"For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him." Philippians 3:8b-9a
Rubbish . Worthless, unwanted material that is rejected or thrown out; in a round about way, rubbish in Greek is "dung".
I've racked my brain for what things we're supposed to count as rubbish and here's my list so far: money, career, clothes, houses, cars, iPhones, vacations, expensive dinners, jewelry, HDTV, pedicures, a physically fit body, a manicured lawn, family traditions, a boat, baseball scholarship for your kids, a dream job, a new camera, a darker tan, seeing the latest movies, Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli (haha, just saw a commercial for it), Twilight, sorority/fraternity, etc.
My point is that everything on this side of heaven should be counted as rubbish compared to knowing Christ, and if you read on in Philippians 3:10 knowing him isn't just a knowledge of him, it's sharing in his suffering and death. None of the above things (or anything else you can think of) are bad. But more often than not these things just plain stand in the way. They consume our thoughts, our time, our attitude, our daily routine, our plans. And after all that consuming, there's no room for any amount of consuming by the One who matters above all else.
I recently heard David Platt speak at Student Life camp with our youth group. I've heard him speak before so I was expected nothing short of an amazing series of sermons. Although God taught me many things that I pray are permanently on my heart, I want to share with you the most important.
ABC's of Salvation. Ever heard of that? A-Admit, B-Believe, C-Confess. At what point do you become a Christian? When you say that special prayer and invite Jesus into your heart. At least that's how we've been taught. You say the prayer and done deal...ticket to Heaven...and you are back to living the way you always have. Let me tell you that when you become a Christian, it is impossible to live the way you always have. Did you read that right? Impossible. The Holy Spirit resides in you and He imparts in you desires that are not of this world, desires that move you to act in such a way to show you have fruit (Galations 5:22, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). There is no longer any room for the world (Galations 5: 19, sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies). That doesn't mean that you stop doing things of the world forever. It means that when you do things like the world, the Holy Spirit convicts you and you repent.
Repent. A turn from sin and a turn from yourself.
Get out your bible or go here and look at 2 verses, Matthew 4:17 and Luke 13:3. Does Jesus say, "Say a prayer, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"? Contrary to what many of us have heard in our American churches, saying a prayer is not what God requires of us to follow Him. He requires us to repent. To turn away from what we want and run hard after what He wants. To say to him, "My life is yours and I renounce my will, my plan, my desires, my needs, my attitude, my words, my thoughts in exchange for Yours." Don't misunderstand me. Repentance occurs in a prayer to God. A prayer still happens when someone becomes a Christian. My fear is that many people, especially in America, have been led in a prayer without understanding the meaning of repentance or the cost of discipleship and they never experienced a true conversion, yet believe they are saved because they said the prayer.
What does it look like to give up what you want and embrace what God wants? It looks like this...two families whom I know personally that were living a comfortable life reaching for the American dream and God gave them a different desire and they are following in obedience. They leave this month for Papua New Guinea to live among tribes of people who have never heard the Gospel. Read their biographies here and here.
Renounce. I like that word. It means to give up. For a follower of Christ, it means to give up your life. Get your bible again and read Luke 14: 27 and 33, "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple...So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." The term disciple is not limited to the 12 followers of Jesus...it translates in today's terms as any follower of Christ, any Christian. Back in Bible times, if someone was carrying a cross, they were walking to their death. When we carry our cross we are walking to a death to self and a life in Christ. Giving up our lives for the sake of Jesus and His glory.
I think most American Christians are not clear on what the cost of discipleship is. Platt had a missionary on stage with him one night to help bring some reality to what it really means to be a Christian. And to be honest, I don't like the term Christian because to me it gives off a religious vibe, not a relationship vibe. I'd rather say follower of Christ because I feel that in America many people claim to be Christians but only a few are followers of Christ. Anyway...back to the missionary. He told a story of a man he met out in the middle of nowhere Asia that was running really fast. The missionary stopped him and asked him why he was running and he explained that he had just heard the good news and he was going to tell the next tribe of people. Immediate obedience. The Asian man became a follower of Christ and immediately left to go tell someone else. I've been a Christian since I was 5 and I can count on one and a half hands the people I have verbally told about Christ. Sure, I have served others and been an example of Christ, but very little have I actually told someone the Good News. This guy did it immediately, and here I am 20 years after becoming a Christian and I've never run with urgency to tell anyone. The Great Commission (Matthew 28: 19-20) was a call for EVERY follower of Christ, not just people with the gift of evangelism.
