We don’t always think about it, but Christianity always has been, is now, and will always be a dramatically radical lifestyle. It’s not for the faint of heart. To be a disciple of Jesus requires both commitment and courage. I believe that the Enemy has a big belly laugh when it looks at churches that emphasize that to be a Christian, one has to be meek, mild, and gentle like Jesus. I mean, have you ever looked at how some artists portray Jesus? Look at this picture:
Yes, Jesus was meek. Yes Jesus was gentle. Yes, Jesus was kind. But not in the ways so many try to portray Him. There is also an audacious side of Jesus, a bold and strong image. Over the years, at least here in the good old U.S. A., the church has created an artificial Jesus, a “Jesus” that has been tamed. And that is why the Enemy is having a free run and destroying so many lives. And why the church in the U.S. continues to be in decline.
Too often the church is guilty of propagating the idea that God’s objective is for us to become carbon copies of June and Ward Cleaver, like they represent the ultimate in Christian living. Nothing against the Cleaver’s, but nothing could be further from the truth. In the next few posts we will see that God desires for each of us a to live a life far beyond that which we have come to know as “The American Dream.”
From the website dictionary.com, the word “radical” is defined as “extreme, especially as regards to change from accepted or traditional forms”. In other words, a “Radical” is someone who refuses to accept the usual and seeks to bring change. This dictionary definition describes Jesus when He walked this earth in human form. Jesus truly is a “radical” and could it be that for us to be His follower we must be “radical”, too?
Being a Christian is not about playing it safe. It’s about living life on the edge. It’s about taking chances. It’s about participating in a revolution that will overthrow the kingdom of this world and usher in the kingdom of God. Christianity is not middle-class, and it is not middle of the road. It is life in the fast lane. God challenges believers everywhere to adopt a radical lifestyle, to live a life of radical honesty, to be consumed by His radical grace, to embrace His radical mercy, to pursue radical spirituality, and to be driven by that radical ambition.
Let me ask you a question: “Who was the greatest person who ever lived?” Some of you might say the greatest person ever lived was your big brother or sister, since your mother always tried to get you to be more like them. Some of you may think the greatest person who ever lived was the person who had your job before you. I know there are many pastors who think the greatest person must surely have been some previous pastor. Some of you may think the greatest person who ever lived is the person your spouse thought he or she was marrying when they married you. According to Jesus, the greatest person who ever lived was John the Baptist.
4-6 John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.
7-8 As he preached he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.” Mark 1:4-8 (The Message)
John truly was an amazing person. Before Jesus began his ministry, John the Baptist preached in the Judean desert, challenging people to repent of their sins and be baptized. The fact that he was calling for them to be baptized is interesting, since baptism was a ritual reserved for Gentiles. When a Gentile converted to Judaism, they were initiated into the faith through baptism. The baptism symbolized that the convert had renounced their Gentile heritage and had fully embraced life as a Jew. In fact, when a Gentile was baptized they were referred to as being “a brand new person, one day old.”
John wasn’t preaching to Gentiles, he was preaching to Jews—and telling them to be baptized. He was saying, in effect, “Being Jewish isn’t enough. You must repent of your sin and give your heart completely to God.” Thousands of people came to the desert to hear John preach; many of them confessed their sins and were baptized. John the Baptist was, in every sense of the word, a radical. He can best be summed up this way: He was not the kind of person mothers hope their daughter will bring home one day. He was unconventional, wearing unusual clothes and ate locusts and wild honey.
However, it wasn’t the fact that John the Baptist lived in the desert and wore funny clothes and ate strange food that made him a holy man—it was his message and his lifestyle. In John the Baptist we see a prototype of the person God wants us to be. Let’s take a closer look at John the Baptist, and we will see how we can imitate, even today, his Radical Lifestyle. There are three things that John the Baptist emphasized that we must also emphasize (and it has nothing to do with eating bugs covered in honey). Watch for the next edition!
And remember, Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!