Christianity is simple to understand, but being a Christian is not that easy. That is because of some assumptions we make. Some people think: “I see that Christianity might be just the thing for people who have had collapses in their lives. But, what if I don’t fail in my career and what if I have a great family?” Or oppositely, we think that when we follow God’s simple plan for salvation and become a Christian, all of our worldly pain, suffering, and hardship will miraculously disappear. In fact, some people believe that when they have hurts, habits and hangups in their life, something is obviously not right with their relationship with God.
Scripture gives us a different viewpoint. Jesus indicates that “but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14). And “…for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13). Christianity requires self-sacrifice and self-denial. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”(Matt. 16:24); if that isn’t hard, I don’t know what is. Jesus promised not a life free of challenges and difficulties, but a life of persecution. “Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13).
Let’s look at the subject in a little more detail.
In Matthew 19: 16-22, Jesus meets with a rich young man. The rich, young man viewed Jesus as a “Teacher” and he viewed obtaining eternal life as a set process of accomplishments. When he asked Jesus, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus replied back to him if he wanted to “enter life” to obey the 10 commandments. The rich man said he had kept them all, saying, What do I still lack?”
Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor,and you will have treasure in heaven.Then come, follow me.” Of course we know he couldn’t do it. Jesus gave him a thing to put on his list that He knew the man couldn’t do.
The man is like most of us, maybe with the exception of the rich part. We want a “to do” list, we want to know what’s expected of us, we want to do it ourselves. I find it interesting that the young man felt he had kept all the commandments and still felt he lacked something. And, Jesus answered him where his heart was. If you want to be perfect and then told him to do something he knew the man couldn’t do.
The only thing he told the man and the disciples was to follow me. Not rules, not a check list, but “follow me.”
At some point in most lives, we are confronted with the fact that we are not the persons we know we should be. Almost always our response is to “turn over a new leaf” and try harder to live according to our principles. That ultimately will not change us. Christians turn over everything to God.
C.S. Lewis wrote “”The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self–all your wishes and precautions–to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call “ourselves,” to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be “good.” We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way–centered on money or pleasure or ambition–and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do.”
Christians can’t ‘give it all to Christ’, but we can give Him permission to take it. We don’t even know how to begin to offer anything but a heart that has “issues.” We cannot do anything apart from Him, but we can let Him do it. Jesus doesn’t expect us to change ourselves or hate ourselves when we can’t. He wants us, honest in our communication with Him, trusting in His plan to perfect us and not thinking we need to do it ourselves. There is freedom in realizing we have limits. There is beauty in learning how to enter into His presence, focusing on Him and turning our hearts over to Him and being patient with it all.
I cannot give thought to anything other than He is in me, with me, loves me, fixes me, provides for me, approves of me, died for me, prepared a place for me and gives me hope. I will praise Him and thank Him no matter what I “feel”.
And hopefully when He is done with me, while it will not be easy, I will be a disciple.