So after turning from ourselves, what does God require of you and me? Look at Mark 10: 21, "And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, 'You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.' " This verse can look different in people's lives. God calls some to sell their homes, to sell their cars, to move to a different country, to change careers, to adopt orphans, to preach the gospel in the most awkward situation, etc. Whatever it looks like in your life, it means the same thing. Store up your treasure in heaven, invest your life in the lives of those who are spiritually poor. The call is clear, the call is radical, and the call is for everyone who desires to be a disciple of Christ. Don't get comfortable in the hope that it won't be you that God calls to sell your house or give up your career. God blessed us for a deeper purpose than to live comfortably with a lot of stuff. The point is this, you know that you are supposed to go and sell all that you have and give to the poor. Now, your prayer should be, "What now God?" Earnestly seek His will and how He wants this command to be reality in your life. And while you are seeking, be storing up your treasures in Heaven and keeping your focus on the Kingdom and not on the American Dream (Luke 12: 15).
Reality. How is it reality in our life? I would love to say that we are moving to Africa or we are adopting an orphan. But that's not the case, at least for now. I was recently convicted that God isn't going to call me to go do His work in another country if I won't even go next door and talk to the neighbors. We have lived in the same house for 3 years and have never met our neighbors. There was never a "welcome to the neighborhood" visit or anything, even after we were told by the previous owners of our home that the neighbors were, well, neighborly. They are anything but that. I'm convinced the man next door is a hermit and never leaves his house, never opens the blinds, never turns on the lights. The family on the other side is a couple, probably late 30's with 3 kids, 1 in high school and 2 in middle school. The only reason I know this is because I see what school bus picks them up. They don't get along very well because I hear them often yelling and screaming at each other through brick walls. It's sad and lately God has put the family on both mine and Brent's heart. It's obvious we need to share with them. We first saw the need when a couple of Jehovah's Witness guys were in their house for a long time. I don't know what was said, but it's obvious this family is desperate for some hope. How can I sit here and watch them believe in a false gospel? It was made clear while at camp when Brent and I could not get them off our minds. They need Him. We must tell them. Our prayer is for an opportunity. They are hard to catch...they are home when we are gone and vice versa. They also NEVER come outside. Many times we are afraid to share Christ with others because we are afraid to lose a friendship. In this case, since there is no friendship and I don't even know their names, losing a friendship is not a risk. What I'm afraid of is persecution...which is silly, I know. I'm afraid of this family. I've seen who these kids hang out with...rebellious teens that like to throw trash in our backyard and spray paint graffiti on our fence. I'm afraid they might do more of that and worse if they don't accept what we have to say. Not to mention they have FOUR pit bulls! Ha! Those dogs terrify me! What we need is a relationship with these neighbors. So we are praying for opportunity for a relationship and a chance to share. We covet your prayers.
Remember that missionary that was telling stories with Platt? He also shared a story with us about a lost man he struck up a conversation with while in Asia. The missionary asked him a question, "What do you think happens after this life?" and the man answered,"No one has come to tell us that yet." Wow. There are thousands of people groups that have never heard the name of Jesus and have no clue about the real hope for eternal life. What that man said just pierced my heart...like he was just waiting for someone to tell him, as if he was saying, "Just tell me the truth and I'll believe." My heart is forever changed for the nations.
I apologize if this post is all over the place because I know it is. I'm telling you, Platt is an anointed speaker. God gives him such a simple message and he uses such simple words, but what he has to say is so profound and absolutely true. I don't say any of this to make you feel judged or condemned by me, but I do hope that the Holy Spirit shows us where we need to change and what we need to renounce. My honest desire is to see a generation of people who truly seek His face and live the way He requires, regardless of how crazy it seems.
So if you are a follower of Christ here is a verse for you, "I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here." John 14:31. Get busy with what we should have been doing the moment we were saved from the pit of hell.
If you are not a follower of Christ or realize that you have been an "American Christian" instead of a disciple of Christ, get on your knees and seek repentance. Start living radically for Him and turn from yourself. There is nothing compared to the greatness of knowing the Lord.
I haven't read Platt's book, Radical, but I want to. Then I'll probably have a lot more to say on this topic!