If you are a parent or know anything about children, you’ll be familiar with the famous road trip question, “Are we there yet?” Children ask it repeatedly during road trips. Although it gets annoying, it’s a fair question. After all, traveling is not the point of a road trip. The destination is the point. Children know this, hence their questioning along the way.
I don’t get in a hurry on road trips. I love making pit stops. I drive my wife crazy because of my search for local coffee shops or unique restaurants when traveling. Yet, even though the stops are enjoyable, the destination is what keeps us moving.
As Christians, we seek a better country. The kingdom of God is our sought-after destination. We yearn for it. We look for opportunities to share it with others. We pray for its speedy consummation. Though it is here in part, we long for the arrival of its King. Our journey into the kingdom, which we describe in our personal testimonies, is inspiring, but not where we camp.
In other words, we shouldn’t fixate on the journey. We should fixate on the one who showed us the way (John 14:6). Sadly, far too many professing Christians camp at the pit stops or stay on the road. They never quite arrive in the kingdom. Or, to say it another way, they never begin living out their citizenship. There are many reasons for this, no doubt, but two come readily to mind.
Being Cool and Gratifying the Flesh
Christians still believe being “cool” or “relevant” matters in my part of the world. Indeed, many believers make it a goal to look so much like the culture around them; they lose any sense of other-worldliness which should mark a disciple of Christ.
Despite all the great things the large churches and para-church organizations have done, many have harmfully propagated half-hearted Christianity, which is really no Christianity at all (Matthew 22:37). Such organizations create systems and programs to woo people with worldly pleasures rather than the blood-soaked victory of the cross. I don’t think it’s intentional. Yet, the ability to start with Jesus and end with exciting programming or fashion trends is alarmingly real.
Such efforts create followers of churches and organizations but not wholehearted disciples of Jesus. They also create Christians who flaunt their goals, their desires, their dreams, their agendas, and so on, yet display little desire to seek his kingdom, his will, his ways, or his call to die. Something has to change.
Are We Dead Yet?
If you are a Christian, you belong to God’s family. You are a son or daughter of the Most High God. Like the road trip question, there is another question, similar in its nature but not asked enough by God’s children. Perhaps more than any other question, the church should be asking, “Are we dead yet?” It sounds a bit morbid, so I’ll try to explain.
If we are going to follow Jesus truly, mustn’t we proclaim a Christianity that has nothing to do with us or our desires? If we promote anything less than life through death, we are not actually participating in the revolution Jesus started. When we fail to call people to die, we may have great intentions, language, mission statements, cultures, and people, but we don’t have Christianity. Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Are we dead yet?
I hate sounding like a pessimist; I just don’t believe the Bible teaches anywhere that our Christian life is about being the best version of ourselves. Sure, after we die to self, God gives us a new heart with new desires, but those things exist so that we can make much of Jesus in every area of life.
The Bible literally calls us to die, put aside worldliness, and pursue a king (Luke 9:23; 1 John 2:15-17). The thing about a king is that they are in charge. They rule the entire kingdom. Our new life in Christ should be different from anything that existed before our surrender to Him.
I’m not advocating joyless Christianity. I think there is much joy to be had in our walk with Jesus. I’m simply suggesting it’s not “cool” to follow him. It can be a real challenge. If we do not first die to ourselves then embrace new life in Christ, we will be crushed by our insecurities and inability to stay the course. We will be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14 ESV).
Being a “cool” Christian should never be something we aspire to. Apart from the redeeming work of God’s Spirit, nothing we do will see us through to eternity with Jesus. No amount of adventure races, multi-million-dollar camp experiences, white Nike shoes, beards, and brews, or large conferences with famous pastors will see us through to eternity with the King. God has certainly used some of these avenues to make much of himself, but they are not the point. He is.
A call to death is really a call to life. By God’s Spirit, we can have peace that resides in the deepest pockets of our hearts. Our flame can remain alive by reading His word, seeking fellowship with His bride, and doing the things He tells us to do.
No, it is not “cool” to follow Jesus. But it is worth it.