It’s easy to acknowledge and expect that as a Christian, non-Christians will potentially label you as a crazy Jesus follower. But what about when other Christians do the same? Is it possibly to be “too much” when it comes to Jesus? It partly depends on your definition of “too much”. If we’re talking about being self-righteous, legalistic, and judgmental, then I can get behind that too. But what about being a Christian who is literally obsessed with loving and knowing God, and being known and loved by God? The person who, although they stumble often in sin, despises their sin and are broken over it. The person who is passionately overwhelmed with desperate need to love and please God. So much so that it’s the entire focus of their lives. This is who I am and who I always want to be. And I am not ashamed of this. Every single day of my life I want to live in a way that pleases God. There are days I fail horribly, but this desire remains.(At the end of this post I share a personal story of a recent low point in my faith and how I got through it.) I want to love and worship God with my whole heart and soul. I want to be His vessel that is filled with His Holy Spirit doing whatever He wants me to do. I want to love people the way that Jesus did, not by overlooking their sin or excusing it, but by loving them in spite of it (as I want others to do for me). Not by staying silent, but by speaking truth, even if it makes me uncomfortable or less liked by others. If this makes me weird among Christians I truly don’t care. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10. Do I believe this is too much? I believe this is all there is.
I have suffered tremendously in my life. The trauma I have endured is immense. Jesus is the reason this pain and suffering did not destroy me, and I owe Him everything for that. I’m not sure I would be here if it were not for my choice to cling to Him through it all. It is not just a belief that I have, God is active and powerful in my life through Jesus Christ. I share all this to say that I have not had a privileged and easy life. It has been the opposite of easy and Jesus Christ is the only reason I’ve survived. (With His strength and very hard work.) Don’t believe that devotion to following Jesus is only for those who have had it easy. It is because of God that I am thriving in my life today and get to comfort and help others in their pain and trauma. During Jesus’ ministry he said “He who does not pick up his cross daily to follow me is not worthy of me.” What does it mean to pick up our cross daily and follow Jesus? Try to answer that question for yourself and see what you come up with. Once you’ve figured it out ask yourself if you are doing it. This is my challenge to myself.
The Bible paints a perfect picture of God and His beautiful plan and design (to the degree He wants us to know it). Throughout the Bible we are shown the story of Jesus Christ. Following Jesus did not start with the New Testament. Old Testament followers were looking ahead to the promised Messiah. It’s easy to think of these people as extreme examples, after all, they were those who God chose to highlight in His Word. These individuals were actually nothing special, no exceptional talents or abilities, no supernatural powers of their own, no perfect wisdom or knowledge. The thing that was unique about all of these individuals is this. They all heard God call and chose to answer. It wasn’t because they were so righteous and good that they responded, as if they had any credit to take. In fact I personally believe that it is when we see our total inability and wretchedness that we choose God. Because God has shown us His eternal power and divine nature we have no excuse to not see our own unrighteousness and absolute need for Him. Scripture says “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20.
I believe that those who do not answer God when He calls have blinded themselves, not only to God’s holiness and perfection, but to their own evil and emptiness. I praise God I have been able to see mine. Our Biblical examples are those who were willing, with God’s help in showing His power and nature and through the light of Jesus Christ, to look at their absolute need and sinfulness and respond. Why do I go into so much detail about this? In my experience I have seen that some people view these crazy Jesus followers as anomalies. This is faulty thinking. These are not anomalies, in fact scripture is clear that these people are examples of children of God. We should be no different.
Every single one of us who follow Jesus Christ have become children of God. We are no longer slaves to Satan and the world of darkness. This is not just a new title to attach to our names. This is a completely new way of being and living on a daily basis. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Merriam Webster defines an imitator as a person who adopts the appearance and behavior of another especially in an obvious way. It should be obvious to the people around us that we live to imitate Christ. If we are concerned with what other people think, whether they are Christians or not, we will not be fully focused on imitating Jesus Christ and living and loving the way that He did. Why? Because Jesus was hated for his love and life. We have to be willing to do the same if we truly want to please God. Are you willing to be hated and rejected for God?
