I recently completed two series: four fundamental beliefs and seven fundamental practices of the Christian faith. You might be thinking that it looks like a lot of work. Folks, this is what it means to be a disciple of Christ!
The only part of Christianity that takes no effort is receiving Jesus as your Savior. Accepting him as Lord is a whole different ballgame – it requires effort. You must pick up your cross, deny yourself, and follow him. That means you don’t get to do whatever you feel like doing and also experience the benefits of the fruit of the spirit, such as joy and peace. You can be “saved” from hell but still live a hellish life if you don’t take active steps to take up your cross and follow Jesus as a disciple.
I was excited to receive Dallas Willard’s book, The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship, for Christmas, and it’s next in my “book queue” to read. The back cover says beautifully what I am trying to communicate:
The last command Jesus gave the church before he ascended to heaven was the Great Commission, the call for Christians to ‘make disciples of all nations.’ But Christians have responded by making ‘Christians,’ not ‘disciples.’ This, according to brilliant scholar and renowned Christian thinker Dallas Willard, has been the church’s Great Omission.”
It’s not enough for us to receive Jesus as our Savior and secure a “fire insurance policy” that gets us out of hell. That’s the starting point, not the ending point. Church, we’ve got to grow up! It’s time to move forward from receiving Jesus as Savior and also embrace him as Lord. Until we do, we won’t accomplish the purposes that God has placed us on this earth to do, and we sure won’t make the Christian life look very appealing to others.
I received Jesus as my Savior at age 8, but I did not truly embrace him as Lord until age 44. I spent decades living in emotional bondage – bondage that was just as bad, if not worse, than that experienced by many people who had not received Jesus as their Savior. Yes, I could check off my list that I wasn’t going to hell (although I wrestled with that concern on and off), but I was not experiencing the fruit of the spirit. I was not joyful or peaceful as I self-injured and binged on food.
Despite having decades of knowledge about God and “being saved”, I was still a spiritual infant. I wanted God to wave a magic wand and change my circumstance, but He wanted to change ME! That didn’t happen until I started doing what He said to do. God’s promises in the Bible can be your reality, but this won’t happen without effort. You must commit to growing into His disciple and allowing God to change you from the inside out. If you will do this, your life will change radically for the better, just as mine has.
[Graphic: Cover of Dallas Willard’s book, The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship. Courtesy Amazon.com.]