Why do we buy books like Radical? I believe the reason is that we secretly seek significance and we feel we should be doing way more than we are. We feel that to be “radical” for Christ means we have to sell all we have and move to the desert. We at times struggle with guilt that tells us we’re on God’s JV team when we really want to be on the varsity squad. Is there a second tier of Navy Seal type believers? What about the rest of us who are faithful employees, provide for our families, love our spouse, and serve in our local church? Are we second class Christians?
Don’t get me wrong I enjoy books like Radical and have been tremendously encouraged by such books. I fear that if publishers continue to push books that promote a “radical” Christianity that Christians who are humbly living obedient Christ-centered ordinary lives will start feeling inadequate and second class. The concept of a “radical” Christian is not found in Scripture. You will not find teaching on different tiers of Christians, but rather you will see countless teachings of the standards of holy living for the glory of Christ for all Christians. God does sovereignly chose to use certain men and women in differentiating capacities, but that is not what I’m discussing.
Let us look at 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2
“Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.”
Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonians is fitting for us as well. Sin stunts our spiritual growth and that is one of the reasons Paul consistently urges believers to strive for holiness. We must learn to control our desires by the power of the Spirit. “Radical” Christian living is to lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and to run with endurance the race that is set before us. Radical Christian living is to daily put off sin and to put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.
Commentator Leon Morris says,
“There are many things included in God’s will, but one is certainly the injunction that follows. Christians must not concern themselves only with those things that appeal to them. They must have regard to the fact that God is interested in all that they do, and God’s will is that they should be pure.”
If you want to be “radical” then love your wife, fight for sexual purity, be submissive to your husband, love your enemies, don’t be overcome by evil but rather overcome evil with good, be a faithful Christian employee, be a servant even when you’re treated like one, faithfully attend your local church, pray often, lead your household in family worship, be faithful with the little things, and most importantly in all that you do ask God to grant you a pure heart that does all things for His glory and not your own. So yes God desires for you to be unremarkable. You’re not receiving less of God’s favor because you didn’t sell all you have to become a missionary and then started a blog to tell everyone how you sold all you have to become a missionary. The doctrines of election and justification make clear to us that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more or to make Him love us less. Be content that you’re unnoticed by man and rather be encouraged that you have the eye of our Lord on you always. Do you want to be radical for Christ? Then know how to possess your own vessel in sanctification and honor and not in lustful passion, like those who do not know God.
The great John Calvin once said,
“We are not our own, therefore neither our reason nor our will should guide us in our thoughts and actions.
We are not our own, therefore we should not seek what is expedient to the flesh.
We are not our own, therefore let us forget ourselves and our interests as far as possible.
But we are God’s own; to him, therefore, let us live and die.
We are God’s own; therefore let his wisdom and will dominate all our actions.
We are God’s own; therefore let every part of our existence be directed toward him as our only legitimate goal.”
When we measure our spiritual growth by our experiences, we may find ourselves disillusioned and discouraged. There’s nothing wrong with having zeal for God but the danger is that we can discourage ourselves due to unrealistic expectations. We don’t need new approaches to spiritual growth but rather a deep appreciation for how God works in the “small and ordinary” moments in our lives for His glory. We must develop an appreciation for God’s hand in the commonplace areas of our lives. I would challenge those reading this post to be content with being unremarkable for Christ. My encouragement to you in your relentless pursuit in holy living is this, excel still more!