“If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) was precisely nothing: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation…”
C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
I was sitting in church one Sunday listening to my pastor talk about being radical for Jesus, living radically and that to do such required a decision to be made, the choosing of a side. He gave an example of a Civil War soldier who could see both sides of the fight. Having no desire to choose a side but still wanting to march and show his support, he got up one morning, donned the jacket of the Union side and the pants of the Confederates, took up his gun and marched down the middle of the battlefield. He was shot down by both sides. I have no idea if this story is true, but it makes the excellent point that we must choose whom we will serve.
The third point in this series of why I do what I do is this idea of choosing a side. We live in a world of choices. If you don’t like Pepsi you can drink Coke. If you’ve sworn off white bread you still have options like wheat, sour dough, Italian, etc. One of our stores here in town offers the option of returning that TV or couch you bought for something you will like better.
Our choices in the material world are endless. Spiritually speaking, we have two, and most of us at some point have attempted to have one foot in each camp. We want to follow Christ and talk about dying to ourselves, but this world offers many enticing lifestyles. It’s hard to choose. The Bible has this to say about our choice and the weight that it holds.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13, 14, NASB).
I have to admit that these verses kind of freak me out. They really take it down to bare bones, don’t they? I have struggled with this idea of being completely sold out to God and turning my back on everything else. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking legalism here, but I’m realizing that discipleship requires all of me. God wants all of me not just the parts I’m willing to give to Him, and I think many of us look at salvation as mere fire insurance. That’s how it was for me. Eternity with God walking streets of gold or eternity with satan in a lake of fire. I was seven and no idiot. The choice was obvious, and I knew and believed that Jesus was the only way to avoid a fiery eternity. What was never presented to me was this idea of a lifestyle. Let me stop here and say that this post should have been up five days ago, but I’ve been dragging my feet all week because I don’t want to open some theological can of worms. I am not preaching works salvation, but I am convinced now more than ever based on my own life and what God has taught me that we have a culture full of “Christians” headed for hell.
I’m sorry, but in not intentionally choosing God and what He calls us to we have inadvertently chosen the world. Our world is changing faster than ever and going in the completely wrong direction. We simply do not have the luxury of messing around jumping from one camp to the other. These are harsh words, but Jesus didn’t sugar coat His call to His disciples.
“Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?'” (Luke 9:23-25, NIV, italics mine).
In today’s language it could be said like this: “If you follow me you can be sure that you will be misunderstood. You will be required to trust in Someone you can neither see nor touch. You will be asked everyday to die to yourself and your own desires, and, in some cases, you may actually die just for following after Me. Of course, the upside to all of this is First Corinthians 2:9.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (NIV).
“On the other hand, you could go the way of the world. With this plan you will undoubtedly be in great company. Nobody will look at you funny or question what in the world you are doing. It’s clear. You are pursuing your lifelong dreams and goals, and you may even achieve great wealth and fame. Though mean-spirited, envious people may hate you for your achievements, you will also be revered and admired. Sound like a good way to go? Refer back to Luke 9.”
I heard a woman give a short devotional on the radio the other morning. She was talking about this very thing. What she said really put it in perspective for me. She reminded the listener that at best we will probably only live to be 80 or 85 years old. If we are in Christ the worst thing to happen to us on earth is the worst thing that will ever happen to us. Can we not hold on for 80 years? Even if we live to be 100, that’s nothing in light of eternity. On the flip side, choosing this life instead, living for our own desires here on earth may reap great reward, but that’s the best it will ever be.
I believe that because God is who He is, He wants us to enjoy our lives. He is the Giver of all good gifts. I also believe that because He is who He is, He is asking us to keep everything in its proper place remembering that He is a jealous God and will not share the throne of our lives with anyone or anything.