Tag Archives: calling

Christianity: Radical from the Beginning

If you are like me, you learn a lot of things that excite you about God, but following through in obedience after the initial excitement wears off proves difficult. You hear God’s clear call on your life only to discover years have passed with seemingly little progress toward that end.

Or maybe you embarked on your journey of obedience and find insurmountable obstacles blocking your path, challenging your convictions and blurring your memory of God’s working in your life. This precarious position tests your faith as the world’s siren call beckons you to return to Vanity Fair. God’s call becomes a whisper as you begin to doubt a once clear calling.

A Manageable God

Maybe the problem you or I have is that we want a manageable God. When we hear Jesus’ voice we desire to follow him, but we want to bring along a heavy burden—a bag packed with all the things we need to help God accomplish the task. We bring our own refreshments, our own entertainment and our own security blankets. Perhaps worst of all, we bring our own timetable.

But we know deep down inside our soul that following Jesus looks very different. Following Jesus requires surrender. It requires trust.

Radical from the Beginning

Where did Christians get the idea that Christianity is just one more thing to add to the “good life?” When did radical faith become quaint and eccentric and optional? How have so many of us come to the conclusion that we can follow Jesus and continue on with our usual way of life?

Christianity was radical from the beginning. When Jesus called his disciples to follow him, they left their nets immediately. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told his disciples to rejoice at persecution rather than hide the light of the Gospel so as to avoid trials. He called them to a higher standard of morality, one that went beyond actions to reveal sinful thoughts and intents of the heart. Jesus instructed them to love their enemies and to do nothing for the reward of man. He taught them to pray for God’s will to be done and to expect God to provide for them each day.

Jesus commanded his disciples to store up treasure in heaven rather than treasure on earth. He told them they could not serve both God and money. He explained why they should not worry about anything because God cares for them, but to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus admonished them to get their eyes off other people so that they could deal with their own sin. He exhorted his disciples to be among the few who enter the narrow gate and travel the narrow road that leads to life.

Jesus warned them about false teachers and how to recognize them by their fruit. He warned them that only a persevering, committed faith endures the final judgment.

Jesus calls and instructs us in the same radical way.

Ramifications of the Sermon On the Mount

D.A. Carson sums up the ramifications of the Sermon on the Mount for anyone who desires to follow Jesus:

Nothing could be more calamitous than to meditate long and hard on Matthew 5:1–7:12 and then to resolve to improve a little. The discipleship which Jesus requires is absolute, radical in the sense that it gets to the root of human conduct and to the root of relationships between God and men. A person either enters the kingdom or he does not. He walks the road that leads to life, or he walks the road that leads to destruction. There is no third alternative. Nothing, nothing at all, could have more crucial significance than following Jesus. Even if today this is far from being a universally admitted truth, yet one day all men without exception shall confess it, some to their everlasting grief.1

Should we not exhort and encourage one another to follow Jesus in a radical faith?

…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. —Hebrews 12:1

I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

—Psalm 119:32


Did you like this article? Check out my book, The Narrow Road: Loving God In a World Devoted to Money, on Amazon.


  1. D.A. Carson, The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1978), 122. Citation is to the paperback edition, 1982.

When the Task Seems Too Hard

street in coloocan

You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, 
 too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; 
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, 
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, 
your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:5-10


When God Hems You In – Rejoice In His Presence

Have you taken note of God’s presence and his leading wherever you go? Can you echo the thoughts David expressed in Psalm 139?

When I am on vacation I don’t usually seek out a local church to attend, but instead read my Bible. I probably have missed out on a lot because, as essential as reading the Bible is, God seems to delight in speaking to me through other Christians. When I have gone on short-term missions trips or have spent extended time away from home and do attend church, I have discovered that God doesn’t miss a beat. Either the sermon picks up where my home church pastor’s last sermon left off or the sermon is extremely timely and relevant for my life in a different way.

Such was the case last November while visiting my wife’s family in Coloocan, Philippines. We walked with my mother-in-law and brother-in-law to a service at their local church situated among houses in a residential neighborhood. The church, with a flat metal roof, would probably escape your notice should you drive by it on a weekday morning. Open on three sides, with numerous fans to keep churchgoers reasonably comfortable in the tropical heat, contemporary Christian songs rang out into the neighborhood to be heard by believer and unbeliever alike. Here, thousands of miles from home, a message prepared for the benefit of others encouraged and strengthened me just when I needed it most.

A Little Background

Have you read testimonies of people who were content with success as the world defines it only to be compelled by God to quit their job and embark on a different path? Perhaps you have experienced such a dramatic life change yourself. As I sat down in church that Sunday, it had been over two years since I quit my job in obedience to God’s calling yet I had not finished the work God had placed before me. I was beginning to think I would never finish. Sometimes I even entertained the thought that I had misunderstood God and had taken a wrong turn. In this context, God met me on the far side of the sea and spoke to me through one of his servants.

The Message

The sermon that Sunday was a forward look into 2016, acknowledging the evil times we are in while encouraging the congregation to exhibit the kind of obedience and perseverance that Noah did. In the sermon, the pastor made some observations about Noah that were apropos to our times and to my situation. (I have placed quotation marks around his comments below).

“Noah lived in the midst of evil.” Noah was 600 years old when the floodwaters came making him 480 years old when God declared his drop-dead date for humanity (Genesis 6:3; 7:6). Imagine how long Noah must have lived in a world full of violence (Genesis 6:11). Noah lived blamelessly among wicked people for possibly hundreds of years before God spoke to him and then Noah obediently built an ark over a span of decades believing God would bring about an event that defied probability. By comparison, my task and the obstacles I faced were miniscule. Why should I be discouraged?

“Noah warned his neighbors about things not yet seen.” I felt God’s hand hemming me in as the pastor spoke these words. Though not the primary reason for quitting my job, a call to warn others about things not yet seen provided the impetus to write my book. In this moment, God’s guiding hand did not feel heavy or burdensome – it felt exciting, as if the only misstep I could take would be to remain silent.

“Noah was obedient to a hard task appointed to him.” Now, as I listened, I felt convicted. I wanted to give up when the going got really tough. Or, take the easiest path forward. Writing the book was not easy, but getting it published was more daunting as it meant developing skills I didn’t care to learn or utilize. “A man of faith is a man of action.” Ouch! Inaction, procrastination and complaining had to stop. I had to press on.

“God remembered Noah and he will remember you.” I love promises, especially when combined with the conviction that God is ever-present and guiding me. He will remember to provide what I need and he will enable me to complete the task he has given me.

“God is always on time.” God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and his ways are not my ways. I must trust him.

Held Fast In God’s Hand

Even now as I recall this message, in the midst of the temptation to once again shrink back from the task ahead, God’s call compels me to persevere in obedience.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. Hebrews 11:7

God still gives his people hard tasks. Some are unique; some are common. In some cases our obedience will benefit many people; sometimes it only affects one person. In either case, when God guides us, when he hems us in – it is wondrous. Proceed in awe and with a holy fear for you are in the hand of Almighty God!