The book of Thessalonians gives an account of what happened when Paul brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Thessalonica. Let me first point out that when Paul arrived these people were not serving Jesus, they were serving idols and living against God. Despite their extreme differences, Paul went to these people in a state of love and gentleness. In fact, he described it like this, “but we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8. When is the last time you treated people who were so different than you like this? We are to imitate this same love to those we are serving, even while they are living against God. We need to stop being harsh and unloving to hurting people who do not yet know God, and soft and accommodating to the sin and apathy of people who claim to know God. This was Jesus’ example.
How did these people respond to the gospel?
In chapter 1 we see that they received the gospel of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and became followers of the Lord. To become is to grow, evolve, and change. You cannot become a follower of Jesus Christ and stay the same. How did they change? These people became examples to others. Why? Verse 8 of chapter 1 tells us “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.” Is this not incredible? The Thessalonians heard the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit, believed, became followers of the Lord, and became examples of true faith in action everywhere they went. Later in the book it is pointed out how deeply they loved each other, and how this love was an example to those who did not yet know Christ.
Chapter 1 verse 9 tells us that they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” To serve means to perform a role or function. Every believer has a role and function in service to the Lord God. This requires change. It’s not just about doing service oriented things. It’s about turning from the idols we serve to serve the living God. You cannot keep your idols and serve God at the same time. Plenty of people begin “ministry” or “become” Christians, while continuing to serve their idols. You cannot do this and call yourself a follower of Jesus. And for the people that do this, the “good things” they are doing are not anointed of God and are not being done with the power of the Holy Spirit. Can God still use these things for good? Of course He can, He can do anything. Truly serving requires a turning from evil idols to serve the living God. Total surrender and sacrifice to Jesus Christ. Letting your old self and your old ways die. This is when you begin to follow and serve God as you should, as His vessel. This kind of true service to God comes from a heart that longs to please God, not themselves, and not other people. It doesn’t matter if you go on mission trips, give away lots of money, work at a church, sing in the worship band, if you have not turned away from your old ways to serve God with a true heart NONE of that matters. Good deeds do not overshadow the wickedness of a person’s heart. Just as was true with the Pharisees. Do not ignore and excuse wicked behavior because someone who claims to believe in Jesus does “good” stuff. No matter what their title or stature as a Christian.
Frankly I am burdened and tired of hearing people tell me that they are not Christians because the Christians they know are terrible ungodly wicked people who look nothing like Jesus. I am sickened by the constant flow of reports of sexual abuse at the hands of “pastors and leaders” and the disregard for their victims. This is NOT Jesus! If the only difference in someone is a belief, and not a complete turning of themselves and their lives to serve God, this is NOT a Christian. For those who struggle to believe because of hurts caused by people like this, please hear me when I say that this is not a true representation of God or His true followers. Please give the actual living God a chance to change your heart and life. Please believe that true followers of Jesus seek to be like Jesus was. To love, to serve, to show kindness and mercy, especially to those who are different than they are, and to not abuse others. Of course we are not perfect and we fail constantly, but the Holy Spirit within us continues to transform us and mold us into the image of Jesus Christ. I hope and pray that more followers of Jesus become what they are supposed to be so that the world can see the light of Jesus shining in the darkness.
It is normal for true followers of Jesus to fluctuate between these two places;
A desperate and daily desire to please God, to be in His presence, to study His Word, not because you have to, but because you are longing to know and understand more, to desire more than anything to be The Holy Spirit’s vessel and to see Him working incredible supernatural works through you,
Apathy, a lack of passion and desire for God and being in His presence, a feeling of disregard when it comes to pleasing Him, a selfishness over serving others, a lack of interest in the Bible and prayer.
I promise you that I have experienced the shift several times in my life with God. What I can say is this, when I am in the place of apathy and I have little desire to please God and be close to Him, it is a sign to me that something in me is not right. It is normal for this to happen, but it is not okay. Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s okay. God doesn’t tell us it’s okay and we can’t get stuck telling others it’s okay either. We need to be gentle and empathetic, but not at the cost of what is true. Although it might take time to get things back on track, it should be our desire and focus.
