The call to follow Christ is not an easy one. Some of Jesus’ hardest words were spoken in the context of his calls to discipleship. In John 12, shortly before his arrest, Jesus reflected upon his imminent death and interpreted it for his disciples: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (v. 24). So the principle is a universal one; it’s woven into the very fabric of nature. All life-yielding fruit bearing begins with death. Then, Jesus goes on to apply this “death principle” to his followers. What was true for Jesus was true for them as well. If they were to bear much fruit, they too must fall into the ground and die: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also” (vv. 25-26). Those who would follow Jesus in his fruit-bearing life would have to follow him in laying down their lives. Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it this way, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” (1) More
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*Editor’s Note: Check out Part 1 of this article here
This is the perspective Paul encourages in 1 Corinthians 7 when he says, “[Let] those who buy [do so] as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it (vv.30-31, NIV). Paul encourages us to maintain a healthy emotional distance from this world’s goods. Yes, we have to buy and sell. We are not ascetics. We must deal with material possessions in this life. We must conscientiously manage what we have. Yet, we do so in such a way that we remain ultimately unattached to these things. We hold onto all of them loosely as we seek to use those resources for the advancement of the kingdom.
In the Psalms, David called his house the “house of my sojourning.” We must learn to look at everything in that light- as a temporary gift from God- as we make our pilgrimage through this world. Our houses, money, cars, jobs, and careers are simply the houses, money, cars, jobs, and careers of our sojourning. If this is true, neither acquiring nor protecting any of these things in this life will be our chief occupation. Getting them will not occupy us, protecting them will not consume us, and losing them will not destroy us. We live for another time and another place.
This radical kingdom perspective- financial reckless abandon- is often appropriately called “wartime living.” I can think of no better way to capture the sentiment of Jesus’ teaching. The call to wartime living is a call to simple living. It is a call to zero-excess living. It is a call to minimalistic living that conserves and funnels all resources into the greater way effort. In wartime, car assembly lines are converted to artillery factories. Food is rationed so as to send as much as possible to the troops. Money is used sparingly so as to conserve as much as possible for the front lines. The war becomes the all-consuming preoccupation of those who have sent their sons, siblings, and fathers off to the trenches. The progress of the war hinges, in part, upon the commitment of those back home to personal self-sacrifice and reckless abandon for the cause. Mission is war, and we must live accordingly.
Few people better exemplified this kind of sacrificial, kingdom-oriented, financial reckless abandon than the church in Philippi. In the book of Philippians, Paul recounts “from the first day until now” the Philippians had financially partnered with him in ministry (Philippians 1:5). In the weeks and months that followed Paul’s planting of the church, the Philippian believers “once and again” sent Paul gifts to fund his mission (Philippians 4:16-17). Apparently that support had continued throughout the years. Ten years later when Paul passed through Macedonia near the end of his third missionary journey, the Philippians once again demonstrated their reckless abandon as gospel-driven senders by sacrificially contributing to Paul’s offering for the suffering church in Judea. Here’s how Paul describes the generosity of the Philippian church:
Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. (2 Corinthians 8:2-3)
That is financial martyrdom. They were poor, yet, out of their “extreme poverty,” their kingdom-centered, mission-loving generosity overflowed in wealthy giving.
Nearly 20 years after Paul founded the Philippian church, their poverty continued, yet so did their mission-minded generosity. During his Roman imprisonment, Paul wrote the Philippians to thank them for the gift they had sent to him in prison- again, a gift sent out of deep poverty. “Do not be anxious about anything,” Paul encourages them. As Paul had learned, so they had to learn “the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12). The Philippians understood, as their legacy of self-sacrificial giving to Paul’s mission indicates.
Mission is war, and war must be funded by wartime living. We cannot fund the war while pursuing the American Dream. The call to take up our cross, die to ourselves, and renounce all personal claim to our material possessions is a call to both goers and senders in this war. Mission requires more than dedicated self-sacrificing, recklessly abandoned goers. It also requires dedicated self-sacrificing, recklessly abandoned senders.
*Editor’s Note: This was originally printed in the Fall 2010 issue of TET magazine.
Abandon /e-ban-den/ n to give (oneself) over unrestrainedly.
Reckless Abandon /re-kles e-ban-den/ to give oneself unrestrainedly to the cause of Jesus and the promotion of his kingdom without concern for danger and the consequences of that action.
The idea of reckless abandon for the sake of Jesus and the kingdom is not a new one. In Luke 14, when thronged by a multitude of curious, would-be-but-still-largely-uncommitted followers, Jesus turned and frankly declared: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (v. 33). More
During yesterday’s Sunday morning message, Joseph Najera, one of the elders at my church quoted Abraham Kuyper’s famous statement about Jesus’ authority:
“There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine! This belongs to me!'”
That’s why I’m a missionary. The missionary task is much more than preaching a message of the sinner’s personal salvation from hell. It includes that, but it’s much more. The missionary task is to take the message of a sovereign Jesus whom God has made “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36) and with all the authority of a commissioned ambassador, proclaim the message of his rule.
We take the message of Jesus, to whom has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, and call people to obey all that he has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).
Isaiah 52:7 puts it like this:
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”
“Your God reigns!” Jesus reigns! That’s the “gospel of the kingdom” proclaimed by Jesus and the apostles. When the reign and authority of Jesus are proclaimed, there’s just one appropriate response:
“Submit to (lit. “kiss”) God’s royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant.” (Psalm 2:12, NLT)
Jesus’ message was simple: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). When the kingdom of God is preached, rebels are commanded to fall down before Christ in broken, humble repentance. “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
That is why Paul was so adamant that the goal of his ministry was “to bring the Gentiles to obedience” (Romans 15:18). He preached the gospel “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Rom 1:5; cf. 16:26).
The mountains of southern Mexico are exactly the kind of place where Isaiah’s 52:7’s message needs to be preached. There we run and proclaim “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7). Our mission is to press the kingdom of God and the authority of Christ deeply into these mountains.