Radical: Life, Part 2

OK, let’s pick up where we left off yesterday.  I will admit that I am a bit of a radical.  I have a pony tail and am the lead pastor of a downtown “first” church.  I ride a motorcycle.  I hate wearing a suit and tie and admit that I am not comfortable wearing the clergy robe.  But these things do not make me the radical that God is calling me to be.  And, I  am not yet the Radical that God wants me to be, and wants for you to become.  Here is what it takes to be a real Jesus Radical in today’s culture, be it “church culture” or “real world” culture.

Recognize That You Have A Higher Calling.

Hundreds of years before John the Baptist was born, the prophets Isaiah and Malachi wrote about John’s mission.  John knew that he had a purpose for being here.  He knew that he had a message to tell others.  His purpose was to prepare people for a personal encounter with Christ.

He did this by preaching a simple message: repent and experience God’s forgiveness.  We also have a higher calling.  We have an obligation to the world to share with them the message God has shared with us.  Our message must be the same as that of John the Baptist; it must be Biblical and it must be balanced.  John’s message had 2 key components: he challenged people to repent, and he promised them God’s forgiveness.  I’ve heard some preachers blast away at sin all day without mercy, and I’ve heard some preachers get all mushy about God’s mercy, without mentioning God’s standards.  Mercy and judgment are both part of God’s love.

Sin is just plain ugly, through and through.  It breaks the heart of God and it ruins the lives of people.  If you fail to repent of the sin in your life it will ultimately destroy you.  And it’s not so much God ‘punishing’ you for your sins—sin brings about its own punishment.  When a parent tells a child not to touch a hot stove, and the child disobeys and does it anyway, what happens?  The child gets burned.  Who burned the child?  An angry, vindictive parent?  No, the hot stove burned the child.  The loving parent tried to encourage the child not to touch the stove in the first place.  This is why we need to tell the truth about sin.

We also need to tell the truth about repentance.  Simply feeling guilty or sorry you were caught is not repentance.  Repentance is an about-face—it is a decision to stop moving in one direction and start moving in another direction. The Greek word that is translated repentance means, literally, to ‘change your mind.’  When you repent, you change the way you think.  When you change the way you think, you change the way you live.

Repentance is not a negative experience, it is the most positive experience a person can have.  When you repent, you turn from doing things that can only create misery in your life, and you turn toward doing things that will create joy and fulfillment in your life.   When we encourage others to repent it’s not, “Repent, because you are so bad.”  We’re saying, “Repent, because God is so good.”   Repentance is not a punishment, it is a privilege.  We have a higher calling in life—a message to share with the world.  It is not a message of anger and judgment; it is a message of hope and deliverance.

Hold Yourself To A Higher Standard.

As I mentioned earlier, John the Baptist lived in the desert, wore clothes made of camel’s hair, and ate locusts and wild honey.  John was organic and off-the-grid long before it became the basis for TV shows.  But I want you to notice that he didn’t expect everyone else to do this.  He never said, “If you want to be right with God, you have to become a desert monk.”  That was a standard he set for himself, but he didn’t impose it on everyone else.

He made some radical choices about his lifestyle, but they were not the heart of his message.  The question is:  Why did he do it?  The reason is simple:  Holding himself to a higher standard gave his message more credibility.  There are three ways we can hold ourselves to a higher standard like John the Baptist.

  1. Be willing to sacrifice comfort. Remember, God may want to stretch you.  Some of life’s greatest discoveries lie outside our comfort zone.
  2. Put a lid on materialism. John the Baptist wasn’t concerned with appearances, instead, he concerned himself with the content of his life and message.  Now, I’m not saying you should take a vow of poverty, and neither is God, but we do need to rethink our attitude toward “things” and “stuff”!
  3. Starve your appetites. Now, there is nothing wrong with a good meal.  And there is nothing inherently spiritual about eating locusts.  Your appetite can control you or you can control it.  It’s not about food here, it’s about focus.

There is power in self-discipline.  Living a radical lifestyle means holding ourselves to a higher standard—we live a life of sacrifice and discipline—so that we can concentrate our focus on pursuing our higher calling—proclaiming the good news about Jesus Christ.

Submit To A Higher Authority.

Many leaders in politics, in businesses, and in churches, fall because they believe all the hype being said about them.  Not so with John—he always kept in mind that his position in life was secondary to that of the Messiah.  John made certain that he never deluded himself into thinking that he had absolute power.  He lived his life in submission to the authority of God.

Nothing is more dangerous than for a person to think they are too powerful to face consequences.  We’ve seen this attitude in political leaders.  We’ve seen this attitude in a number of high-profile athletes, musicians and actors, and we’ve seen how their careers have unraveled.  Even among well known TV evangelists we’ve seen them fall and fall hard.  Common wisdom among celebrities is “Don’t believe your own press.”  In other words, don’t think you’re as great as you say you are, or that every one thinks you are.  Put God first.

Jesus introduced a radical concept.  He said:  “Whoever wants to become great among you must become your servant.”  Christianity is a radical faith and it calls for us to live a radical lifestyle.  It calls for us to become servants:  to spend our lives pursuing a higher calling, to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and submit ourselves to a higher authority—the Lordship of Christ.

And remember, Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!