I hate fluff. I have been told I also hate hype. I know, I don’t sound very pleasant.
Here’s the reality. I just don’t like people using words or marketing or any other man-centered gimmick to sell me on something that really isn’t everything they say it is. Every radio station I listen to has the world’s greatest story coming up in the next ten minutes. It seems like every Sunday, pastors all want you to listen to their latest life changing, once-in-a-lifetime sermons. Every school I drive by is an A+ school that will set my child on a trajectory of greatness and success. Do I need to continue? You get the point.
Unfortunately this endless barrage of marketing has crept into how we try and introduce people to Christianity.
Now don’t get me wrong. Becoming a Christian comes with the most unbelievable promises any human can fathom.
- Complete forgiveness of all our sins
- A perfect relationship with the Creator of the universe
- Eternal life with God and other Christians in a perfect universe
These are all crazy promises that should be celebrated and shared with people. However, I think that Christians need to be faithful when proclaiming the Kingdom of God. We can’t only tell people about Christianity by “selling” them on all the amazing promises of God. We must also clearly tell them about the reality of life as a Christian. It is amazing to be a Christian, but it is also sobering and should involve someone counting the cost before jumping in.
I think a few vocabulary words might help. These are the words that Jesus himself used over and over again when describing the normal Christian existence. I think they provide us with a good baseline vocabulary that we should pull from when talking about the Christian life with those investigating.
Repent – Turn around. The entire point of Christianity is that every human is heading in the wrong direction naturally. If we don’t tell people to turn around, we keep them from the opportunity to ever know God or themselves fully.
Believe – Trust Jesus and not yourself. Every human naturally trusts themselves 100%. It doesn’t matter your age or maturity level. We all trust our own feelings, intellect, and will. Jesus tells us time and time again to stop trusting in ourselves and to put our trust in him, his life, and his death.
Deny yourself – Take the focus off of yourself. We all love ourselves. We want what we want when we want it. Jesus has a word for us all: deny. Jesus himself lived a self-denying life both as a substitute in our place but also as an example for what life should truly look like.
Take up your cross – Christianity is about death. Christians should remind themselves daily of the death of Jesus that brought them back into a relationship with God. Likewise, as we look to the cross we are reminded that we should be dying to ourselves more and more as we follow Jesus.
Submit – Do what God says. We are to do what God tells us to do even when it doesn’t line up with what we want to do or what we think we should do. Submission is the fundamental response of being a Christian.
Jesus is Lord – Jesus is in charge of everything. Every cell in our bodies and every minute of our days belong to him. Jesus owns everything. We are simply using his stuff because he is so generous.
Follow – You are not the leader anymore. You are to get behind Jesus. You now ask for directions from him. You use his map. You let him lead you, no matter how much you think you know how to get there.
Every human who has ever lived has been looking for one thing: life. Whether it’s in success, or money, or power, or reputation, or family, or relationships, or religion, or whatever it is you choose, we all have the same end goal. We want to know what life is all about and live life to the fullest. Jesus has our answer. His answer just might have some vocabulary you might not expect.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25