I have been contemplating writing down my own testimony for some time now. It was to be a multi-part series on “My story of God’s Glory”. I have not really had the words come to me, so far, to dictate the whole story. However, I do have an urge to write this part down.
Part 3 (or something?) Comfortable Christianity
I, as an American, love my comfort. There are few things in life more valuable to me than a soft chair and the TV remote. Easily half of the food I consume is either prepackaged and in no need of being cooked or can be easily cooked in a microwave. Not to mention climate control; having AC in the summer and heat in the winter is amazing. I love my comfort and I hold onto it with a hanging-from-a-cliff like grip.
Growing up, Christianity always fit into my comfortable life style. Go to church on Sunday morning, sit through a sermon about marriage or some other adult issue that had no pertinence to my 13 year old self, and that was about the extent of it. The idea that Christianity would ever cost me more than a few hours on Sunday morning was an utterly foreign concept. It wasn’t that I was living in disobedience, it was that I had no idea that Christianity involved a cost…I mean isn’t it true that grace which leads to salvation is the only thing that really matters…and that’s free…right?
I was sitting in the Pepsi Center in Denver the first time the idea that Christianity could cost me something was planted in my mind. I was at one of those teen conferences, where thousands of young people come together to learn about Jesus. The event that weekend was about having the courage to share Jesus with my friends and neighbors. The speaker made it completely clear that loving Jesus means serving him with our lives.
I was dumbfounded. The idea that Jesus would ever ask me to be un-comfortable for him was abrasive and I simply did not like it. I had never walked in a Christianity that required a cost. The thought was overwhelming so I quickly shoved it under a rug, and there it sat somewhere in the deep recesses of my unconscious thought for several years.
Freshman year of college is one of the points in my life that I consider rather pertinent to my spiritual journey. Things happened that year that set me on the course for where I find myself today. Among those things was the practice of Bible-reading. As I began to read the Word of God for real, for the first time in my life, I began to notice that the Christianity I knew and loved (and was comfortable with) was not the Christianity I saw in the teachings of the Bible. Then I got to Matthew chapter 5 and my world flipped. Throughout chapter 5 and into chapters 6 and 7 Jesus gives a message called the Sermon on the Mount. In it he orates the expectations of kingdom laborers, ending on the resounding statement that only those who truly know God will enter the kingdom. I remember the feeling in my chest that day—like hands twisting my lungs and heart. I knew what I had to do, my comfortable once a week Christianity was not going to cut it… I had to start walking the walk.
It is probably important to note here that my actions were not in an effort to earn my salvation through works. I was just taking the next step in my faith walk. I was, for the first time, attempting to walk the Christian life, as a man already confident of my salvation. I was beginning a new conversation, if you will. I already knew that the grace of God saved me, now it was time for me to start acting like it.
Jesus’ call to the Christian Life is not minced in hidden thoughts or coded language. His call is clear. Love God. Love your neighbor. Serve in order to lead. Give. Be satisfied with what you have. Put God first in all things, even your family. Seek the kingdom first. Understand that those who follow Jesus will suffer for his names sake. Count trials as Joy. And the list goes on.
As I started to attempt to walk the Jesus-walk I discovered that in order to follow Jesus you had to be willing to lay down everything you hold near and dear. Among the first for me was pride. I loved being a sarcastic know-it-all who thought he had all the answers—snarky comebacks were my thing. But, there is no space for pride in the Christian walk. Loving others means honoring them in the way that you speak and that includes being patient when you are asked, what you feel is a dumb question. It wasn’t easy. The Holy Spirit was cutting through my life and targeting all of my secret sins, all of my hidden thoughts, and all of my favorite make-me-feel-better bully reactions. There was a point in my sophomore year of college that I could tell you the lesson that God was teaching me that week. It was hard, but I learned to love the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I loved the way that my life looked in those days—even though I was constantly having to lay down my own desires, God was giving me a satisfaction and joy that I had never before felt. It was like I had spent my whole life hanging from a cliff edge, thinking that this is all life had to offer, and the whole time God was asking me to let go and let him catch me, and when I finally did I discovered nothing better.
Among the most poignant of the convictions God brought my way was in regard to comfort. He made it clear to me that this was an idol in my life. I worshiped comfort and I did everything I could to preserve it. I spent my money, and time, and energy, to preserve my comfort. It was a god in my life and it had to go. I didn’t want to let it go. I loved it too much. But the Holy Spirit was using a divine scalpel to cut it out of my life. And the result? Utter peace and rest. I had nothing to hold onto except for Jesus and so I held onto him with all that I had–and he held me. He caught me, when I let go, and I went from having earthly trash, to having kingdom treasure.
We think that we know what is best for us. But I’m inclined to believe that God actually knows what is best for us. Why hold onto that which moth and rust destroys when you could be holding on to Jesus, when you could be holding onto all that is good and right and loving? I long for the day when the individuals who compose the global Church let go of what they think they need and start hanging on to Jesus. Imagine the day… what a beautiful day it will be–the day that every believer loves God more than anything else.
Note to readers:
I still don’t have the whole sin thing figured out. I constantly fall back into pride and arrogance and a desire for comfort (and a long list of other sins). I felt like you should know that I am a huge sinner in constant and aggressive need of God’s saving grace.