A few weeks ago, Pastor Jacob preached a sermon entitled “Jesus’ Invitation”. He compiled some of his key thoughts into this blog post. You can find the video recording of the original teaching here.
Each of us exists in a particular cultural context. If we are not attentive to that context, we will generally drift into a type of “cruise-control” or “default” mode, passively floating along with the common popular values, priorities, and customs of the culture we are immersed in – like fish caught in the current of a river.
What river are we swimming in? What is the cultural context we are immersed in? And what would it mean for us to move from passively floating along to living intentionally?
We are immersed in a culture that idolizes “success”. Success is generally defined as wealth, fame, and/or power — more commonly called “security” (financial, relational, political) today.
These idols are held securely in place by the television shows and movies we binge-watch on Hulu, Netflix, 24 hour news, talk-radio, and social media. We are characterized by angry and polarized politics, cynical commerce, cut-throat competition, and vicious “one-upmanship” on social media. Floating down these cultural currents, we become proficient at venting all of our frustrations publicly. We shove our opinions down each other’s throats, mask our real hurts and pains, tout cliches, and bully people who we think are wrong. We sink into these emotionally-driven, highly reactive, non-reflective, chaotic and busy lives – we remain immature and shallow. Each of us was created to matter and we were given an eternal purpose. But if we passively exist to idolize security we will live superficially, missing true meaning and fulfillment.
“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primarily spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people or gifted people, but for deep people.” – Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline)
In general, the church in America has not offered much of an alternative. The church has been tempted to adopt the same idols of success and security, varnishing them with a “Jesus-veneer.” “If you accept Jesus, you’ll get ______.” We have made Jesus a means to an end. We still worship at the altar of success and security, but Jesus becomes the butler who serves us in that pursuit. There’s nothing inherently wrong with success and security. The problem is when they become our idol.
“Christianity can only succeed as a guide for current humanity [If it takes] the need for human transformation as seriously as do modern revolutionary movements.” – Dallas Willard (The Spirit of the Disciplines)
This is the task of the church today: we must stop passively drifting along (as if on cruise-control) through the cultural current that values success and security above all else. We must stop asking the question “What do I need to do to attain success and security?” This question leads us to have superficial lives that are missing true meaning and fulfillment. We must begin to ask a different question…“Who am I becoming?”
This is the Jesus-Revolution that humanity is desperate for: The revolution of the heart, first and foremost.
Before we can decide what we are going to do, we must determine who are we becoming, because what we do is determined by who we are. This is how we begin to live intentionally and move beyond the superficiality our culture is drifting in. This is how we begin to live lives of depth, meaning, fulfillment, and purpose. This is the life Jesus calls us to live when He extends His personal invitation to each of us: “Follow me and I will make you become…” (Mark 1:17)
So my question to you is this: “Who are you becoming?”
Everyone becomes someone – most people become that person unintentionally. Few become the person they are (and will be) on purpose.
Are you the exact same person you were 5 years ago ( or 10, 20 years ago)? You will not be the exact same person 1 year from now (5 years, 10 years…) as you are today. This is the dirty little secret about “change.” Whether you like it or not, whether you mean to or not, whether you love it or dread it, you are changing every single day. The question is “Who are you becoming?” and will you become that person intentionally?
Everything you see, hear, touch, smell, and taste is having an impact on you. Every decision you make, every word you speak, every person you encounter is impacting you in some way, even if only a tiny bit. Everything that happens to you and how you choose to respond to it (whether it be spilled coffee, 5:00 traffic, a doctor’s diagnosis, or your child’s bad attitude) is affecting you at a fundamental level. All of the opinions and beliefs and attitudes you maintain are influencing the person you are becoming.
Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
What you allow to come into your heart in abundance is affecting the quality of life you are experiencing and the kind of person you are becoming.
Luke 6:45 (ESV) “… out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
One of the most important questions we can keep in front of us is “What am I allowing to come into my heart in abundance?” Jesus’ invitation is to “follow me” (not just “accept me” or “believe in me”). In following Jesus every day, He is present (as our Shepherd) to help us filter all of the things trying to get into our hearts. So are we living passively, on cruise-control, allowing all of the cultural voices to dictate the person we are becoming? Or are we intentionally focusing our lives on following Jesus and allowing Him to transform us?
This describes Paul’s desperate cry as an Apostle to the church in Galatia: Galatians 4:19 “…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”
This should once again be the desperate cry of the church and the labor of pastors and leaders: for Christ to be formed in us. This is sometimes called “spiritual formation”. It’s what we really mean when we use the word “discipleship.” This is Jesus’ call to follow Him and the process of Him making us “become”. Following Jesus is nothing short of a renovation of the heart. Jesus goes in to the very fabric of our lives and transforms it into His very own character.
Paul tells us in Romans that this is the intended destiny of all who believe upon Jesus: Romans 8:29 “…whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed into the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
This is the whole point of the Christian faith, the essence of Jesus’ invitation: That our lives may be shaped by Christ to look like Christ, to actually be His life living through us.
This is what pastor Duane has been sharing in his Process of Change series: 2 Corinthians 3:18 “…beholding the Glory of the Lord, are being transformed in the same image from the degree of glory to another…”
Let’s ask ourselves these questions:
“Which of the environments I engage in are having the greatest impact on the person I am becoming?”
“Which environments am I subjecting myself to and what are they putting into my heart in abundance?”
Social media, news, entertainment, politics, talk-radio, music, work, family, relationships, recreation…
“Which environments am I engaging in that enable me to behold the Glory of the Lord revealed in the face of Jesus?”
“Will I accept Jesus’ Invitation to follow Him and allow Him to shape me into the person He intends for me to become?”
Jesus’ invitation is laid before us everyday. “Who are you becoming?” Will that person be maturing into Christ-likeness? Or will that person become a passive follower of cultural idols? Respond today to Jesus’ invitation: “Follow me, and I will make you to become like me.”