When I was a teen, we used to sing a Degarmo and Key song called, “Casual Christian”. The chorus went, “I don’t want to be a casual Christian. I don’t want to live, I don’t want to live a lukewarm life. ‘Cause I want to light up the night, with an everlasting light. I don’t want to live a casual Christian life.” Those words always resonated with me. As we would sing it, I would make it my prayer to give God my all. I didn’t want to be someone who went to church on Sunday, and lived like I wanted Monday through Saturday. I understood that it wasn’t by works that I was saved, but I didn’t want to live a life full of sin so that grace would abound. I wasn’t always sure what a casual Christian was, but that’s what I pictured in my head.
As I was reading the book of Ruth, I began to look at both Ruth and her sister in law Orpah. Naomi, who had been living in Moab because of a famine, decided to return to Israel after her husband and two sons had died. She and her two daughters in law were packed up when Naomi decided to tell them to stay. They all cried and both women decided to go with Naomi, but Naomi made one more plea. Orpah agreed to go back to her family, but Ruth insisted on going to Israel. In Ruth 1:16 she famously replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (NLT). As I read that, I started to wonder if these two daughters in law represented a sold out Christian and a casual Christian.
Both wanted to go with Naomi, but one was enticed to stay where she was comfortable and felt at home. The other was willing to change everything about her life with an uncertain future. We don’t hear anymore out of Orpah, and we learn later that Ruth’s great grandson is King David. I believe God is calling us to live out our faith like Ruth. It’s time for us to make Him the number one priority in our life to the point we forsake all other things. We must learn to take up our cross daily, nail our own way of living to it and follow wherever He leads. If we’re going to turn this world upside down with the Gospel the way the apostles did, we’re going to have to quit being casual Christians. To make an impact, we must be totally and completely sold out to Him in how we live, love and act seven days a week. Jesus can’t just be our priority on Sunday.
Do you know someone who says they’ll do something, but when it comes down to it, they rarely do? Maybe their intentions are good, but once they see what it’ll cost them in time, labor or money they back out. All of us at some point have been guilty of promising to do something and then failed to follow through. That’s because lip service is easy. Our mouths often write checks they can’t cash. The problem is that we do that to God more than anyone.
Being a Christian is more than the initial prayer we prayed at salvation. We have to shed our old life because Christ has given us a new life. We go from having self led lives to Spirit led lives. In Romans 12:1, Paul wrote, “So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated and pleasing to Him. This is the true worship that you should offer” (GNT).
God is asking us to sacrifice ourselves as worship to Him meaning that we should give Him our whole life. It’s very costly to be a follower of Christ. I’m reminded of David when he wanted to offer s sacrifice to God at Araunah’s threshing floor. David offered to buy it in 2 Samuel 24, but Araunah offered it to David for free as well as the wood and the oxen for the sacrifice. In verse 24 David replied, “I will not offer the Lord my God sacrifices that have cost me nothing.” He understood that a sacrifice to God should be costly.
It cost us nothing to say words with our mouths, but it cost us everything to offer our lives as sacrifices. I once heard someone say that the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar. It’s time each of us started offering God more than lip service and offered Him ourselves. If we want to live like new creations, we’ve got to take up our cross daily, sacrifice our selfish desires to it and follow Jesus as a living sacrifice.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Several years ago, the company I was doing a store visit for the company I work for. The store was very busy and there was about a thirty minute wait to see a rep. I was making sure everyone was helped in order and was adding them to the queue. A blonde lady walked in with big sunglasses, leopard print clothes, and a small dog in her purse. When I told her she had to wait, she said, “But I’m a VIP!” I said, “I’m sorry, ma’am. Who are you?” She told me her name, but I didn’t recognize it. I said, “I don’t know who you are, but you’ll have to wait like everyone else.”
She asked for a manager. She insisted she was a VIP and didn’t wait in lines. The manager went through the same thing and gave the same answer. Finally it hit me. “Do you mean you’re a part of our VIP program?” “Yes!” “Oh, well that doesn’t exclude you from waiting in lines, it just gives you discounts,” I replied. Over and over though, she kept repeating that she was a VIP and deserved special treatment. I pulled up our VIP program and showed her, but she didn’t want to hear it. In her mind, she was more than a VIP customer, she thought she really was a VIP.
It reminded me of the seven sons of Sceva. They thought they were someone because they were sons of a Jewish High Priest. They went around casting out demons in people by saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches!” Well in Acts 19:15, a demon called them out on it. The evil spirit said to them, “I know Jesus, and I know about Paul; but you—who are you?” (GNT) These guys thought they were VIP’s in the spiritual realm, but the demons didn’t even know who they were.
Who are you? That question goes out to each of us today. Do we know who we are in Christ or are we trying to get by using the faith of our parents? Have you made the sacrifices in prayer, in the Word, and in living the Christian life so that you’re known in the spiritual realm? In God’s kingdom, being a VIP isn’t about looking and acting the part. If you want to be a who’s who in God’s kingdom, you’re going to have to be a living sacrifice that’s pleasing to God. He rewards humility over pride and suffering over pleasure.
If someone wrote you a blank check, how much would you write it out for? Would you write it out for millions of dollars so you wouldn’t have a care in the world? Would you write it out to cover your basic needs so you wouldn’t be “greedy”? Would you keep all the money or give some away to others in need? Maybe you would write it all out to an organization that is near to your heart. It’s an interesting question I think. I’ve never been given a blank check nor have I written one. I think it would be cool either way to be a part of something like that.
I’ve been reading “Good to Great in God’s Eyes” by Chip Ingram and in the chapter “Make Great Sacrifices”, he challenges the reader to write a blank check to God with our lives. It seems easy to do at first, but then you start to think about that blank. Will God cash that in for everything you have? Will He just ask for what He needs in this moment? What will it cost you ultimately? With the questions comes fear and fear keeps us from leaving that check blank. It either causes us to put an amount in there, limitations on it or stipulations.
Didn’t jesus tell us that God was a good father? Didn’t He say that if earthly fathers could give good gifts, how much more so our Heavenly Father? Then why are we so afraid to write that check out? Are we afraid He will make us destitute? Psalms 37:5 says, “I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging for bread.” So that’s not it. Is it that we think He will send us to some remote part of the world that we’ll hate? I don’t think He’d do that either. He knows that you need to be happy to thrive and do His work.
The truth is that we see our lives as our own and not His. That’s not easy to write and I’m sure it’s not easy to hear. If we truly believed I Corinthians 6:19-20 that’s says, “You are not your own, you were bought with a price”, we’d be willing to write that check out to God. If we truly believed it when we say, “Everything I have belongs to God,” we’d be more willing to give up our possessions for the Kingdom. We would ask God how much He wants us to give instead of just giving Him 10%. We would be willing to relocate wherever He needed us, give up that lucrative salary and do whatever He asked.
As it is, most of us live good Christian lives instead of great ones because we aren’t willing to let go of the temporary things for the eternal things. We aren’t willing to give up our sight so we can walk by faith. I believe the early church turned the world upside down as Acts 17:6 says because they understood what it meant to offer themselves as living sacrifices (living blank checks). They got it that their lives weren’t their own. What if we started living like that? How different would the world be if we wrote God a blank check with our lives? How different would your life be?