People are happy to follow Jesus as long as it doesn’t require any significant changes or have any negative implications. People love comfort. For many Jesus only brings additional security to an already comfortable life. Sorry to say, but that’s poor theology. It’s not what our relationship with God should look like.

Get this in your head: Comfort is not the language of Christ. Instead, he speaks of a carrying a cross, giving up your life, and intentionally becoming last. We must understand that there is no way to follow Jesus without him interfering with our life. Following Jesus will cost you something. This brings up a very important question: Has following Jesus cost you anything?

Most of us don’t mind Jesus making some minor change in our lives, as long as it’s not too radical. But what if I told you that Jesus wants to turn your life upside-down? Some people don’t mind a little touch-up work, but God wants to do a complete renovation. People want a tune-up, but Jesus is thinking overhaul. Some want Jesus to inspire them, but Jesus wants to interfere with their lives. Bottom-line: Jesus will mess up your life!

God has challenged me often with the parable of the Rich Young Ruler (Matt. 19, Mark 10). In many ways we all embody the Rich Young Ruler. If you live in America, regardless of your socio-economic status, you are richer than 95% of the world’s population. We have it all, everything we want and need is right at our fingertips.

In the story of the Rich Young Ruler the man comes to Jesus and asks: “What must I do to have eternal life?” After some discussion Jesus finally says, “Go, sell what you possess and give it away… and come and follow me.” The young man walks away sad because he is not willing to give everything away to follow the One who called himself the Messiah. He failed to believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be… and sadly, so do many of us.

After much thought about this passage I believe the core of the story has to do with us letting go of things in our lives that keep us from completely surrendering to the Holy Spirit and following God. In the past I’ve given up certain hobbies, relationships, roles, and other things that I felt I was holding too tightly. Sometimes these things get in the way of us authentically following Jesus.

I must remember that none of what I have is mine; it all belongs to God, he merely entrusts me with certain abilities and resources to use wisely in building the kingdom. I am only a steward of what he has given me. My prayer in the coming days is that I will use my gifts the way God desires, and that I will be a good steward of the life God has blessed me with.

Jesus never offers us an option between being a follower and being a spectator. He is looking for more than words of belief; he’s looking to see how those words are lived out in our lives. When we decide to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow him, we are nothing more than spectators. Never forget: only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for God will last.

(Source: Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman)

Love the Church

It’s more than a building or an hour on the weekend. The church is you and me. People who intentionally gather in community for the purpose of following to Christ. Life happens, and what happens on the journey is what’s truly inspiring. Jesus established the church as a place for people to journey together, and if it’s good enough for God, it’s good enough for me.

With that said, I’ve dealt with many people over the years whose motives don’t seem to be driven by the love of God. Recently, I came across a list of characteristics entitled: “Satan’s Beatitudes,” which seemed to accurately describe some personalities and mindsets that gather in many local churches.

Satan’s Beatitudes: (1) Blessed are they who are too tired and busy to go to church, for they are my best workers; (2) Blessed are they who are bored with the pastor’s mannerisms, for they get nothing out of his sermon; (3) Blessed is the church member who expects to be invited to his own church, for he is part of the problem instead of the solution; (4) Blessed are they who gossip, for they cause strife and divisions that please me; (5) Blessed are they who are easily offended, for they soon get angry and quit; (6) Blessed are they who do not give their tithes and offerings to carry on God’s work, for they are my best workers; (7) Blessed are they who profess to love God, but hates his brother, for he shall be with me forever; (8) Blessed are the trouble-makers, for they shall be called the children of Satan; (10) Blessed are the complainers, for I am all ears to them.

Two things come to mind after reading this list: (1) I have had the joy of pastoring every one of these types of people; (2) What the church needs is more members who simply love the church, and not only love the church, but love the church the way God loves the church. How does God love the church, you ask? Sacrificially… he gave his Son for it. Unconditionally… when he’s pleased with us and when he’s not. Eternally…he never ever stops loving the church.

We should love the church the same way: Sacrificially, Unconditionally, and Eternally.

Some might say, “There’s a lot more reasons to not love the church…”  If you talk to people who don’t go to church, you’ll hear all kinds of stories about how some church hurt them or their family. And a lot of those stories are true. Maybe you’ve been hurt by a church before. I know I have. I know what it feels like to wonder how people who are supposed to love God could be so unloving.

Then there are all the “hypocrites.” It doesn’t take too long to discover who’s genuine and who’s not. You watch some people put on a good show. They sing, they pray, they act nice to each other, but when you run into that person outside of church you wonder if you really even know who they are.

Maybe you’re one who says, “I love Jesus, but I don’t really like church.” Sounds reasonable; Jesus is perfect, the church is not. So why love the church? One of the best answers comes from Ephesians 5:25, “Christ loved the church, he gave up his life for her…” If Jesus loved the church so much that he died, if I say I love Jesus, then it’s pretty impossible to not love the church.

Jesus didn’t just love it and die for it. He also started it. Jesus said, “…upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matt 16:18). If I love Jesus, then I’ve got to love what he started and what he’s still building today. I love the church because Christ loved it, died for it, and is still building it today.

When people say they don’t love the church, I think what they’re really saying is they don’t love ‘people’… because the people are the church. It’s not an organized religion. It’s not just a building. It’s people, and not just any people. The church is actually made up of people who love Jesus, follow Jesus, and are striving to be more like Jesus.

My life is better because of the church; it has made me a better person. I consider myself a ‘churchman’ because I believe in the mission of the church in the world. You ask, but how can a church that isn’t perfect and has some people in it that might hurt you make you a better person? Because every now and then, we get it right. Some churches more than others actually do what they are supposed to do. And as a pastor, my goal is to equip people to get it right more often than not.

What does “getting it right” look like?

That’s the same question the church in Rome had. A long time ago, a church just like yours had some problems. Paul wrote a letter to tell them how to “get it right.” Romans 12:9-18 says: “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” 

If the church is supposed to look like this, and if I am one of the many parts that make up the church, then we must come to a revolutionary conclusion: That’s what I’m supposed to look like!

(Sources: Cross Hill Community Church; Grace to You)