I've been brought to think quite a bit recently (the last several months) about the call of Christ and what it does to our lives when we truly decide to follow Christ with all that we are and have.
I admit that I'm tired of "happiness Christianity" that says things such as "Find Jesus, find peace" or "Jesus is the answer to all your problems" or "Jesus makes all things right", etc. and leaves it at that striving for "converts". I'm quite wary of the message that has permeated evangelical Christianity making it into little more than any other self-help program. The problem here is that people "accept Christ" with the thought that life will then turn out beautifully, American Dream and success within the grasp of a little bit of initiative.
Conclusion: Transformed lives are preferable to conversion.
It's certainly not that I have never been guilty of this. I imagine that pretty much every Christian who lives in the United States has dealt with, is dealing with, or is ignorant to the attempt to mix American ideals and Christian ideals. Certainly, hope and peace come with Christ. The problem is our expectations of these promised words (I have the same conviction with the word "love", a post I will write someday). We let the dreams and "hopes" of our society convolude the terms with results not simply like financial success, career success, family stability, etc., but so also with contentedness in each of these. Our hope and peace comes in Christ, not the pragmatic and desirable results of a satisfactory life.
Conclusion: Desire and need are not equivalent.
(Those living in the United States, including myself, seriously have to consider what "need" is.)
Further, the decision to follow Christ is filled with trial. It is to be expected. Jesus expected it and accepted the cup (but in what should be comforting to us, hesitatingly). The disciples were well-warned that it would come and experienced it. Paul knew it. When we say "Give to God and he will take care of you" it must be said with the realization of the way of the cross.
Conclusion #1: Following Christ has nothing to do with American ideals (or any other societal ideals).
Conclusion #2: American ideals have nothing to do with following Christ.
My next words are inevitably going to sound arrogant and ungrateful. Know first that I am only able to be who I am because of the generations before me. I am grateful to God for the life I have been able to live, formed mostly by the experiences of those who are older than me. The majority of my formation has come to fruition by God's use of these. I thank God for generations past and passing. None of what I am about to say is exhaustively for all. It is indicative of the majority and is plaguing the Church, especially in the United States.
I struggle with a generation of ministry that spends more time patting older Christians on the back than continually and prophetically calling for all-out life-service to God. (Even I am struck with my young arrogance.)
I know that I am very young and it seems easy for me to say this (the response would probably be, "Jeremy, you can't say that. You haven't lived life yet."). But I don't understand retirement. It is a Western societal achievement and goal. It is hardly a Christian goal. I invite scriptural reference to mandate its acquisition. I imagine someone saving this post and giving it to me when I am 65 years old, tired and weary from life, when I want nothing more than rest. I have a different plan for rest though, and it's quite biblical. Perhaps I will post someday soon on "sabbath", a key, I believe in being able to serve God for life.
Conclusion: Rest is a Christian concept but exists not only to relieve from the previous period of work, but so also to prepare for the next period.
Complacency and comfortableness are related. The emphasized "single moment" of entire sanctification often leads us to both. It's not that I do not think sanctification can come in a single moment. It's that we stress the point way too much. The moment is not the point. It is crucial to sanctification. But it's not the point. When it becomes the central point, it leads to complacency. "Thy will be done" is not fully accomplished here on earth individually or corporately.
Conclusion: Sanctification is a life-long outgrowth that begins with an intentional decision.
If you disagree with any of this, please remember,
I'm still learning,