Called and Set Apart (Part Two)

Stained glass window of the sacred Heart of Je...
Stained glass window of the sacred Heart of Jesus Christ in the former Mosque (Cathedral) of Cordoba, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

(continued from Part One)

Platt, however, doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. Yet in his view, and my experience has borne this truth out repeatedly, there is much to be gained by following Jesus with radical, risk-taking obedience. I find the following words by Platt to be enlightening, challenging, and convicting:

 I don’t assume to have all the answers, and I don’t claim to understand everything that following Jesus entails. But in a day when the basics of becoming and being a Christian are so maligned by the culture and misunderstood in the church, I do know that there is more to Jesus than the routine religion we are tempted to settle for at every turn. And I am convinced that when we take a serious look at what Jesus really meant when he said, “Follow me,” we will discover that there is far more pleasure to be experienced in him, indescribably greater power to be realized with him, and a much higher purpose to be accomplished for him than anything this world has to offer. And the result, we will all – every single Christian – eagerly, willingly, and gladly lose our lives to know and proclaim Christ, for this is simply what it means to follow him.

Boiled right down to its essence, there you have it – the very meat of the Christian path. To follow Christ is to be obedient to his teachings, and obedience begins and ends in the act of dying to self on a daily basis. The standards laid down by Jesus are so contrary to the principles accepted as the gold standard by our culture that following Christ inherently involves dying to our own wishes time and time again, especially those desires inculcated through cultural saturation.

On a very practical level, walking this path of dying to self involves the myriad choices and decisions we make as we go about our daily rounds. In order to live as Jesus calls us to live, there will be countless times we will be faced with the necessity of doing something we don’t want to do or abstaining from doing something we want to do. In these situations we clearly know the correct course of action and what constitutes an incorrect course. Friends, this isn’t rocket science and bottom line, it is not nearly as complicated as we tend to make it. Being obedient to Jesus is simply knowing how he would want you to respond in a given situation and choosing to respond in that manner. The key word here is choosing. We make the choice, the decision and we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us to help us see clearly the right direction to go.

Granted, many life situations are not black and white, but filled with gray areas. It is precisely in these areas where the enemy will send in his foot soldiers with orders to convince you to act in ways contrary to the Master’s wishes. It is here you have to be extra vigilant, prayerful, and discerning. Yet even in these gray areas you can always make the right decision as the Holy Spirit will always give you direction.

As stated at the outset, concepts like “holiness” and “sanctification” are not popular themes for discussion, even among what an old friend of mine calls “churchified folk.” Even brief mention of topics like these can cause a spirited conversation to quickly flounder into little more than a series of coughs, sputters, and throat-clearings, backed by a cacophony of shuffling feet. Any insistence on remaining on the topic can clear a room faster than a stray Doberman foaming at the mouth.

Yet we must not only talk about these themes of holiness and the like because Christ’s call to follow him is a call to obedience. And if you are serious about being obedient to Christ you can count on one thing for certain: you are going to be quite a bit different from the herd. You will, indeed, be set apart and that is not only to be expected, for the true Christian it should be welcomed. When we live according to Jesus’ standards we will be in opposition to many of the culture’s standards. The most detailed and accurate picture of this conflict, and our reasons for avoiding it, are penned by the great scholar Houston Smith:

…we have heard Jesus’ teachings so often that their edges have been worn smooth, dulling their glaring subversiveness. If we could recover their original impact, we too would be startled. Their beauty would not paper over the fact that they are “hard sayings,” presenting a scheme of values so counter to the usual as to shake us like the seismic collision of tectonic plates…We are told that we are not to resist evil but to turn the other cheek. The world assumes that evil must be resisted by every means available. We are told to love our enemies and bless those who curse us. The world assumes that friends are to be loved and enemies hated. We are told that the sun rises on the just and the unjust alike. The world considers this to be indiscriminating; it would like to see dark clouds withholding sunshine from evil people. We are told that outcasts and harlots enter the kingdom of God before many who are perfunctorily righteous. Unfair, we protest; respectable people should head the procession. We are told that the gate to salvation is narrow. The world would prefer it to be wide. We are told to be as carefree as birds and flowers. The world counsels prudence. We are told that it is more difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom than for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye. The world honors wealth. We are told that the happy people are those who are meek, who weep, who are merciful and pure in heart. The world assumes that it is the rich, the powerful, and the wellborn who should be happy. In all, a wind of freedom blows through these teachings that frightens the world and makes us want to deflect their effect by postponement – not yet, not yet! H.G. Wells was evidently right: either there was something mad about this man, or our hearts are still too small for his message.

I have made frequent use of Smith’s words over the years, primarily because he is right on the mark with his assessment of the juxtaposition of our world’s values and the guidelines for living set down by Jesus. For many of us, our hearts are, indeed, too small for his message. I know that for many years mine was and yes, there are still areas where I struggle.

Yet struggle I must because the Master has asked for nothing less than full-on commitment. And that personal decision is the hinge upon which the entire door of the Christian walk of faith swings. I am not talking about the “decision to accept Christ as your personal savior.” No, I am talking about a more gutsy decision – one where you consecrate yourself to wholehearted obedience, to walking the walk with unwavering integrity and giving your all to God.

Christ tells us it is wise to count the cost of becoming one of his disciples. Jesus comes into your life not only as a savior, but also as a trouble-maker. Count on it my friend, if you are a serious follower, a true disciple, Jesus Christ will upset your apple cart. You cannot bask in the status quo and follow the Master – you are called to a much higher standard. You are called to holiness – you are called to being set apart.

Think about it.

© L.D. Turner 2013/All Rights Reserved

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