Tuesday, 6 August 2013

From king to slave for Christ

From Fan to Follower

Radical, a term used to describe the outrageous, overcommitted, no balance Christian. But rather Christ sees them as a wholeheartedly committed follower who has one master and is not on the fence - serving God and themselves. Matthew 6:24.

Jesus Christ’s life, his message and invitation have been sieved down to cater to the basic Christian’s ears and hearts. Preachers preach the message of salvation, but not sacrifice, prosperity, not suffering, peace, not joy in following. The list goes on.

I’ve been reading a book called ‘not a fan’, which I have bought for my older brother. But before turning it over to him as a gift, I got challenged to read it. Assuming what the contents would contain, it still hit me right between the eyes and straight through the chest.

What has many Christians to this day become? A fan, not a follower. Yes, I maybe assuming or even judging but take a step aside and observe your church or the Christians around you. How are they living?

Luke 9:23, Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

I have read and reread this verse a number of times, but never broke it down and studied. Kyle Idleman does so in his ‘not a fan’ book.

As you read that verse there is a lovely invitation from Jesus to ‘whoever’ wants to be his disciple. Whoever, anyone can follow Jesus, he has made it open. As John 3:16 says ‘For God so loved the WORLD’. The invitation is open and out there for whomever wants to know Jesus and follow him. It does not proclaim that Jesus died for some!

But following Jesus is no easy task. He calls us to ‘deny ourselves’. To lay our desires, plans and future at his feet. That is hard, and over the years and even to this day I have struggled with that, tremendously. My desires are the most prominent part of my life and have struggled with them and at times given them to God, but not fully. I have to give my desires over to God each and every day. It’s hard, but by having the desire to be a follower and not a fan, I can do it.

For many people there may only be one desire holding them back, others more. We all have plans for our lives and Jesus calls us to give them over to him also. Even our relationships. I love my girlfriend and I love the fact that she loves God too. But even giving God that relationship is hard.

Deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow me. What an invitation! Many of us read the Gospels and understand Jesus’ message of forgiveness, love, grace and redemption and the call to follow him, but many of us miss this phrase of denying ourselves.

Imagine being invited to a birthday party. You receive the letter that indicates you have been invited to George Smiths birthday. It reads ‘You, John are invited to celebrate George’s birthday on the… Blah blah blah. But you miss reading the fine print at the bottom which says – as a gift you have to give me (George) all of your possessions. Yes, that sounds quite outrageous, but imagine going along, ringing the door bell and George opens the door and notices you empty handed and asks where all of your possessions are. You stand there bewildered at the question, ask if he is serious, notice he is and then decide to turn your back instead of giving all to him and reaping the joys of a great birthday.
That is how many Christians react when they hear and understand the true invitation Jesus is laying before us to follow him. Many think they are followers but have not given all to God.

I have led many youth lifegroups over the years, studied theology and interned at my church for a number of years now, but not until a couple of days ago I truly decided to allow God to have all of my life and to open my ears to what he was truly asking me to do – to follow him. He has been inviting me to lay all before him, taking up my cross each day and denying myself.
I would classify myself of being a hypocrite for the last 22 years of my life. Yes, I have had a number of ‘God moments’ in my time where God has spoken to me, led me, uplifted me and showed His grace to me and for a period of time I dedicated time and efforts to Him. But last Friday was the real eye opener.

God opened my heart during a movie I was watching called ‘Courageous’ (a Christian movie). The movie was filled with happiness, death, love, joy, betrayal, forgiveness and shame. All the themes played on my heart. But what I truly felt was shame, I was broken, felt utterly sinful, wayward and hypocritical. But this was only the beginning. I began to read ‘not a fan’ Saturday morning. My life started to change. I knew I had sin in my life that needed to be eradicated and my desires given over to God. So I gave them to God.

Desires are deadly. I hate them. I hate sin. I hate myself.

As God started working in my life, so did Satan. I knew what God was calling me to do, but Satan was throwing my desires back in my face. God help me! I made it through the day, but not the night. I did what God called me to do that day, but that night I did what Satan was wanting.

I needed to lay myself at God’s feet again. I did the next morning, ironically it being Sunday. I went to morning and evening church, still feeling guilty for my desires and sin. That night I thought I had dealt with my sin and desires, and given all to God, again. But I was wrong, again. Desires filled my heart and mind once again. Oh Lord, what do I do? Please take these desires from me!

Once again, Satan won… What a devious serpent he is. The way he leads people astray leaves you thinking ‘how?’ Oh how I hate that creature!

Sin had taken over again that night. What have I done?! Thoughts of my future sped through my mind, how will it be affected from here. Oh how I wish I could change what I have done! Everyone sins, its apart of humanity. But like Paul in Romans 7:15-20 he is struggling with doing the good he ought to do, even though he wants to do good, sin is right there with him and he falling into it. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

But, the grace of God is an amazing thing. He forgave me, again! The thought of God using my past, my sinful, and shameful past as a testimony for future opportunities for Christ was alleviating, and joyful, but still, I felt shame. Will this shame go away? Yes, we will all have regrets, this being one for myself, but God will use them to strengthen us and I pray that God will, soon.

The morals which I once lived by, had vanished for a period. What will my family and friends think? I am a hypocrite! How can I speak to people about God when I have sinned? Yes, we all sin, but as Christians we are called to flee from it. But I, I did not for 22 years. Oh how I hate myself and sin.
Will Christians frown upon me? Maybe. But, God has forgiven me. But people will still judge. Oh how life brings victories and tragedies. But God, you are most seen when you work through our tragedies. Oh how I pray you will!

I know what wrong I have done. It is done. I cannot change it. But that what makes us imperfect humans – our sin.

Oh how I desire to be more like Christ – truly human and divine!
God has forgiven me. I am learning to forgive myself. I hope people will forgive me. Oh what a life God has now to use. A broken, all for Him life I now give Him. Use me God, Use me!

I feel I have wronged God, not just by my sin, but by giving Him my life after I have used it for my own desires. To live a life of fun and self-fulfillment. God, you called and invited me earlier, I did accept, but I did not give you my all. I kept apart of my life to myself to gain pleasure. Oh how I wish I gave all to you sooner!

I am broken, lying in the dust. But you can restore me your lover, your servant and follower. You can bring me victory as you brought Jesus to victory.

After 22 years Lord, I now give you all of me, my plans, my desires, my thoughts, my victories, my failings, my tragedies, my heart, my soul, my mind, my family, my girlfriend, my study, my life. Past, present and future.


But why, oh why have I given myself to God once I have unloved myself, filled with sin and my selfish desires dealt too? But remember this son, God forgave you so forgive yourself. You are no greater than God!

But God, I know you can use me.

I love you Lord,

Your servant and follower.