Advent Devotional 12/10: One Standard
Christians are called to different lifestyles. Not all are called to overseas missions. Not all are called to full-time ministry. Not all are called to have their primary ministry take place within the local church.
Some are called to live out their mission in the work place, in the arts, in politics. Some are called away into solitude to minister directly to God. Some are called to engage extensively with the people of the world. Some are called to poverty. Some are called to steward vast material resources.
Among the early Christians who had societal influence were Joanna, whose husband was Herod's steward (Luke 8:3); Manaen, a childhood friend of Herod (Acts 13:1); and members of Caesar's household (Philippians 4:22). These followed Jesus side by side with working class people such as Peter, Andrew, James and John, who were fishermen.
But as diverse as the early Christians were in their background and in their calling, they had one thing in common. They had a common standard of devotion to Jesus, because Jesus himself set the standard. Jesus did not have different levels of discipleship. He did not have different commitment expectations for different types of followers. There were no full-time Christians vs. part-time Christians. There was one standard.
“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23–24, NIV).
"Then he said to them all." To Peter, James and John, who were the inner three apostles. To the children who flocked to him. To simple peasant farmers. To Pharisees and Sadducees. The same standard was for all. And that standard was an attitude, a lifestyle, and a heart posture. The standard was total submission to the Lordship of Jesus. One song I grew up listening to said to the effect, "Either Jesus Christ is Lord of all or he ain't Lord at all."
The result was life. New life, abundant life, eternal life. It was an exchanged life. We lay our damaged, mortal lives at Jesus feet. In return, he gives us his immortal, resurrected, blameless life.
Somewhere along the way, Christians diluted this standard. We mixed the radical call of Jesus Christ to all disciples with notions of easy believe-ism. And as would happen if you diluted medicine with a bunch of water, our western, modern brand of Christianity has not had its intended effect. We comfort one another by saying "it's okay, you'll get there someday." And we slog through life trying to believe in Jesus and have the world too. And we wonder why someday never comes, why our faith feels so empty.
For anyone who wants to follow Jesus, someday must be today. We must wrestle with Jesus until he wins, until he submits us totally. He is not happy with our token devotion. He will have all of us or none of us. There is no half-way house to heaven. Jesus does not work for tips. He is no one's sidekick.
Total submission to the Lordship of Jesus doesn't mean you have to join a monastery. You can follow Jesus right where you are. It is a radical change of heart and perspective. When you surrender to Jesus, you suddenly see everything, all of your life, as belonging to Jesus. You become willing to lose it all or gain it all, to let him use it all, according to his purposes.
This change of heart is so radical, it is like the Big Bang. It explodes and creates a new universe, one in which Jesus reigns. This is the standard. This is what is required if you want to follow Jesus into life. And he is worth it. He is the pearl of great price. He is the treasure hidden in a field.
Jesus, I am sorry for giving you my token devotion. You are worthy of far greater than that. You gave your life for me. You deserve my all.
Here and now, I pledge my life to you. It is yours. I pledge my heart, my mind, my soul, my strength. I pledge to you all that I have, all my wealth and possessions and resources. I give you my future, my hopes and dreams and plans. I give you my hobbies, my time, my recreation. I give you my career and my ambitions. I give you my relationships, my friends, my significant other, my family, and I trust that you will do right by them. And if there is anything I am withholding from you, show me so I can give you that, too.
In return, I receive your beautiful, indestructible, incomparable life. Thank you for such a gift. I am yours to command, and I am eternally grateful.
In your great name I pray, Amen.