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."

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