It’s happened at some point to all of us who’ve grown up in church. We’re listening to someone speak… then it happens…. he starts to wrap up his message by talking about a ‘void’ in our lives (some cheesily refer to it as a ‘God-shaped hole’). He talks about a feeling or sense that everyone has who has not accepted Jesus as Savior; a feeling that something is missing from life, a void that can only be filled by God. The speaker pleads with those in attendance to add God to their lives; they will be much happier and spend eternity in heaven.
It’s a well-meaning illustration, but there’s only one problem with it…
It’s not true.
If my food is bland (ahem, mashed potatoes), I can add a little salt and make it taste better. But, it is still the same food. If my life is a wreck, I can add God’s principles and live better. But, I am still the same unchanged wreck.
At Legacy Christian Church, we’ve been hearing some remarkable stories of people in our church whose lives were transformed through Jesus. We’ve called this “Before & After.” Every week, we’ve heard of drastic changes. We’ve also reviewed the impact of Jesus’ followers on those around them. Zacchaeus gave money away, Paul went from critic to champion, the original disciples launched a multicultural movement that broke with religious tradition, and the Samaritan Woman changed an entire town in two days.
What would compel a person to live below his means in our modern society and give away the excess? Yet, I have friends who have given away all they have in order to help people they’ve never met. Some of my friends have given up their vacation in order to bring hope to orphans in the third world. They’ve travelled (illegally) to the tribal regions of Afghanistan (as America was bombing) to bring fresh water and medical care. Others have brought troubled/abandoned children into their homes, changing their entire family dynamic.
What is the evidence of your ‘impact’ with Jesus?
It should be submission and transformation.
“…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God – which is true worship. And do not be conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” –Romans 12:1-2
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” –Proverbs 3:5-6
Saying that Jesus is ‘Lord’ and continuing to live a life that is virtually indistinguishable from before is simply not salvation… and it is not becoming a Christian/follower of Jesus. It is not (as David Platt recently wrote in ‘Follow Me’) speaking some mystical formula or saying certain words to which God responds. It is obedience and submission to His purpose. Jesus directly addressed the mentality of accepting Him in word and not deed.
“If you continue in my word [ways], then you are truly my disciples.” –John 8:31
“Not every one who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.” –Matthew 7:21
Calling Jesus ‘Lord’ (or calling yourself a Christian), but not living as if He rules your life is lying to yourself. It’s taking God’s name in vain. His will must be above your own (and the president of whatever nation in which you live) to be Lord. If we do this, we are submitting to the notion that our lives, money, business… our ‘everything’ belongs to Him. It’s a radical point of view in an instant gratification society that is all about ‘me’ and ‘my.’ Perhaps that is why he uses the phrase ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world.’ It is impossible to do so and fully submit to Christ.
The idea that there is a void in everyone’s life that can only be filled with God may be a good analogy to explain an emotional feeling, but it promulgates a dangerous theology. We see nowhere in Jesus’ teachings that He offers a Christian version of Western Civilization. He called for the abandonment of all the stuff this world has to offer in exchange for the greater purpose of God.
Jesus told stories as analogies to explain the kingdom of God. He told one story that explains the change that takes place in the person who truly seeks and finds God… and the willingness of that person to give up everything else in order to pursue it.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” –Matthew 13:44-46
So, here’s the good news… Jesus’ invitation to follow Him extends to everyone.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind.”
It doesn’t matter your race. It doesn’t matter if you’re poor, illegal, gay, rich, depressed, addicted, divorced, perfect, critical, or weird… the invitation EVEN extends to church people.
God doesn’t require that we transform ourselves THEN come to Him (that would be a different religion altogether).
The key to remember is that we are FOLLOWING Him… not adding Him to our lives.
He CONSUMES us… he doesn’t just fill a void.