by Byron Forrest Yawn
If you’ll just step back for a moment and be honest with yourself, you’ll realize that much of our Christianity is in no way similar to biblical Christianity. They’re not nearly the same. I think we know this deep down. If you read the Bible at face value and compare its message to our messages, you cannot but realize that we’ve misplaced the heart of our faith—the gospel. Maybe the only similarity is our vocabulary. We do use Christian-sounding terms. But even the terms have morphed over the years and carry less weight than they once did. Words like “redemption” are cliché. On the whole, our version of church is nearly completely dissimilar from the church in the Bible. We are so far removed from who we really are.
As we encounter Jesus in the Gospels, walking beside the sea and calling His disciples to surrender their lives and plans in order to follow Him, we assume this same calling has no bearing on us. That was a faraway land. Those were unique circumstances. After all, I’m a housewife in the suburbs. Or I’m a businessman in a white-collar jungle. I’m simply trying to make it to retirement.
How radical was that season when people actually gave up all they had to be with Jesus? When one encounter with Jesus turned people’s lives upside down and they willingly followed Him to a life of self-sacrifice? In our minds, Jesus’s demands have softened over the years and with the onset of convenience. Modernity has changed everything.
This conclusion could not be further from the truth. Jesus’s call to His disciples is no less binding and extreme today than it ever was. There is a sense in which Christianity, understood rightly, will always feel rustic and frightening. Even in the suburbs. Jesus’s call to follow Him goes out today in the suburbs just as it always has. Only now there is so much more to walk away from.
He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels (Mark 8:34-38).
This dream we keep selling in the church about happiness on this planet is out of touch with the truth. You will never find it here. Sin has made sure of this. Mankind tossed a Molotov cocktail into paradise a long time ago. The current order of things is creaking and groaning toward an inauspicious end. Something better awaits us.
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body (Romans 8:16-23).