple and humble lives as this man did.

Peace,
Keith

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

NAKED SPIRITUALITY: A Review

As someone largely unfamiliar with the writings of Brian McLaren I wasn't sure what to expect when I received a pre-press copy of his yet-to-be-released book, Naked Spirituality, in the mail for review.

Being a proud member of theOoze.com Top 20 Viral Bloggers set, I have been tasked with reading this book in advance of it's publication and providing an honest review of the book here on my blog.

Before I begin the review I need to make a few disclaimers. The first being that I do not consider myself an "Emerging" or an "Emergent" Christian. Even though guys like Jim Belcher (Deep Church) and others consider me among those in that camp, I most vocally do not belong to that brand of faith. Of course, I'm not against them either and I do publish articles on webzines (like theOoze.com and Next-Wave Magazine) that are widely recognized as such, and I do consider people like Spencer Burke not only my friends but my brothers in Christ.

But enough about me, let's talk about Brian D. McLaren's newest book, shall we?

As I've already pointed out, I'm not familiar with McLaren's books so this was my first foray into his writing. Surprisingly, I found myself deeply moved by his insight and challenged by his ideas. Frankly, the Preface and the Introduction alone were better than most books I've read in the last few years, and that's the truth.

In the preface, McLaren reminds us of St. Francis of Assisi's many naked moments and uses these to illustrate our calling to throw off the adornments of this world and to embrace the glorious skin of our primary selves before all men, and before God.

If at first this seems like an arbitrary example of nakedness as a metaphor for spiritual honesty, McLaren goes on to remind us of Isaiah the prophet's three year sermon in the nude (Is 20:3). Eventually he points out that our Lord Jesus called us to give away our clothing if someone takes us to court to sue us for our overcoat (Mt 5:38-41), implying that we should call attention to their greed by exposing ourselves in order to appease their demands.

Of course, the author isn't calling us to embrace a literal nakedness here, (thankfully), but a spiritual nakedness that reflects the actual vulnerability of our souls before God and men.

Yes, Jesus was stripped totally naked on the cross. His clothing was literally stripped off of him and divided among the Roman soldiers at his crucifixion.

As McLaren says, "Naked we came from the womb, Job sid, and naked we will shall depart this life, but in between, we clothe ourselves in a thousand fascinating ways."

The book is about how we hide ourselves in outward garments and how we cover our spiritual sensitivies in clothing both real and figurative. It's a book about how we are spiritual beings who were created to be naked and unashamed and how to recover our spiritual identity by stripping away the layers of designer labels, religious robes, and fashion consciousness to reveal the image of God in ourselves.

After sharing a deeply personal testimony of an early encounter with the Holy Spirit, McLaren sets up a framework for his book, allowing readers to take a voyeuristic glimpse at what will be revealed in the pages to come.

Essentially, McLaren sets up twelve practices arranged in four stages to help readers navigate the process of being naked before God. Without spelling everything out here, the book covers Simplicity, Complexity, Perplexity and Harmony as seasons of spiritual growth. Within each of these four season, the author places three simple words to meditate on as we journey through our lives.

For me, this is where the book begins to lose me. I wasn't looking for a "How to" book as much as an exploration of concepts and ideas that might help me see myself, and my own need for spiritual nakedness, in a new light. The practical part, as helpful as it may be, didn't appeal to me. Perhaps because I tend to shy away from formulas and programs as a general rule, the step-by-step section of the book was only mildly interesting, although there were several helpful insights buried within this section to keep me reading along.

If you're like me, I'd recommend reading the programmatic sections more as suggestions and take from them what you find helpful without feeling the need to incorporate all of them into your daily routine. And to be fair, I suspect that this is partly what McLaren is hoping for anyway. He does speak of there being exceptions even to our natural seasons (where we experience unusually warm winter days, or surprisingly cold summer nights) and this I think is his concession that one size may not fit all. So, don't let any suggestion of self-help rhetoric to keep you from picking this one up. The chapters are not contingent upon one another and anyone who longs to learn more about spiritual vulnerability and living naked before God and others will find plenty to nourish their souls within these pages.

