Everything in Moderation…or…Giving It All?
As we have mentioned before, our church is in a series based on the Kyle Idleman book, “Not a Fan.” This has been a powerful and convicting series, even for the pastoral staff. We have been seeking God’s will each week, planning the songs, planning the message, watching the videos and (for me) helping to teach the teen’s small group.
At the end of last Wednesday’s youth group, a question came up – we were studying Luke 9:23 and the end of Luke 9:
57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”
59 He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”
The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”
60 But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”
61 Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”
62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
These are strong words from the mouth of Jesus. Our pastor will be dealing with this passage on Sunday. I haven’t seen the notes, so I may or may not cover the same territory – but God has really been speaking to me about these verses. In today’s culture these verses seem harsh.
On Sunday we were learning about how the early disciples translated the concept of Elijah to a Greek world that knew nothing of Elijah. The prophet Elijah was a man of God – a man of passion. Yes, it also seems he was prone to large mood swings, but he was a man who believed in God and God in return used Elijah in a powerful way. James records “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (5:16b) He then goes on to mention Elijah specifically as a man of prayer.
Like I said, Elijah was a man of great passion. He was willing to stand up to Israel’s wicked king Ahab and against the 450 prophets of Baal and the 450 prophets of Asherah. Elijah challenged these prophets to a battle of the gods. The god who answered with fire, was the true God. Baal’s prophets went on and on and on and yet no fire fell. Then Elijah rebuilt the altar – dug a trench around it – poured water on the altar and the trench – drenching it completely. Elijah starts playing and before he even says “Amen,” God sends the fire down – it consumes everything – the wood, the sacrifice, the water and the altar. The people bow down and declare “The Lord is God.” Elijah kills the prophets of Baal and then goes to pray. He prays seven times – SEVEN times – the seventh time his servant tells him, “I see the cloud the size of a human hand.” At that Elijah tells Ahab, “Get going the Lord is sending a mighty rain.” Elijah runs ahead of the chariots and according to the video Sunday – ran 20 miles to Jezreel. That’s pretty amazing.
So how do you describe this passion? The early disciples described it in what are now to me some very familiar ways – running. As many of you know, I am getting ready to run my second half-marathon this coming Saturday. I have been training since early August for this race. This Saturday, I will race. Racing is different than training. Racing requires giving it all you got. When I get to the end of the race on Saturday, I don’t want to have anything left. I want to give it all — everything.
So many times as Christians, it seems like we don’t operate in that vein. Listen to the words of the writer of Hebrews: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
The Greeks and the Romans would have been very familiar with this concept of running. They were, afterall, the founders of the Olympic games. This is how they translated the passion of Elijah to the Greco/Roman culture. The write of Hebrews talks about the great cloud of witnesses and we are to run. Paul says we run to obtain an eternal prize. He says that we need to run to win! It’s worth every effort you make.
Let’s see if I can try to pull this all together and make some sense of all of this. You can tell this has been on my heart, because this is one of my longer posts.
Some people look at Jesus’ words in Luke 9 – especially verse 23 and say that these are radical words. I would agree, especially in our American culture. In our culture, we are all about comfort and it seems – to me at least — that American Christianity is all about comfort – it’s all about convenience – it’s all about “what’s in it for me.”
Jesus speaks to these three men – and the gist of his words is this: “You need to be ready to be a follower of Jesus – whoever He calls – whenever He calls – whatever he calls us to do.
In the “Not a Fan” videos, several times the words “everything in moderation” are used – as if that’s how we are supposed to operate in God’s economy – in God’s culture. I don’t know that I can find that in scripture. In fact, the gist of “everything in moderation” can actually be found on the temple of Apollo at Delphi – a pagan/Greek temple. So it really is the opposite of what Christ calls His followers to do.
In Philippians 2, Paul records the words to one of the earliest church hymns:
6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
In verses 6-8, I don’t see anything that looks like everything in moderation. Jesus Christ came to earth and gave everything He had to save us. He took on the position of a slave – He gave up his divine privileges – He died a criminal’s death — to save us. He didn’t just save us to give us a ticket to heaven. It’s more than fire insurance. He calls us to be his disciples – he calls us to be his followers — he calls us to go and make disciples – he calls us to go and make more Jesus followers. That’s the Great Commission – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teach these new disciples everything that I have taught you.
This is not easy believism – this is not a life of works – this is a life of following Jesus and doing what He has called us to do. Let me finish with this powerful verse from James 1:27:
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
So are you an everything in moderation believer or are you giving Jesus all? Are you a Fully.Committed.Follower?