I’m not a radical for Jesus anymore.
At least not in name. Fear not, I am still dedicated to following Jesus with all my heart. I still desire to love and be loved by Him, and to share that love with others around me.
Last year, I wrote a post entitled “Don’t Be a Radical”. As I shared in that post:
To those of you who are trying to be radical to please God and be good enough to make Him happy with you, I have a simple word for you:
Get to know your Father and His great love for you…
Be radically devoted to Jesus.
But don’t be a radical.
As I look back on the song that inspired the name of this blog, I cringe. I cringe because I know the true back story. I know who I really was back then, what my heart was like, the spiritual condition I was in.
And it wasn’t pretty.
Not that I was deep into hidden sin. No, I feel that, in reality, my heart was in the right place. I was actually a better person than what I gave myself credit for at the time. I really wanted to follow Jesus.
And obey Him.
And that’s where I cringe.
Am I radical enough?
Now, hear me well. I still believe that obedience to Jesus is important. I believe that it’s mockery to say that we know Jesus, without being willing to also obey Him.
But I was trying to earn my way to Heaven by being good enough. Of course, I would never have recognized it then. I knew I was only saved by the blood of Jesus. But I was trying hard to be a good Christian on my own strength–and feeling like a failure.
I was living in fear of what would happen should I disobey Jesus.
I also had confused obedience to Jesus with obedience to my dad–especially when he uttered the words: “God told me…”
And that’s why I cringe at these words from the song “A Radical for Jesus”:
Oh, a radical for Jesus
Is what I want to be,
By keeping His commandments,
For He said if we love Him,
We must keep His commands.
So I will be a radical
While holding Jesus’ hand.
I don’t know how well it comes through to you. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with these words.
But here’s the problem:
It’s about the heart, not the actions!
Let me be crystal clear, folks: Jesus’ main focus is NOT on our obedience. Jesus’ main focus is our heart!
As He told the Pharisees:
“Either make the tree good, and its fruit good, or make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by its fruit. You offspring of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure brings out good things, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings out evil things.”
If Jesus just wanted obedience, He would have created robots. Human robots that would automatically obey Him. Incidentally, too many parents have tried to raise such robots.
It doesn’t work.
Because Jesus didn’t want robots. He wanted real fellowship with people who actually desired real fellowship with Him. He wanted people to willingly accept and glow in His love, not to just accept His love because He programmed them to do so.
And that’s why He didn’t fence off the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That’s why He didn’t force all the Israelites to obey the Law of Moses. That’s why today He doesn’t force anyone to believe in Him.
Oh, and He also knows that it would be bad for us as well.
So what does this have to do with being a radical for Jesus?
Jesus wants fruit–fruit that grows out of a tree nourished by Him. He has given us different examples: He is the vine; we are the branches, bearing fruit as long as we abide in Him. He is the Head; we are the Body, nourishing each other and being nourished by Him.
Jesus has to be central in our lives. He has to be central in the Church.
Replacing Jesus with obedience
But the sort of “radical” that I was when I named this blog “A Radical for Jesus” did not have Jesus at the center of this radicalness.
I had obedience to Jesus at the center of my life.
Because, to me, that meant that Jesus was the center of my life.
But here’s the thing: when Jesus is at the center of our lives; when we know Him and are known by Him; when we recognize that we are beloved children of God, joint-heirs with Jesus; when we understand His love and allow Him to pour it into and through us; when we are filled with the Holy Spirit–
Then we will walk in obedience!
We might even look or act kind of radical!
But it’s the result of a relationship with Jesus.
That’s a far cry from where I was: trying to gain a relationship by obeying Jesus. By being radical enough that He would take my hand (hence the last line of the song above). By trying to earn His love.
And so I’m not a radical for Jesus anymore
I’m a guy who loves Jesus, who wants to fellowship with others who love Jesus, wants others to deeply know the love of Jesus, and wants to see that love changing our lives to look like what Jesus wants. To reach out in love and help the hurting. To stop those who hurt people in the name of Jesus. I want to see world-changers who shake up the world with Holy-Spirit-filled lives, their actions the fruit of the wonderful power of Jesus.
Some people might think this looks radical. Indeed, it probably would.
But I refuse to name myself a radical.
Because, ultimately, I’m just…
A son of God.