Have you ever noticed how often we focus on what our life as a believer should look like?
I was reading a post earlier this week at Internet Monk which was a rant about a message that Francis Chan was preaching about. I love listening to Chan, but his messages can be seen as extreme to people in the church as he often talks about living his life dedicated and completely towards God. When we hear people speaking like this though, we often see a knee jerk reaction of people trying to justify why they do not live their life that way.
When Chan says, “Respectfully, I don’t meet a lot of elderly who live like they are about to see Jesus, and saying goodbye to the things of this world,……and risking more than ever, and some of you are buying stuff like you are going to enjoy it…and saving stuff…my life has been about letting go, letting go, letting go…” his words may carry some truth regarding the dangers of materialism, but they go beyond that. He comes perilously close to denying the existential value of material “stuff” — period. As if God didn’t make that “stuff,” didn’t mean for us to have it, enjoy it, savor it. The only logical end point for this approach, as I said in the comments, is the monastery. That kind of “letting go, letting go, letting go” lifestyle, in my mind, is perfectly legitimate for some, who are called to a cloistered vocation, though I can’t picture any good monk or nun being as frantic about it as Chan sounds.
However, for Chan, the stakes are black and white for every Christ-follower. This is reflected in Crazy Love, where the contrast he draws is between “lukewarm” or “totally obsessed.” Really. It’s one or the other. Unless a person is (and these are his words) — obsessed, consumed with Christ, fixated on Jesus, risk-taking, radical, wholly surrendered — that person may not even be (likely is not) a Christian. “As I see it, a lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron; there’s no such thing. To put it plainly, churchgoers who are ‘lukewarm’ are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven.”
This is the essence of the kind of “discipleship” people like Francis Chan tell us is necessary: “Do you understand that it’s impossible to please God in any way other than wholehearted surrender?”
Well, and I thought trusting Jesus and what he did was enough.
Notice the reaction to the statement about not living in “wholehearted surrender”.
I do not think Chan is saying that what Jesus did was not enough nor that performing a certain way or being really good would replace trusting Jesus. Doesn’t a wholehearted surrender to Christ reflect trusting in Him though?
I understand why people take offense to some of what he is saying. How do you swallow a statement that if you are not consumed with Christ that you are possibly not saved? How judgmental is that? Of course it could be true, but why think about that.
Why do we feel the need to rationalize or justify not living our lives like what Chan depicts? What if we are supposed to?
One of the problems we have is that there is no real detailed account of what the average Christian life was like for the first century church. In the Bible, we have depictions of what the apostles did, but of course they were apostles and we are not called to live like them. What about those believers mentioned in Acts or the Letters from Paul? We have accounts of people selling their material possessions for the church. We read about people following the apostles around and spending time in support of the church and the apostles. Should we see them as examples or think of them as exceptions?
It is true that the culture then and now are vastly different, but does that mean our lives should not be at least somewhat similar? Is church once a week sufficient to demonstrate your trusting of Jesus and what he did? What about the occasional bible study and some prayer time? What does the normal Christian life look like?
Watchman Nee wrote a book called “The Normal Christian Life” in which he states that the Christ set the standard for what was normal. Yes He is God, but His life here was not the exception. I believe that is what Chan is trying to say.
True, we are not at that level of realization that Christ is at. We deal with life and our approach to it and God is based upon our experiences and what we considered to be normal. What if we changed our standard for normal from what society states is not over zealous to what we read about in the Bible?
I am not talking about doing, as I feel you should be led by God in your relationship, but if we only allow God to lead us according to what is acceptable, will we ever be truly led?