Monday, February 25, 2013

Which Road Will You Take: Easy Street or Following Jesus?

So often, life presents two roads to take. We bump up against decisions that we make on impulse, not thinking about the long term. Not thinking about where that one turn will lead us. We take the easy way out of a situation, only to later realize it led us down a bad path, and eventually we find ourself at a dead end. Consider Paul's words to us in Philippians 3:12-21.

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.
Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.
But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

Easy street is a dead end street. Two Sundays ago we watched the film: Beware of Christians. The documentary followed four college Christians around Europe as they worked through seven topics relative to life and faith. In a lot of the situations, easy street was portrayed. We saw how readily available it is to go down an easy road. They talked about sex and relationships. How the easy street would be to go further physically with the person you're dating. To date around more. To just have fun with casual dating and hook-ups. But then they talked about the men they look up to the most. Those in a healthy marriage and they considered the advice from those older men. Not one of them has ever said he wished he went further with a previous girlfriend, or that he wished he had dated more. Instead, the look back on those moments regretfully or they tell of how thankful they are that they waited to have sex until they were married. Because you see, easy street is just that. It's the easier path to take in the moment. But easy street always leads to a dead end. But the road the follows Jesus leads to life. It might mean making sacrifices in the moment, denying our selfish desires and motives, but in the long run it means eternal fulfillment if it's what Christ has called us to in our life.

I've been reading through Kyle Idlman's book: Not a Fan. The book distinguishes fans of Jesus from followers of Jesus. Here's a quick excerpt from the first chapter that really helps identify the difference.

It may seem that there are many followers of Jesus, but if they were honestly to define the relatinoship they have with him I am not sure it would be accurate to describe them as followers. It seems to me that there is a more suitable word to descrie them. They are not followers of Jesus. They are fans of Jesus.
Here is the most basic definition of fan in the dictionary:
"An enthusiastic admirer."
It's the guy who goes to the football game with no shirt and a painted chest. He sits in the stands and cheers for his team. He's got a signed jersey hanging on his wall at home and multiple bumper stickers on the back of his car. But he's never in the game. He never breaks a sweat or takes a hard hit in the open field. He knows all about the players and can rattle off their latest stats, but he doesn't know the players. He yells and cheers, but nothing is really required of him. There is no sacrifice he has to make. And the truth is, as excited as he seems, if the team he's cheering for starts to let him down and has a few off seasons you can expect him to jump off the fan wagon and begin cheering for some other team. He is an enthusiastic admirer.
And I think Jesus has a lot of fans these days. Fans who cheer for him when practice is rewarded with wins but who walk away when life is hard and they never seem to get the "W." Fans who sit safely in the stands cheering, but they know nothing of the sacrifice and pain of the field. Fans of Jesus who know all about him, but they don't know him.
But Jesus was never interested in having fans. When he defines what kind of relationship he wants, "Enthusiastic Admirer" isn't an option...The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren't actually intersted in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them.

So my friends, fan or follower? It's clear that being a fan would be to take easy street. Philippians 3 talks about people who have anything less than total commitment to Jesus. But what about Jesus's commitment to us? He went all it. Jesus gave his everything - he gave his life - he looked at us and without hesitation said, "I'm all in." So now it's time for us to respond to him. And in a sense we too are called to die. To die to our selfish ways and worldly desires. To turn away from living for ourselves and start living for Jesus. To be able to say, "I'm not a fan; I'm a follower of Jesus."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Beware of Christians

"The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." - Brennan Manning

Michael Allen, Will Bakke, Alex Carroll, and Matt Owen flesh this quote out in their documentary film Beware of Christians. Four hilarious, fun, and cute college guys leave their comfortable American lives for a summer traveling throughout Europe in a quest to leave behind their Christian stereotypes and discover what it truly looks like to follow Jesus. They cover seven topics especially relevant to high school and college ages: identity, materialism, sex/relationships, wealth/poverty, church, media/entertainment, and alcohol.

On Sunday night, high school HUB gathered together to watch this film. The next day a freshman girl told me, "I seriously wish all my friends would watch it. Because maybe they would see it and stop living the way the are currently living and instead live for Jesus."

I love watching four normal guys who I would love to befriend wrestling through scripture and trying to figure out what it means to live for Christ instead of living for the world. For example, in their segment on alcohol, they highlight how alcohol will be the greatest idol for college students. They then go on to stress that Christians were called to be different and to live differently.

I am grateful for four guys my age-ish who are seeking to grow in grace and truth. My prayer is that through their testimony and journey, others will surrender to a wonderful Savior.

Go watch it on Netflix. It's 90 minutes, and worth a viewing. It will get you thinking and might just even challenge the way you live. Who knows, maybe you will be transformed into the person you were created to be?

Here's the website too:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Run Hard for the Finish Line

Last night Matt gave the HUB talk and did a wonderful job helping the 1 Corinthians passage that we looked at come to life.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (MSG) You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

You might not be a runner, but if you're an athlete you can understand what it looks like to train. Why do you practice? Why do you push yourself so hard? Because no one can get out there and run a race and expect to win if he hasn't been training. It's the same with the Christian takes training. It takes time and effort. It's deciding to put yourself in front of truth and grace by going to church, HUB, bible study, whatever. It's taking time each day to spend time in God's word, filling yourself up with His truth about your life instead of listening to the lies of the world. It's talking and praying to God about your life, acknowledging that without Him, nothing makes sense. And why do we do it? Why is it all worth it? Because the goal isn't a medal that tarnishes and fades, the goal is a prize that is gold eternally. The prize is eternal life with God. But that eternal life starts NOW. Here on this earth. We don't have to wait to receive our prize in Heaven, we get to have it here on Earth as we live in relationship with Jesus Christ. So are you going to continue to get caught napping? Are you going to get by with sloppy living? As Matt ended the night he prayed for us. Prayed that we wouldn't compromise and just take the easy road. That one really stuck with me. I pray that I won't take the easy road, that I won't cut corners. What will you do? Are you going to stay alert and in top condition - giving it everything you've got? Let's run hard for the finish line!