Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Paul's Faith: The Norm or the Exception?

We started walking through the book of Philippians in our home group, and Mike challenged us to read through the book everyday this week. I really love this New Testament book; it's where the verse from my blog link comes from (philippians3v7).

"But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. 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, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."
- Philippians 3:7-11

I want these words to describe my relationship with Jesus. I want absolutely everything in my life {including the good and even the godly things} to seem as rubbish in comparison to knowing my Savior. Like Paul, I want to be found in Jesus, and I want to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection. This is a daily battle for me, because my heart is so prone to wander...

Paul's life and faith challenges me so much. He was a chief hater and persecuter of Christ-followers until he came face to face with Jesus, and then he made a radical 180-degree change in his life. He had a boldness I pray for, a faith I wish I had, and a deep love for our Savior that I strive for.

In addition to reading through the book every day, Mike also asked us to consider a few questions. The one that has stuck with me is whether or not Paul's intense Christianity was supposed to be normal or if only a few people are called to such a deeper commitment to God. I mean, looking at Paul's life can be intimidating sometimes. He was able to effectively minister to and encourage the church at Philippi, from where he sat in a jail cell. He spoke without fear about his Savior, in the face of constant real-life-or-death persecution. And he was willing {and I would even venture to say almost excited} to die for the sake of Christ. Is faith like that real? Is faith like that even possible?

I don't believe that we read about Paul to have an unattainable example; that seems counterproductive. We each are given specific gifts, and we are all called to serve the Lord in different ways. Not everyone is called to plant a church from scratch. My calling isn't any more/less worthy than yours. But there are some basic tenants of Christianity that we are all called to... love the Lord with all your heart, love your neighbor as youself, make disciples, forgive as you have been forgiven, rejoice always, pray continually, etc...

Don't get me wrong, I do think that the idea of "radical" Christianity can be taken too far; people do abhorrent things in the name of Jesus. And too many Christians live in unnecessary fear and guilt of not being bold/godly/faithful/radical/fill-in-the-blank enough. But when we look at the core of the gospel, we have to be willing to dig deep and truly examine our own hearts and faith.

Because I do think that we live in a {dangerous} culture of nominal Christianity. A culture that resides in its safe Christian circles and praises those who do the "Christianity checklist" well. A culture in which we have somehow convinced ourselves that the deep faith and boldness for Jesus described in the Word is just a nice thing to think about, but not something to actually strive for. The idea of being bold in my faith quite frankly terrifies me. I seriously struggle with having the faith to trust God in all circumstances. And yet I don't feel any less convicted or compelled by Jesus' command...

That's part of why Mike and I feel called to plant a church in the heart of the Bible belt. Not because we feel we have the answers to what all the other churches are doing "wrong." {Goodness. The Lord knows we have and will make our own fair share of mistakes}. But because we feel a deep calling to make disciples of Jesus who have a faith that looks more like Paul's. We desire for people to value Jesus more than anything else, to truly know Jesus and the power of His resurrection...

I am praying that the Lord continues to speak to my heart this week as I mull over this question; I am definitely looking forward to discussing it in our group. What do you think? Is Paul's intense Christianity supposed to be the norm for us, or are only a few people called to be like Paul and have a deeper committment to God?


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