Prior to January of 2020 I had been struggling for about a year and a half. A few years before that time God had been showing my husband and I some things, difficult truths about our faith and God’s plan for us. These things being revealed to us meant things were going to have to change and it wasn’t going to be easy. It felt as though my faith were being beat down and built back up, and it was frustrating. This was a three year process, with the second half of that time being sad and discouraging for me. It felt as though my passion had been quieted, my fire had almost been put out. (Not only that, the Holy Spirit in me had been somewhat quenched for many years, unbeknownst to me) I wasn’t rejecting God, but I didn’t really feel like being close to Him. Of course during that time I wasn’t truly aware of it and I certainly didn’t admit it. Occasionally my husband would mention that I didn’t seem like my normal self with God, that it seemed like I didn’t care as much. Of course I defended myself and convinced myself this wasn’t true. During that time I couldn’t even write. Not because I didn’t want to or didn’t try. I would ask God to give me something to say and nothing came. I started blogs and none of them were any good so I would stop writing.
A year and a half into this dry discouraged place I finally got the courage to confess what was going on with me. I shared with a small group of people that I wasn’t in a good place spiritually. That I didn’t have a desire to read the Bible or pray very much and that I felt apathetic toward God. This was a powerful moment for me. The moment the confession left my mouth I knew I did not want to go on like that. I was devastated by the truth I had spoken. The advice I got was kind, but it wasn’t truth. I was told to just take a break from God and the Bible and that it was okay for me to do that. I knew that wasn’t the answer. Later on when we were alone my husband encouraged me to take my struggle to God, he was pretty frustrated about the advice I had been given. A few days later everything changed. I got alone, got on my knees before God in desperation. I confessed my lack of desire and frustration with Him and begged Him to help me. I have to tell you, I have been a follower of Jesus for a very long time. I have loved Him with all my heart for a very long time. I have been passionate and fired up about serving Him and living for Him for most of my life. That day was one of the most miraculous moments with my savior that I had ever experienced. I get emotional and somewhat uncomfortable sharing this because it was such an intimate and powerful experience. When I got on my knees and cried out in desperation I literally felt the presence of God around me like I had never felt before. I felt the depth and power of God’s love in a way that I cannot express with words. In Philippians 3:7-8 Paul said “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.” In that moment in God’s presence, for the first time in my life I truly could have written those very words myself and meant it with my whole heart. I was overwhelmed with God’s miraculous love and presence. The best part? After that day I was reawakened. My fire and passion returned with a vengeance, stronger than it ever was. Why do I share such a personal thing when it’s so uncomfortable for me to do so? Because I believe that it is hard to know how to put Biblical things into practice and we could all benefit from more raw authenticity. I share this with the hope that it encourages someone reading this who felt or feels like I did to get on your face before God and confess what is wrong in your heart so that He can surround you with his love and presence as He did me and bring healing. Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” This is exactly what I did in that moment and It was truly a miracle. I had access to His presence and He was there. Loving me and giving me grace and mercy. This was about a year and a half ago and I have never been closer and more passionate about Jesus than now. I needed those months of discouragement and despair to remind me of who I truly am. A worrier for Jesus Christ who is not concerned with what people think, but who is concerned with pleasing my God.
Listen, if you aren’t interesting in dedicating your life to loving and pleasing God but you call yourself a Christian, something is not right. It doesn’t mean you are not normal, but it does mean something is wrong. You need to get on your face before His throne and ask Him for help. Are you willing to do that? I encourage you to get into God’s Word with an open heart to learn about what it actually means to follow Jesus and to be a Christian and start making some changes. Don’t just go to church and listen to a message. Get before God, ask Him to help You, and let Him transform you in every way. This will literally be the most miraculous and powerful experience of your life and will lead to a depth of closeness and service to God you’ve never experienced. You will truly know that everything else in this world can be counted as a loss compared to knowing, loving, and being known and loved by Jesus Christ.