Your Mission, if You Choose to Accept it?
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.
-Newspaper advertisement for Shackleton’s expedition 1912.
Earnest Shackleton was an explorer. He sought to be the first man to cross Antarctica back when this was a big deal. That journey was incredibly hard in hostile conditions. There would be danger surrounding his team from the moment they set out. He needed men with a clear vision of the challenges as a result. For the mission to be successful, though, more than just a grasp of the intense opposition expected was required. They also had to be able to envision the rewards that came with success. Glory awaited the willing, the brave and the faithful. They just had to be okay with losing their lives in the name of great adventure and glory.
What does it Mean to be a Living Sacrifice?
Shackleton’s simple three line solicitation sums up God’s call on your life, Christian. It much like God’s offer of employment to each follower of Jesus. The fallen world is just as hostile as the icy winds of the arctic. Your mission can seem just as impossible as crossing a frozen wasteland. You may suffer loss in the process. But your entire worldview can change if understand the possibilities. It is a summons to glorious journey. The rewards involved are enormous and eternal. You can be part of literally changing the world. God Himself is the One handing out the honors. All it takes is the willingness to trust in God’s vision and lay down your life. Sound like an impossible mission? It is when you try to do it in your own strength. Yet, in Christ, nothing is impossible.
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Which is your choice? Will you answer God’s call?
Is Your Gospel Worth Dying for?
This is God’s calling on me, Tom, the founder of Pastor Unlikely. To gather a team willing to face down any challenge to claim the life of excitement and joy Jesus offers. It is to also help you see why choosing this narrow and harder way is the only reasonable answer in this hostile world. God did not call you out of the world to not use you mightily. It may just take a little danger to get there.
The Rewards are Many
Do you want more joy in your life?
Do you want more peace?
Do you want to know Jesus better?
Are you open to challenging your own history, expectations, and comfort level?
Are you willing to dig deep into your life and compare it with the Bible?
These are the inquiries that fuel real growth in Jesus. This is how you start the mission you are called to by God. Jesus laid it out simply, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.” This not an easy thing to do at all, much less every day. Yet, it is our Mission plan from Jesus. You are called to be a disciple and make disciples. This is how you do it.
I want to help you first identify why you are not where you want to be in Christ. These are usually the things you need to deny or affix to your cross. I still remember the pain of living in a daily state of pain in Jesus. I wanted to be so much more of a disciple. I wanted to live for Christ. Yet, I kept getting stuck and it was making me frustrated and bitter. God showed me that Jesus was not the problem. It was just me. I wanted to be a disciple but I did not want to follow. Where is your issue? I want to help you get where you want to be in Jesus.
Simple, right? Sound good? Even if it takes your life as you picture it nailed to the cross?
Stop and think about what denying yourself means. It should make you feel a bit uncomfortable. Following Jesus to the Cross means not following everything else. It involves examining your life to see if you serve anyone or anything other than Jesus – including yourself. The next step is then nailing those things to your metaphorical cross. This is a death sentence for these emotional or spiritual attachments. It requires the hugely challenging work of tearing down idols in your own life. Still with me?
What Do You Really Want from Jesus?
This is clearly a intensely challenging mission. The world hates every part of it. Satan despises those who let go of the sins and weights of the world. He will send waves of deception and opposition at you to try to keep you chained to the grindstone. Breaking these bonds leads to unspeakable glory, but it will take saying “No” to the person you love the most – YOU.
Yes, you must be denied if Christ is to reign in you.
Why am I NOT Growing in Christ? A Hard Hitting Answer
The Weapons Available
The strongest weapon in your arsenal to complete you mission is your sword, the Bible. Yet, many Christians have only vague knowledge of it. That is like showing up for a duel unarmed with no idea where you left your weapon. This is not how you are meant to roll as a Christian.
You are called to be like the church of Berea from the Bible. The Berean Christians sat and listened to the Apostle Paul when he came to town. They had their Bibles in their laps as he spoke to them. They checked each of Paul’s words and his message against the Scriptures while he spoke. The Word of God was used to test and see if they should accept or reject a man’s message. This seems reasonable, right? You may be familiar with the call to be a Berean in church. It generally is used to encourage you to read your Bible. Yet, much more was involved.
