By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
It is impossible to truly think about Christianity without thinking about Christ, after all he is the foundation of it all. As I have thought about Christianity lately and what it looks like, I have begun to wonder how the message that Jesus preached aligns with the Christianity that we profess today. Does it in any way resemble what Jesus modeled for us?
If we really do a self-examination with Scripture as the judge, I believe we may realize that we are coming up short. There simply are some hard truths about Christianity that have either lost their popularity or, to be honest, we have forgotten them or chosen to ignore them. For this reason, I want to remind you of some of these hard truths about Christianity and pray that you and I will never forget them.
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1. Christianity Is about Surrender
The Christian life is all about surrender. How does your Christian journey begin? It begins with surrender. Before you can come to Christ you must acknowledge or surrender to the reality that you are a sinner and the way you have been going is just not right. From that place of surrender, repentance flows.
However, surrender doesn’t stop at salvation. It continues all throughout your Christian life. One of the biggest things we must surrender in this Christian walk is our will. Do you remember how Jesus taught us to pray?
“…your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
If you are not willing to surrender your will to his, then you cannot do or become what he wants you to become. Sadly, in some circles, we have created a brand of Christianity that has made it about what we want and not what God wants. I am going to take it a step further. The reason we reject God’s will in pursuit of our own is because we believe our will is better. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we are going to really live this Christian life the way Jesus intended it, then we must be willing to surrender to his will and trust and believe that is what is best for our lives. When we do that, then we can pray like Jesus prayed:
“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39).
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2. Christianity Is about Sacrifice
“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me’” (Luke 9:23).
If I am reading this correctly, Jesus is saying if you want to follow him it is going to cost you something. If you are going to be his disciple, it requires sacrifice. To deny yourself means that you willingly give up your rights because you understand the power of taking up the cross.
In a world where everyone is declaring what they have rights to, how about the right to carry the cross of Christ? There is great honor in God’s eyes in taking up your cross, however for many they have lost the appetite to do this. Just to be clear, taking up your cross isn’t a recommendation – it is a requirement if you are going to be his disciple. As always, Jesus didn’t just ask us to take up our cross, he took up his and led by example. He didn’t hold onto his rights, he sacrificed them in obedience to the will of God. Let me remind you of what Paul said about Jesus:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8).
Being a Christian is going to require sacrifice. This means you won’t get everything you want; you can’t say everything you want to say, and it may cost you something. However, what you will discover is what you gain is far more than you ever have to give up.
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).
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3. Christianity Is about Suffering
If you ever want to clear out a church, preach about suffering. This is not a very popular topic, but it is part of the experience as a believer. Jesus said in John 15:
“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. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also” (John 15:18-20).
If no one has told you this, let me be the first. When you stand for Jesus, some people may not like you or agree with you. However, standing for Jesus is not done with anger, arrogance, or defiance – it is done with humility and compassion. I have seen images of Christians revolting against something they didn’t like as if they were leading an uprising or a revolution. May I ask, when did you ever see Jesus respond in that manner? Do you remember what happened when they came to arrest Jesus? One of the disciples drew their sword and cut off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest. Here is what Jesus said.
“’Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’” (Matthew 26:52-54).
In the moment where Jesus was about to face his greatest persecution, when he was going to be whipped, mocked, beaten, and ultimately hung on a cross, he didn’t respond with anger and judgment; it was quite the opposite. In Luke’s account of the story Jesus even healed the ear of the servant. That is true love and compassion in action.
Even when he was hanging on the cross, think about how he responded to the ones who had put him up there; he cried out Father forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). Here is the one who had the power, the right, and the authority to exercise judgment, but instead he responded with mercy. What great strength Jesus showed in that moment of great suffering. You must remember that enduring suffering does not mean you are a pushover, or not a fighter; it means that you understand the greater purpose that God has called you to. Instead of rejecting the hardship, endure it because it is part of the journey.
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).
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4. Christianity Is about Service
There are so many ways a person can serve, and when we think about serving, many times we connect it with serving in church. However, there is one aspect of service I want to highlight here – serving others. Consider these two verses:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
I want to summarize for you what Paul is saying. You matter, but you should never consider your interests and disregard the interests of those around you. When you make your decisions, don’t just think how it affects you individually, think about how it affects those around you as well.
This has been lost in the “me first” generation we live in, and sadly some who profess Christ seem to be leading the “me first” charge. Imagine how society would change if those who are in Christ would simply do this one thing? It would change what we do, when we do it, and how we do it because we wouldn’t just be looking out for our own interests. I know this may not always be popular or even easy, but if we are honest this is the truth of what the Christian life is all about.
Articles like these are not easy to write because it requires self-examination and there is a possibility some may not like what was written. I get it. However, I know that God is looking for men and women who will stand and represent Christianity and model it with their lives the way Jesus did. I am up for the challenge, and I pray that you would be willing to do the same.
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