If you did not read last week’s post, you might want to read it before you read this one:
The summary of Jesus’s call to humanity is:
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it –Mark 8:34-35
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. John 12:25-26
It all boils down to one thing: to serve God is to give him everything.
That is a problem for contemporary culture. The culture does not want people to give God everything. The culture wants people to accept everything that every real or imagined god dishes out. The culture does not want us to ask questions with uncomfortable answers.
Here is a question: What is yoga? The culture says that it is merely exercise. However, the people who invented yoga thought it was prayer and alignment with spiritual power. Where did this so-called power come from? It did not come from God Most High, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The specific moves of yoga, separately or in combination have no moral meaning or power. Someone who knows the moves could know and practice them by themselves. However, if a yoga instructor starts talking about aligning with spiritual power, then it is time for Christians to disconnect.
Another question: What is tai chi? Tai chi is a form of movement much advocated by followers of the Tao. Tai chi by itself was developed as an internal discipline, and it is appropriated by Taoist groups to support their philosophy or religion, whichever you choose to call it. To study tai chi by itself is different from learning a philosophy along with it. However, if the instructor starts quoting Lao Tzu, then it is time for Christians to disconnect. The Tao is The Way. The way to live. The way to think. The way to serve. It claims to be The Way, a counterclaim to Jesus’s claim that “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Is Jesus the Way or is the Tao the Way? Every Christian needs to be alert to issues that will arise as anyone goes deep into philosophies and prayer moves.
Christians who believe that Jesus was serious about wanting everything have big problems in today’s culture. Kim Davis gave God everything and wound up in jail. She could not draw a line between her life at church and her life in the county courthouse. God does not allow us to draw lines around certain parts of our lives where we serve him and other parts of our lives where we pretend he does not exist.
The theme of living every minute subject to God in every square inch of our lives will project us into confrontations. When a Christian Marine taped part of a Bible verse on her computer as a daily inspiration growing out of her faith in God, she was reprimanded and court-martialed. When a Christian fire chief wrote a book proclaiming his faith in God and his beliefs about God’s plan for marriage and families, he lost his job. The culture tells us to keep our religion to ourselves. Our friends and even our families may tell us that “religion is personal,” and we should not let it influence our career plans, our investments, the way we dress, or who we marry.
The ancient Israelites had similar issues. At various times in their history, they offered sacrifices to many different gods, and they engaged in orgies that were planned and orchestrated as worship of various gods. Even their priests became so lackadaisical in their faith that they treated the Ark of the Covenant like a good luck charm, carrying it from its hidden place in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle to the battlefield, where the Philistines captured it. The story of the children of Israel is all the evidence anyone would need in order to know that people did not listen to Moses. If they had taught their children God’s Law as Moses instructed them to do, then their children would have known better than to wish for luck in battle by carrying the Ark of the Covenant with them. The people would never have fallen so far from God’s Law that King Josiah was shocked when God’s Law was found in moldering scrolls in the ruins of the temple built by Solomon.
To give God everything is a huge demand. It changes a person’s life. It makes enemies of powerful people. The whole culture, which is under the dominion of Satan, hates people who put God first. When Jesus went into the wilderness to get ready for his ministry, Satan had a good inkling of what was coming, and he tempted Jesus to do what he tempts each of us to do: put Satan before God:
The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” –Matthew 4:8-9
Jesus resisted that temptation at the price of death on the cross. We pay a price, too, when we put God first. Kim Davis went to jail. A college professor lost a promotion and almost lost tenure. A general lost his military pension. The question is this: what is Jesus worth to you? If you lose Jesus and gain a promotion, will your life be better? If you lose Jesus and keep your pension, will your life be better? If you gain friends and lose Jesus, will your life be better?
The world tells us to keep our religion out of the public bathrooms, out of the doctor’s office, out of the discount store, out of the coffee shop, out of the movie theater, out of the bookstore. The culture says we should keep our religion to ourselves. Sit down. Shut up. Don’t mention Jesus, don’t wear Christian jewelry, and don’t refuse to place adoptive children with two men practicing sexual perversion. If we keep faith with Jesus, our worldview is on a collision course with the world around us.
In order to stay strong, we must remember more words from the “mythical superheroes,” Moses and Jesus.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. –Deuteronomy 30:19-20
- To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. –Revelation 2:7
- The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. –Revelation 2:11
- To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it. –Revelation 2:17
- The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. –Revelation 2:26-28
- The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. –Revelation 3:5
- The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. –Revelation 3:12
- The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. –Revelation 3:21
When you consider the rewards in store for Christ’s followers in the new heaven and earth, maybe it really is worthwhile to give God everything.
By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the summer of 2016