The Bereans were ready to use the Bible as a weapon as intended. They knew it was their sword there to protect themselves against potentially bad messages. They were ready to use it to slice and dice any teaching from any man or woman that did not agree with God’s Word. This included the Apostle Paul. Fighting off false teachers, man centered speeches, and fake prophets is supposed to be a big part of your mission.
Do you remember Paul’s reaction? These “regular” folks are skeptical of an Apostle of God chosen by Jesus Himself until he proves the message. Man’s desire for hierarchy and pride recoils at the idea. Yet, Paul was not offended in the least bit. He did not call them unloving or disrespectful. There was no shame. There was no condemnation. In fact, Paul applauded them for making sure he was working for God. God made sure this commendation made it into the Bible. Testing all spirits and claims against the perfect Word of God is your job. It is putting your faith in God and not any man. You belong to God and not any person or system.
Are you testing everything against the Word? I know I wasn’t doing so in the past and I paid for it.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.
God’s sword set me free as a Christian. It cut away the bonds created by tradition, peer pressure and expectations. It liberated me from a dry and pained Christian life lived in the flesh. Following Jesus alone and without apology is your dangerous calling as a servant of God. It also can feel like swimming upstream, at times.
I am a lawyer called to be a pastor. I also have a college degree in history. I spent many years evaluating historical and legal evidence before God saved me. I was extensively trained to test people’s stories against the proof to see if they held up to scrutiny. I cross examined thousands of witnesses in court testing them to see if their stories held up. Yet, I initially left this skill behind when I arrived in church. I thought it was disrespectful. It seemed to show a lack of faith. The unspoken pressure was to leave your Bible at home and never question the leader.
I had no idea what to expect when I walked into a service. I was so excited to be with Jesus that I accepted everything as from the Lord. I also began watching Christian TV and reading Christian books encouraged by this same culture. They seemed to say the right things. Work harder, try harder, be nicer, and hopefully through your example of change people will see Jesus and want to change too. Makes sense, right?
Peter’s Compromise Leads Him Away from Jesus – Sunday Sermon
Yet, in time, it became obvious I was stuck. I was highly motivated but miserable. I was in crowds of thousands of Christians but intensely lonely. I heard many sermons and read all their books but did not mature in the faith. I said I knew Jesus and went to church and small group each week but did not know the Bible any better after years then the day I arrived. I knew what the author of the hottest new spiritual theorist said but not the words of Jesus. This was the worst part. I spent many hours in church but did not know God any better after years as a Christian, really.
I was just one of the people who showed up and sat in the seat before returning to my life of quiet desperation.
God’s Flashing Warning Lights
This is when my legal training started throwing up caution flags. A large part of examining legal or historical evidence is seeing where things just don’t add up. It is spotting the holes in the narratives. It is like when a witness seems credible but claims 2 plus 2 equals 4.1. It may feel right and not that far off but it will never make it any less false. Then once you start pulling at the thread presented, the entire story comes unraveled.
Warning bells had sounded as I read the books, heard the messages, and took in the examples. I wondered why the Bible seemed to say one thing and yet that was never mentioned. My brain naturally cross examined and found gaping holes. My life was another thing that did not line up. If this was the way to a contented life in Jesus, why was I miserable?
Was I allowed to question these things? Do you feel you are?
I thought I wasn’t allowed to so. I, therefore, kept going…and being miserable. The cognitive dissonance made it the problems the worse.
Jesus Calls You to Fight for Him
Then came the day I decided not to fit in. I reviewed my own life against the Word. I decided to allow myself to see the holes in my own story. I claimed I was servant of Jesus, so why not figure out whether this was true. Why was I so afraid of man? My answer seriously stung:
I testified I loved Jesus but valued fitting in more. I said I was free in Christ but I chose suffering in bondage. The Word of God said I can’t be a servant of God if I was still trying to please man. I was doing just that. It was a simple either/or proposition. Either please God or please man. There is no in between.
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Do you want to know the last straw? It was a 5:00 am wake up. This may seem silly, now, but it was when things all came together and I was done.
There was a “discipleship group” offered to working men like me that I wanted to attend. It required me to get up at 5 am to get there. This is not a big deal in itself. It was for me at the time. I was working very long hours. I also had 3 kids, one a newborn baby. I was tired. But I also wanted to go and be discipled. I was really ready to learn about the Lord. God worked in me and showed me I desperately needed more of Him . I wanted to learn about God and all the good stuff. I was fired up by God for God. So I got up, drove a good distance, and got there, eager to hear what the Lord had for me.
