by Billy Lane
There’s so much talk in our day about “going deeper” with God and living a radical life for Christ. According to Merriam-Webster Online, the word “radical” can be defined as, “marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional; extreme. Tending or disposed to make extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions.” Yet after many church services and meetings, many of us feel anything but radical.
Sometimes we can feel like we’re wading in ankle-deep Christianity. Can you relate?
Many would agree that “fast-food church services” are high on calories and low in spiritual nutrition. If this is so, then why do so many leaders continue to feed their members such a poor diet? Well, some may say what Paul said to the Corinthians: “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready” (1 Corinthians 3:2). Ouch! He might as well have said that he was trying to talk to adults, but they were all acting like children.
Likewise, some pastors feel the common Christian is not able to grasp an in-depth Bible study or understand the “hard things” Jesus said. Instead, they believe they need to entertain us with jokes and fillers. It’s true that the truth is easier to swallow with a dose of humor. There is nothing wrong with a bit of levity to help the “medicine go down,” but all too often truth is whittled down to a sound bite, or three-minute video segment with a few scriptures sprinkled in between. We’re one of the most educated generations ever, yet if we’re honest, we have to admit that our attention span isn’t all that long. It’s difficult to keep our attention without the occasional movie tidbit or entertainment glitz.
“Indeed, you are still not ready,” Paul exhorted. The same is true for many of us today. Without proper discipline and focus, we’re unable to dig deep into spiritual things. So the cycle perpetuates itself. Some leaders and pastors don’t feel they need to bother with in-depth studies, while many of us encourage their lack of diligence by our Biblical laziness. Many of us fail to truly seek God through His word on our own.
We don’t have to be Greek and Hebrew scholars. We can strive to know God by reading the Bible cover to cover and becoming familiar with the flow and flavor of what it says, thereby giving God more of a chance to speak His heart to us. When those of us who have been believers for a while fail to do this, what the writer of Hebrews says applies, “Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” (Hebrews 5:12). Perhaps, our pastors would agree. They seem to have to teach us the “elementary truths of God’s word,” repeatedly. If we would not only learn the elementary truths of God’s word, but focus more on consuming its solid food, we could more easily rely on God’s Spirit to help us live out His instructions. Now that would be truly radical!
If an adequate diet of scriptural food is lacking from church, where do we go to get this vital nourishment? So-called Christian programming and digital or video sermons are all well and good, but not sufficient. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The key phrase is “apart from me,” we can do nothing. Although listening to our favorite teachers and speakers is informative and energizing, we can’t neglect feeding directly on His word. Meeting with our fellow believers once or twice a week is important, but meeting with Jesus and receiving nourishment from Him is essential—especially if we want to do something radical in His name!
Depending solely on leaders for all our sustenance is clearly a mistake, even a fatal one. Some spiritual leaders find themselves spending so much time preparing sermons and teaching, and as we all have the tendency to do, they end up spending very little time with Jesus Himself. This may be surprising to think our pastors have the same struggles that we do, but it’s true.
Do You Still Play in the Sand Box?
Many times, we suffer from our own shallowness by believing circumstances should work out according to our own designs, rather than God’s Word. We’ve heard much about doing God’s will, but our desires—even our dreams—often trump God’s word and His Spirit’s leading in our lives. It’s easy to ignore what we don’t like to read in God’s Word. Can you relate?
We sometimes think He can’t be really serious about verses like, “‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). But He wouldn’t have said it, if He wasn’t serious. Each time we try to build our lives on our own terms, our plans get swept away like a sand castle on the beach. No wonder. Jesus said, “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand” (Matthew 7:26). We can hear Jesus telling us, like He told His disciples after three years time with them, “Do you still not understand?”
Sometimes we build our lives on sand without knowing it. We build our lives on relationships, education, careers, faulty beliefs and wrong motives. When Christ isn’t the Chief Architect of our building plans, our best efforts will produce unstable structures. Psalm 127:1 affirms this spiritual truth, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” None of us actually desire to be foolish or to labor in vain, do we? It helps to avoid this when we remember the reason the Lord uses us to construct His house at all—His love for us. It’s easy to forget that He doesn’t need us to build His house, but wants to include us out of love. If He didn’t choose to use us, our labor would always be in vain. He delights in us, even though our efforts are frail and our works incomplete. All the more reason we should strive not to compromise, and to radically reflect His love in everything we do. Building our lives on God’s word and leading, without compromise, should be our goal. And should we actually take Him seriously by making extreme changes in our views, habits and conditions—now that would be radical, indeed!