Society has never been a fan of the ‘radical’ Christian. The Romans thought radical Christians cannibals. The nice British people of the Jane Austin era deemed them ‘crazed Methodist.’And today, radical Christians are viewed as archaic, bigots.
Christians who seek to live out the Scriptures by obeying God and by practically loving their fellow man, have never been popular. The idea of denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Jesus has never truly resonated with any culture because it cost too much.
The child who skips championship games to attend church will go from starting shortstop to bench-warmer extraordinaire, risking potential scholarships and her professional sports’ future. The man who refuses to go to the strip club with his colleagues will fail to connect with his boss and may fail to gain that much coveted promotion, leaving his family strapped for cash. And the woman who refuses to watch 50 Shades Darker will be ostracized from her book club, resulting in fewer play dates for her kids. They now face the real possibility of being ‘social awkward.’ Bye bye career, fame, and fortune.
And when we begin to count the cost of following Christ, we are tempted to think, “Does Jesus really want this all this?” Will he really care if we just skip a little, see a little, and taste a little sin? Surely, Jesus doesn’t want us to be radical all the time?
The answer is yes! We must be willing to sacrifice all for God. There is no other way to reach heaven. In Mark 8:35-38, Jesus anticipates this objection and responds with the following words:
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Essentially Jesus is affirming that the above thinking is misplaced. It wrongfully assumes that the riches and pleasures of this world are ultimate. Jesus says otherwise. He says the unseen things, the spiritual realities, and eternity matter much more than a super bowl trophy, a raise, or 1000 likes on Facebook. You can be unaccomplished and be right with God. You can be poor and be right with God. You can be unpopular and be right with God. But you cannot love sin and live for the pleasures of the flesh and be right with God.
You cannot trade Olympic gold medals for salvation. No amount of money can buy you a room in heaven. No amount of influence with man can be exchanged for righteousness with God. As Christ says, “What can a man give in return for his soul?” The answer is, “Nothing.” None of the trophies that we coveted for our kids, none of the wealth that we have amassed, and none of the popularity we have gained can cover our sin. None of those things can be traded for our soul. Only the blood of Christ saves. And only those who are willing to surrender all and make Christ the Lord of every part of their life will find eternity. There is no other way. The faith that cost us nothing will one day cost us everything.
At the end of the day, we will be ashamed either of our flesh or of Jesus. We will mourn the fact that we are tempted to sin and to do evil or will we mourn the fact that God does not sanction our pride, lust, and selfishness. And if we choose the later, if we are ashamed of the commands of Jesus, if we view radically living as being an imposition on our happiness, God will be ashamed of us. When Jesus comes in glory, he will tell us to depart. He will not be impressed with our accomplishments. He will see only worldly sinners who rejected him to collect things that moths and rust destroy.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer rightfully said,
The elimination of single-minded obedience on principle is but another instance of the perversion of the costly grace of the call of Jesus into the cheap grace of self-justification.
Don’t follow a lesser gospel. Don’t point your kids to a shallower faith. Do not deafen your ears to the call of Christ. What earthly thing can take the place of Jesus?