McLaren, it must be said, is a masterful and talented writer. His images are effective. His language is evocative and his insights are profound. This book bears witness to why he is hailed as one of America's 25 most influential evangelicals and I expect that many followers of Jesus will find themselves lost in these pages and discover themselves beneath the covers where they have hidden themselves away for too long.

Still, some of what is communicated here feels more than a little like an update to Richard Foster's classic Celebration of Discipline but without the nasty "discipline" word (for those who recoil at the sound). Yet, if McLaren's clout can inspire a new generation of Christ-followers to entertain the old school notions of simplicity, silence, meditation, fasting, service and prayer, then I suspect even the most anti-emergent pastors could only whisper a reluctant "halleluiah" in response.

-kg

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

NOBODY FOLLOWS JESUS (So Why Should You?)

Nobody follows Jesus anymore. Just look around, and you’ll see what I mean. How often do you ever see someone show love to a person who is in their face? Have you ever once heard of anyone chasing a thief down the street screaming, “Hey, you forgot my DVD player!” or witnessed a person who has just been slapped in the face turn their head to offer the other cheek?

I doubt it.

That’s my point. Jesus had some pretty radical teachings. Love your enemies. Pray for those who abuse you. Give to those who steal from you. Lend without expecting anything in return. Bless those who curse your name.

Even the most casual glance at the words and teachings of Jesus will tell you this guy had unreasonable expectations of those who would dare to follow Him. It was almost as if He was trying to thin the crowd by raising the bar so high.

He doesn’t stop there. No sir. Jesus even goes so far as to say that those who follow Him must deny themselves and take up their own cross (an instrument of brutal torture and death). In fact, He says if you don’t do this, you "cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27).

No wonder no one follows Jesus anymore.

Now, I’m not suggesting people don’t believe in Jesus anymore. There are millions and millions of people out there who really do believe a guy named Jesus actually lived 2,000 years ago. They believe that He was the Son of God, and God the Son, and that He lead a sinless life, died on the cross for their sins and rose bodily from the grave three days later. Yep. They all believe that. But, those people don’t really follow Jesus, not the way He expected them to.

Maybe that’s why Jesus wondered out loud, "When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). Maybe He knew after 2,000 years of Christianity, we’d just have given up on following His specific example of how to live.

G.K. Chesterton once said, "It’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting; it’s that it has been found difficult and left untried."

I think Jesus really did expect His followers to live extravagant lives of love as He commands in Luke 6:27. He wasn’t kidding around.

He’s pretty clear that the kind of love the world has is nothing special at all. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that" (Luke 6:32).

Jesus was trying to get His potential followers to understand they were expected to model a standard of love that went far, far beyond what anyone living on this planet had ever encountered or dreamed of before. A kind of love that could change someone’s life for eternity.

Once you understand this, it starts to make more sense. Jesus calls His followers to this kind of life for a reason—so we can show those who aren’t aware of the kindness of God what it means to be loved, forgiven and shown mercy.

Yes, Jesus expects us to actually do these things.

Yes, it will hurt.

Can you think of a better way to show those who are far from God that He really loves them, Christianity is the "real thing," and forgiveness is for them?

Imagine a world where we all actually did this stuff on a daily basis.

Would it change the world? Would it change the world’s idea of Christianity? Of Christ?Would it set the teachings of Jesus apart from every single other religious figure who had ever lived?

Isn’t it ironic to think the most radical thing a modern Christian could do today would be to simply do exactly what Jesus says? Yeah, it’s really a shame that no one really follows Jesus anymore. But, can you imagine what would happen to the world you live in if even a few people actually did?

Not only that, Jesus promises those who actually do put His words into practice will be blessed and have life abundantly. Maybe it’s time to start following Jesus? Maybe it’s time to take Him seriously? What do you think?

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matthew 7:24).

[From the book, "Nobody Follows Jesus (So Why Should You?)" by Keith Giles]

Download the entire book for free
HERE

NOTE: This article is part of a lenten blog series started by Christine Sine entitled: Following Jesus, what difference has it made?

The series will feature writers from various sources all sharing what it means to follow Jesus, the impact it has made on their life, and why it’s important to be a disciple of Christ.

Read what others wrote on this topic over at her blog:
HERE