Article by Aaron Shaw
We’ve been given the power to choose what we want to intake and how we want to intake it.. Is this inherently wrong? Not at all. In fact, as I’m writing this, this morning, I’m streaming a church planting workshop that was happening 1,000 miles away because I couldn’t be there. Surely this information age is not all bad. But when we apply the same mindset and same construct when we talk about our faith with Jesus, we miss something. If we want shortcut-Christianity — the easiest way to get saved, the easiest way to grow, the easiest way to get plugged in, the easiest way to walk this life — could it be that we’ve begun to hover over something that is not true Christianity? I’m growing increasingly convinced that when we lay the grid and rubric of our culture over our faith we miss out on the abundance of joy and the radiance of God in Christ and we settle for a self-constructed gospel, a self-constructed life, and a buffet-style conviction that lands us far from true Christianity. We begin to see God as our cosmic vending machine instead of the God who creates, sustains, and pursues. The god of our desires seems more like the god who wants us to do stuff so that we can get stuff. We do the right things and we receive the blessings. #Blessed. You cannot shortcut God’s plan for your life.
In Luke 14, Jesus talks about what it means to be a disciple. Jesus tells a few parables to his audience and makes the point that considering the cost is important. To follow after Jesus, to follow God, is not a whimsical decision. The cost of following Jesus is great. It brings persecution, suffering, and trials. For years I’ve been telling younger men and women that Jesus has set up a play date for us with a pack of wolves and we’re all sheep. It’s not going to be easy. The cost is great, but the reward of joy and the gift of God Himself far exceed any earthly trials we’ll walk through.
The cost of discipleship is great. But the cost of non-discipleship is also great. To not follow Jesus but subscribe for a lesser version of Christianity that looks busy for God but lacks heart change is the peril of non-discipleship. It is not Christianity.
So, what should we do? Should we be scared and run around frantically looking for the magical remedy to please our God because He’s angry and ready to strike us all dead? No. Our God is not a God who is irrational or a road raging maniac. Our God is more loving than we can fathom. Thus, reformation of our hearts won’t be by you doing the right things, it won’t be solved by the next cool sermon series, the next fashion trend, the neatest new Christian music, a conference with a catchy title, a new relationship, a new small group with the “right” people, self-reliant discipline, or even more accountability. I’m not advocating that these things are bad, but they are lesser antidotes for our forlorn hearts. So now I’m going to give you the most overly intuitive and cliche answer for our wandering hearts. Ready?
Jesus. Now… go and be merry!
Sounds like the worst (or best?) Sunday school answer ever, right? Hear me though; my heart is set on helping people realize that the idols of our day promise far less than Jesus. They’ll never deliver. Ever. They’ll never give you the joy and satisfaction you seek. Every day you’re being wooed by counterfeit clickbait that advocates on behalf of something sub-biblical, deceiving you that it provides the greatest contentment, joy, and life possible.
“Well we just need to attend church,” some might say. But I would contend that although the answer would please many, this answer is still insufficient. Jesus did not die for us to have a comfortable life sitting in church pews, campus ministry gatherings, or at home and disobeying the call of discipleship. Checklist Christianity is not following the call of radical abandonment for the Gospel. The calling to follow Jesus doesn’t offer room for us to create a job description of what our version of Christianity can look like. Jesus is clear: “Follow me.” There is no other option. What does this entail? While Jesus was on Earth his discipleship consisted of spending time with those who followed Him and those who didn’t. He spent time ministering to them, correcting them, leading them, blessing them, praying for them, commissioning them, encouraging them, empowering them… the list could go on. The ultimate goal of Jesus’ discipleship was to bring those who were far, near. Not far off physically, but far off spiritually. Those who were broken, needy, confused, guilty, in need of help. Those who put other things first before God.
The reality is that we all put other things before God. We’re all at risk of making our motives, emotions, money, behaviors, and words follow after the god of our hearts, rather than the God who made us, created us, and loves us. The cost of discipleship is a matter of following Jesus in faith and letting Him work on the areas we won’t turn over to Him. Not because He’s in the business of taking away things for no reason, but because we’re in the hands of our Creator who will shape us, mold us, and love us. This is true discipleship, letting our Father minister to us, correct us, lead us, bless us, commission us, encourage us, empower us, and love us.
If you find yourself tuning into this, maybe seeing that there are spaces in your life that are not inline with what I’ve mentioned above, don’t lose heart. All of us have areas like this. All of us wander. It is by God’s deep love and grace that He might show you areas where He will continue to make you new. It is not bad to be illuminated to these things. Allow the Father’s love and grace to you through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, move in you to desire and rediscover the mystery and the mission of true discipleship. Embrace Jesus again, embrace the gospel again, cling onto the promises of God. You’re never too far, never too broken, never too needy, never too sad, never too proud, never too shameful, never too guilty. Christ has redeemed you.
Lose yourself in God’s cosmic redemptive love story through the discipleship of Christ.