When is the last time God spoke to you and he turned your life upside down? Jesus is not a neutral figure. If he is who he claims to be, if he is the Son of God, then a life of radical surrender and obedience is the only proper, sensible response. He demands change. He calls us to repentance. He makes us entirely new. The old has gone, the new has come. We are not slightly better versions of who we were before. No, we are a completely new creation in Christ.
And when Jesus comes to us, He asks us to let go of everything, our lives, our religion, our idols, our hopes and dreams, and to live for him wholeheartedly.
If the highly religious people selectively obey the things that they are good at, then the rest of us do the same thing — we selectively obey what is comfortable to us. Minimal obedience, just doing enough to get by in order to maintain a semblance of a religious life.
We sufficiently lower the standard so that “I’m okay, you’re okay.”
God is fine with us because we are better than those people who skip church all the time — we go to church every Sunday. Or we may be overprotective with our kids and lacking trust in God, but at least we are not like couples we know who idolize their kids. Or we may be just as stressed about grades and grad school as my classmates throughout the week, but at least we come to Bible study. Or we may not be serving like others, but at least we tithe. And the justifications go on and on.
This is the voice of religion and self-righteousness and comparison with one another. The voice of Jesus is very different.
Jesus says in Luke 12:51 —
51Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.
Jesus is not here to make us feel warm and fuzzy and put us in a perpetual state of Zen. No, he is a fork in the road. He presents us with a choice always. Will we choose Christ or some other path? He comes to divide. Even in the same family, one person will choose Christ, the rest will choose the world. Eternal souls hang in the balance. This is not fun and games. It’s black and white. You’re in or you’re out. There is no middle ground.
And if you play religion long enough, Jesus presents us with 2 choices. Either change. We call this repentance, turning around. And this is followed by obedience to Christ, a new life. In other words, a changed life.
Or if you are unwilling to change, then you’ve chosen to remain as you are. You have chosen the world, or yourself, or your own man-made religion. And esp. for those who choose religion, disillusionment will set in because you know the truth and you know the demands that truth places on you. You know that the truth of God actually impinges on your life.
But you are unwilling to change. And you are left with only one other option. This Christianity thing is not working out, this isn’t for me, I’m out of here. And they leave Christ. Or they settle for religion, meaning they come to church, but they are checked out. Not really engaged and it’s sad.
Why do we have to change and obey God’s word fully?
I think the answer can be found in Rom 3:19-20.
19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
The entire Old Testament showed over and over and over again how the Israelites failed to uphold the law. They tried to be religious but they failed. They tried to be God’s people and a witness to the world but they failed.
Sure, if you pick and choose only portions of the law, then one might think I can actually uphold the law and maintain the fiction that I am self-righteous.
But if you really try to live out the entirety of the law, then we become conscious of sin and the law has served its purpose. Who can obey everything that God says? No one.
The law’s job is to point us to a Savior because our righteousness, our religion, our efforts are utterly lacking. Meaning as much as we try to do what’s right and to move closer to God, we fall short. We are unable to earn or merit salvation. And in that gap, Jesus comes to die on a cross for our sins so that we that we can be reconciled with our heavenly Father.
I want to challenge everyone here — let’s commit ourselves to live out everything this book has to say. Not just what I like, or what I prefer, or what I am good at. Not making excuses, hey, that’s not my calling. I am not gifted in that. Our church can’t do that. It’s not in our mission statement so we can ignore it. But everything in the Bible, if it’s in there and God brings it to our attention, we need to live it out.
And if you try with all your heart to live out everything that Bible has to say, then we will realize that we fall short all the time and we will be awakened to our urgent, desperate need for Jesus. Not just for salvation but we need Jesus today, every hour, now.
Life is hard enough. How much more the Christian life, to really live out everything that God asks of us, is impossible on our own effort. We need Jesus much more than we think.