Riding Two Horses…Are You?
The call to follow Christ is a sin-rejecting, self-denying and world-forsaking call. Only when we follow him rejecting sin, denying self and forsaking the world, would we be able to reclaim our witness and authority in the world. I will not elaborate ‘sin-rejecting’ because I think most of us in general know what it is. But will explain what self-denying and world-forsaking is about because I think this is where practically all of us seem to have got it wrong.
Call for Self-denial
Two verses from scripture capture the idea better than any: 1 Cor 6:19, 20, especially the words, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” and 2 Cor 5:15, “…he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
Nothing can be more plain than that. We cannot live for ourselves. Period. Not for our own desires, ambitions, pleasures, aspirations, comforts, security, identity, dignity, glory whatever. We cannot live a life of self-seeking. We live for Christ and His kingdom – his pleasures, his desires, his will, his glory and nothing else. The day you and I decided to follow Christ or the day His choice fell upon us, my friends, we have lost all rights to live for ourselves. If you do not like this then you do not understand the gospel or you are still holding on to your self. There is no choice here. Either we follow Christ and give him our total allegiance or we leave and go our own way.
Does this sound autocratic on the part of God? Let me explain. God is infinite and sovereign. He cannot be any other. We are finite and contingent. We cannot be any other either. Our creation is by Him and our sustenance is by Him too. If we try to derive our sustenance and satisfaction from any other even from our own self and not from our Creator, it not only falls far short of what we are made for but it amounts to idolatry. Our true lot and desired haven must be God and He alone. Hence the command to love Him with all our heart, mind and strength. Our rest is in yielding to Him as Lord. Although it is a command it is not enforced. He wants us to yield to Him voluntarily. We are free to choose to walk away from Him.
Call for world-forsaking
The best way this can be explained is, not to pursue the things that the people of the world pursue. Not to desire the same things that the people of the world desire. Not to pray, claim, enjoy or be discouraged by the same things that the people of the world pray for, claim, enjoy and are discouraged about.
The world offers or promises to offer basically 3 things: sustenance (food and clothes), security (houses, jobs, salaries etc), and identity (position, power, dignity etc). If we live and work to get these from the world and by its criteria, then I would say we are not living a world-forsaking life.
In the Kingdom of God and of His Son, food and clothes are promised to those who ‘seek his kingdom and his righteousness’. Those who are part of Christ’s kingdom are promised eternal salvation and food (for the day) and clothes in this life. Everything else is extra! A bonus! This means we live content with salvation, food and clothes. We cannot expect or demand or pray for anything more than that and we cannot be discouraged if we do not have anything more than salvation, food and clothes. To live otherwise is to be worldly or to love the world. Period.
Friends, we cannot be chasing the knowledge, the power, and the glories of the world and expect God’s grace and goodness to follow us. Most of our problems, trials, temptations, tensions in life spring not from following Christ but because we are chasing the world and its glories!! Seeking to know God and His Son Christ alone is our life pursuit. To love Him and Him only is what we are called for. We are not even called to do more ministry or evangelism or to be engaged in missions. Those are secondary to loving God and knowing Him. Ultimately and fundamentally all that matters in life is God and eternity. Everything else howsoever important has significance only in relation to God and his kingdom.
How then should we live?
Does this mean that we do not educate ourselves or that we do not work to earn a living? How to handle our jobs and careers?
Let me put it this way: We do study and educate ourselves. We might and can take up employment. But we do these not as our life goals and not in the sense that it is in these we have our sustenance, security and identity. Our sustenance is already promised as mentioned above. Our security is in Christ for, ‘our lives are hidden with Christ in God’ and no one or nothing can ‘separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus’. And as far as our identity needs are concerned we are called to be God’s own people – His sons and daughters. We are made to sit with Christ in the heavenly places at the right hand of God, far above all principalities, powers, mights and dominions. Is there any other position higher than this? How can we be still looking to go higher in our life, or to come up in life or to gain the glories of the world?
Since we are promised our daily needs and are secure in Christ with the identity of the sons of God – we now live from a position of contentment and confidence in Him. We do not live to earn these anymore nor to chase the glories of the world. As those who are content and confident in their Lord, we are now ready to go anywhere and live wherever our Lord takes us. The courses we join to study and the jobs we do, we do them not for the sake of earning our basic needs nor for the prospects, or security or glory they offer. But as people called of God to be his own, we live, study and work as those who are placed there to BE his witnesses or as his representatives. Being witnesses is to live this kind of life – a life content and confident in the God who we love and follow. Since many do not live this way they think they can compensate for their lack of witness by ‘doing witnessing’. Hence the talk of evangelistic programmes and other ministry activities. We are called to ‘be witnesses’ not for ‘doing witnessing’!
This means our decision-making regarding what field of knowledge we explore and what kind of jobs we do, is not based on any of the criteria that the people of the world employ. We do not choose on the basis of the glamour involved in the course of study. Nor do we decide on the future prospects nor on the perks on offer in a particular course or job. But we make all these choices on the basis of what and where God wants us to be at a given point in life. And we must be willing to leave and move as He leads, not afraid to go anywhere in the world as He chooses. In all this our only goal is to do His will and to please Him alone.
This is what it means to ‘seek his kingdom’. This is what constitutes a lifestyle of worship. And only thus we shall BE his witnesses and regain our distinctness and our authority as God’s people among the nations of the world. Our witness and authority does not come from gaining riches and the high positions of the world. It comes by denying ourselves of these and refusing to pursue them.
When we live thus we shall enjoy the Fatherhood of our God and we shall also be able to exercise sonship, as His own children. “God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
But the key is to ‘go out from their midst, and be separate from them’. Only then we shall have his presence with us.
Any other way of living other than explained above amounts to ‘riding two horses’ or trying to ‘serve God and Mammon’. And all those who live that way cannot withstand the day of judgement of God. And when he shakes up everything that can be shaken, as he is doing right now in the world, we will be shaken up too. Only those who live by the values of God’s kingdom will survive, for ‘His kingdom is an unshakeable kingdom’.
Let me make it more easy and simple to understand. If where you are and what you are doing is not because God has led you to be there and if you are pursuing knowledge through education for the dignity it gives and for the future prospects you will have and if you are working to provide for yourself the feelings of security and respect it purports to give, then my dear friend you are trying to follow the world howsoever much you might protest and claim that you are following Christ. And if you claim to be ‘doing ministry’ and yet pursuing your own and your family’s future through it and if you seek your confidence and your reputation through it, you are no better than the others. In Paul’s words, “All seek their own, and not the things which are of Christ Jesus.” “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
Judge for yourselves. Do not say, you have not been warned!