I got this email today and thought others would find an interest in the answer as well.
I am hooked. I read you book “So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore” and it resonated with me on a very deep level. You see I have been searching for the real Christianity for a long time. I even went to bible college and got a theology degree to try to get my life to where I thought it should be if I was really to be a real Christian. All to no avail. I am still searching but what you have here is really tugging me to where I know I need to be. I have some questions however which I hope you can help me with.
How does the counting the cost – and self denial – and divine discipline fit with the idea of the patient God who is understanding of our weaknesses and willing to walk with us through our journey? I think I am starting to understand but every now and then I get confused. Anyway hoping to begin to
live the life that is described in the word rather than this lifeless facsimile.
Your question confuses me a bit, because I see plenty of room inside the Lord’s compassion for us to count the cost, and deny ourselves as we follow him. The denial comes in the following, I guess. Jesus asks me to do some incredible costly things. By following him, I often have to deny what Wayne wants to do. But he has lovingly won me into that space. Look how much time Jesus invested in the disciples, loving them through their selfishness and ignorances, and then challenging them to self-denial as the expression of relationship-borne obedience. Denial is not the way we gain him. Denial is the tool we need to live in his will instead of our own. Religion sets up a list of rules and expectations and then gets us to think that our achieving those is self-denial. It is not. It is only performance by another name. It is our effort trying to gain God’s favor. Simply, that doesn’t work.
So I guess religious performance sees self-denial and counting the cost as a way to gain the relationship. I don’t. The relationship is a gift and God will be incredibly loving and patient helping us be won to his love for us. But as we grow in him, we will often face the choice of doing what God wants or being tyrannized by what we want. Will God be patient with us even if we choose our own selfish pursuits? I find he does. But we will miss out on some aspect of his unfolding purpose in us and a deepening relationship by doing so. You see, I don’t understand people who claim that they love God and that simply means they want him to bless whatever they want to do.
Knowing him means you want to engage who he is and what he is doing. He has the best ideas about everything, and he wants to walk me through the unfolding adventure of life with his light and love. That is often incredibly costly. I’ve made huge decisions suspecting that the consequence just might be incredibly hurtful and harmful, rather than a huge blessing. I do that because I’m nuts about him and the things he asks me to be involved in, even if most of the people I lay down my life for may take advantage of that generosity, or even abuse it for their own self-satisfaction. That’s the cost and that’s denial.
Jesus’ warnings are fair game for us. If you’re going to live by your own convenience, you’ll miss out on the greatest joys of his unfolding kingdom in your life, which will challenge you to go where you’re not comfortable, love even when it means people will take advantage of you, and give even when it isn’t appreciated. That is how Jesus lived and told us we are blessed when people lie about us, exclude us or speak evil of us, because that is how he was treated. No, that isn’t always fun in the moment, but the depths of relationship that takes us to in him, are well worth the journey. As Paul said, “momentary, light afflictions work in us an eternal weight of glory.”
It’s all about his glory, not our personal comfort!