What did I hear?
Do better. Try harder. Be nicer. Bare down and be strong. Have courage and don’t sin.
What I did not hear?
The Bible. Anything about Jesus. Anything to give me a reason why and how. The entire thing was like a motivational seminar.
Have you been here?
I was stunned. I was upset. I was officially done. I got up at 5 am wanting to hear about Jesus and they gave a corporate training seminar. I was already trying with all that I had and it wasn’t working. Me trying until I was exhausted was exactly the issue. No one can fix the spiritual with positive thinking and willpower.
That is not how this should work! Where was Jesus? It made no sense!
Are You Doing God’s Will or Yours?
This was my tipping point. I knew Jesus called me to a radical life in Him. I read enough of Acts to see there could be more. That moment as I stared a a huge screen projecting the the feel good gospel, I determined like Joshua:
As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
I chose that day to seek Jesus first among all other things. I would be a Berean as Paul meant. My Christian life was not working I would cross examine things for the first time. I would wield the Sword and check it all against the perfect Word of God. Can you guess what happened? I am here writing, right?
What I found was wonderful. Jesus was just as shocked by the lack of Him in my life as I was. He still loved me despite that. He was just waiting for me to listen. Jesus’ version of the Christian life was so much different than what I was being told. It was so much better. Rest rather than toil. Joy in place of frustration. The Bible in place of peppy speeches. The Holy Spirit in place of any person to direct my life.
I choose to this day to never settle for anything less than Jesus…in everything. I am clearly imperfect and don’t claim to be otherwise. I believe in the authority of the church. I love God’s people with all my heart. But I refuse to let anything but the Bible set out the standard for my family, my life, and our church.
Who cares what the crowd is doing! As for me and house, we follow the Lord!
Will you join us?
A Battle to Fight
“Though none goes with me, still I follow”
I chose Jesus alone and without apology. How about you? Will you grab onto God’s mission even if it means you do it alone? Do you refuse to accept the norm of any culture – in the church or outside of it – without judging it against Jesus?
If you do, you will not fit certain molds of today. You will not do what everyone else is doing. But you will follow Jesus. You will live, preach, learn, and fellowship as He set out…regardless of what anyone else says. It will be a battle. The very world you live in is hostile to the people of God. This not your home and the powers and principalities of the air are working against God’s church. But just think about the rewards! Honor from God. Peace from God. Joy from God. The love of God. Crowns in heaven reserved for you. Comfort from God. Seeing God save people headed to destruction. Do you see the possibilities? All it takes is laying down your life before the One who loves you and saved you. It is in way better hand with Him anyway!
I seek to question everything we do as Christians for one reason: to make sure we are following Jesus. Wherever He leads I want to be too!
I want to make clear my promises to you right from the start.
Consider this your Reader Bill of Rights. It is at the heart of what I do here and in the church I pastor, Calvary Catonsville. Testing Our Heart for Jesus
- I care about you, your family, and your walk with Jesus. God loves you and so do I. I may not know you personally, but you are a beloved creation of God. I want you to be saved. I pray for you to grow in Christ. This is why I write and share here.
- I will always tell you the truth and urge you to check anything I say against the Bible. You deserve better than someone avoiding issues to spare feelings. That is not real Christian love. Avoidance and unquestioned acceptance of things Christ never intended are big reasons people don’t thrive in Jesus.
- I seek to be truthful in love. There is no use in joining the chorus of mockers in the world. That is not God’s way. I will never seek to offend you with my opinion or attitude.
- My goal is to point you to Jesus, always Him. I don’t want to inflate me, your, my church or any denomination. Jesus matters. I am not an influencer. I am not recruiting you. I don’t want anything other than you agreeing Jesus is glorious and following Him. I want you to know Him as wonderful as He truly is. I am that beggar who found bread who is telling other beggars where to be fed. I want you to know the One who saved me.
- Nothing is off limits here. Jesus has the answer to even the hardest questions. God is no respecter of persons, their organizations, or culture. This means we can discuss even the hardest issues here seeking truth, in love, pointing to Jesus, and without shame.
The mission is yours to accept or reject. What is your choice?