We Never had the Freedom (but We’ve Taken the Liberty) to be “Cultural Christians”

Fifteen years ago, or so, I found myself at a crossroads in my faith. Not a crisis, per se, but a crossroads (although crossroads can certainly lead to a crisis). In the still quiet moments of my mind, I started to divide what would be my life and what I would give to God. Our marriage was young, we started having kids and in this new chapter in life, I wanted to write every sentence. Now, it wasn’t clear at the time that’s what I was doing, but it soon became apparent that I was structuring my life in a way to serve two masters – Me and God. (I realize grammatically, God should come first, but spiritually, He obviously was not, thus the order. I also realize there is no need to capitalize “Me.” However, when you are putting yourself on the same plane as God, it seems appropriate.)

I say I was at a crossroads because I had the choice then and there to decide if I was going to go all-in with Christ, or if I was going to accept an offer He never made to be a “cultural Christian.” A cultural Christian is someone who recognizes the cultural and moral benefits of Christianity, without fully embracing a relationship Christ. No significant life change; just go to church, volunteer at Christian organizations and wear a cross necklace like an ID badge. By the outward appearance, everything looks good… even holy.

Jesus called people who do this “whitewashed tombs,” “…which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead man’s bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27).

As soon as I saw the division of “My life” and “what I’d give to God,” I prayed that I would not be an American-Christian, a cultural Christian or any other modifier-Christian. And it’s a prayer I repeat often. The temptation to just “phone it in” to Jesus is real every single day. Regardless of what our culture allows to pass as “Christian,” Christ allows for only full devotion. That is the only proposal He put forth.

Jesus doesn’t go halfsies.

When He asked His disciples to follow Him, His offer was accepted by walking off their jobs, leaving their homes and families to follow Him – in a very literal sense. Fishing nets were dropped in the water. Tax offices were left unmanned. It was no light proposal.

Jesus made the same offer to a rich, young ruler who fell at His feet and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:17-22). He told Jesus he lived a righteous life, keeping all the commandments since he was a boy. You can tell he thought he was really impressing Jesus. But Jesus knows just what we need, or in this case, just what we need to give up. Jesus looked at him and loved him and said, “One thing you lack. Go and sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come follow me.” It then says that the man’s face fell, he went away sad because he had great wealth.

The interaction Jesus had with this man is not about money, it’s about idols – anything that gets in the way of fully following Jesus. Jesus was asking the man to give up the one thing he held tighter than Jesus. For him it was money. What would He ask you to lay down?

We never had the freedom (but we’ve taken the liberty) to “kind of” follow Jesus. That was never part of the deal. He gives no allowance for luke-warm, sorta-gonna-follow-Jesus Christians. Our culture does, but His only offer is full devotion.

When you fully give your life to Christ, you walk in freedom, a supernatural freedom, that very few Christians capitalize on. The irony is that He offers us far more than most of us take advantage of. For example, here are just a few things Christ offers us:

  • Power to do greater things than Jesus did while on this Earth. “Anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things that these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).
  • Ability to overcome every temptation. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  • Authority to battle Satan – and win. “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19).
  • Power to endure suffering in the face of persecution. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:7-8).

We want what He doesn’t offer — half-hearted faithfulness (which is not faithfulness at all) – but we repeatedly leave the offer of living supernaturally on the table. It is staggering to think about in those terms.

The list of powers we walk in seems like something only for the elite, but it’s standard issue for the Christian. I don’t want to get to Heaven, see everything from a true, right, correct perspective and realize I squandered my freedom on being shackled to fear, boundaries or desires I was never meant to be restricted by. I don’t want to see that I had so much more Kingdom-given freedom, but lived like a slave serving the wrong master.

Jesus knew walking the Christian walk (not just talking the talk), would be extremely difficult for us. He told us, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

Fifteen years ago I was at a crossroads. But every new day and every decision brings us to a crossroads: Are we going to hold on to what we think is ours or are we going to give it all to Jesus? And He wants it all. He wants your thoughts, your time, your relationships and your resources. He wants them not as someone who takes, but as someone to gives them back in abundance (John 10:10).

Dear Lord, thank You for reigning me in. I look back on my life and see You faithfully pulling me back to You in the most loving, yet attention-getting ways. Thank you for wooing me back to you even when I thought I would be a better master of myself than You. Lord, You are the giver of life, the creator of all things. Your name is Adonai, master and owner. We repent for living like this world was the main course and You an optional side dish. Lord, You are everything, from beginning to end — both of which were and will be at Your calling. May we daily walk in full devotion to You. Amen.

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