The word “Christian” means a lot of different things in our modern culture. For some, it’s a title given to those who attend church on Sunday mornings. For others, it’s about believing in God and the Bible. And unfortunately there are also those who associate it with something “extreme” or “hateful.” But the Bible defines Christianity as being a follower of Christ. We pick up our cross and follow Jesus, both in His suffering as well as His victory. (Luke 9:23, 2 Timothy 2:11-13) We live by His teachings as well as His example… no matter the cost. For the early church, this all too often meant martyrdom, and it still does in some places of the world today. But what does it really mean to be all in for Jesus in our modern American culture?
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And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” – Luke 9:23-24
For early Believers, Christianity was a matter of life or death.
Unfortunately today we have a thing called “casual Christianity” spreading throughout our culture. It’s the idea that we can be a Christian on paper, but not in action. We can be Christians and not fellowship with other Believers. We can make our own personal life choices based on experience rather than the Bible. Or we can simply choose not to believe in concepts like hell, judgement, or sin. In essence… we want to share in Christ’s victory without any sacrifice or change on our part.
But is it even possible to be “casual” about Christianity? According to the Bible… no. Truth is truth. You don’t get to “find your own truth.” This isn’t the Christianity that Jesus presented, nor is it the one that the early Believers adhered to and shared with the world. If you followed Jesus in the early church, it truly was a matter of life or death. Not just in the spiritual sense of being born again into new life, or heaven versus hell… But in those early days, being a Christian meant persecution, suffering, and even death. It was physically dangerous to be a Christian in the early church.
So with this in mind, casual Christianity did not and could not have possibly existed the way it does today. No one would have been foolish enough to claim Jesus as the Messiah if they didn’t truly believe it with every fiber of their being. All those who did literally put their life on the line.
Faith in Jesus took priority over everything… even one’s own family.
If you were asked to describe yourself, what would first come to mind? Perhaps you would talk about your family life, if you were married or had children. Maybe you would include your profession or hobbies. Many of us define ourselves this way, and we establish priorities based upon our family roles. We focus on our careers and would make sacrifices to move forward in our life plans and goals. But where in our list of priorities is our walk with God?
Please hear me out in this… Family is important. We are commanded all throughout Scripture to love others and this most certainly includes our own family members! And setting goals when it comes to our hobbies and careers is a good thing. But our FIRST priority should always be Jesus. Many of us make sacrifices when it comes to our families and life goals, but are we willing to do the same when it comes to our walk with God?
In the early church, families were separated. Jesus even predicted this family strife in Matthew 10. Those who chose to follow Christ weren’t always accompanied by their family members. But this didn’t matter. Following Him always came first.
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. – Matthew 10:37-39
One’s purpose in life always included the Kingdom of God.
This point is closely related to the previous one. We are called to “seek first” the Kingdom of God. It is our number one goal and priority. So, does that mean we all need to give up our families and careers to become missionaries?
Here’s the truth: We are ALL missionaries. We are all called to share the Gospel of Christ to the world around us. Some of us are called to foreign lands, while others are called to be missionaries in their own hometown. Every day, I personally have an opportunity to be a missionary to my children and my spouse. I get to train up my children to follow Christ and do my best to lead by example.
At work, I also get to be a missionary. While I cannot walk around preaching at my place of employment, I can certainly demonstrate God’s love to the children and parents that I work with. I can shine the light of Christ in a way that my actions speak even when my words cannot.
As we live our day-to-day lives, we seek first the Kingdom of God by sharing the Gospel and living like a true ambassador for Christ.
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16
Talents and abilities were never to be wasted, but always used for God’s glory.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. – 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)
I speak from experience when I say that it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine of life. I sometimes find myself so focused on my to-do lists that I forget there’s more to life than housework and simply getting through my day! We aren’t just passing through this life here on earth with no purpose. We have a Christ-given mission, and the enemy loves to keep us distracted with dance classes, soccer games, household chores, cooking meals, etc.
What has God given you to use for the Kingdom of God? The Bible tells us that we are the “Body of Christ” and that we all have different roles to play within that body. He has equipped us all with unique talents and abilities to use for His glory. If you are unsure of your place in it all, don’t be afraid to seek godly counsel and pray. The Holy Spirit is always faithful to show us where we’re needed. And He is also more than capable to provide for us the strength and boldness necessary to carry out God’s plan for our lives.
Jesus never asked to be a part of our lives, rather He called us to deny ourselves and follow Him with all that we have to offer… to be all in for Him.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.