We need a revolution in America. Not an armed conflict, but a real upheaval of our thinking and how we approach things. What things? Just about everything – from common everyday life events to social interaction, race relations, social justice, welfare, immigration, national security, foreign policy, etc, to how we do church and live, or don’t live, the Christian life. In the “old days” we called it “revival.” But even back then, our concept of revival fell far short. A series of meetings to get people fired up is not going to cut it. What we need is Christian Extremism.
Why do we need it? In part because we as Christians have lost sight of what it means to be a Christian. We are caught up in the tangible, temporal, visible world and its cultures and life-styles and its “solutions” to problems. We have lost sight of the true impact we can have on the world around us if we will focus on Christ instead of focusing on the world around us.
First, let me say what Christian Extremism is not. It is not fundamentalism. It is not, and never was, going off on crusades to save the Holy Land from the Muslim hordes. It is not churches like the one from Kansas that goes around decrying immorality in America by protesting at soldiers funerals. It is not arguing with atheists, or agnostics, or reacting to narrow-minded non-Christian bigots who make fun of Christians. Extreme Christianity is not having big buildings, or big congregations, or big worship. It isn’t huge choirs singing majestic anthems. It isn’t praise bands rocking out and performing the latest worship songs. It isn’t stained glass windows, high ceilings, and steeples (thank-you-very-much Plato). It isn’t multiple satellite warehouse locations joined by the latest satellite technology. It isn’t a small group of believers meeting in a house.
Let’s see if I can capture some of what Christian Extremism is.
It is faith. Pure and simple, total dependence on God and His faithfulness. It is loving Him because He first loved us. It is loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is turning away from sin and self-will (repenting) because we see and receive His kindness toward us. It is knowing Him. It is knowing by faith that He exists. And, because He exists, we know that He truly is willing to be known by us, and will reward our search for Him. He will make Himself known. Extreme Christianity is being so confident in His love and faithfulness that we can give thanks, always, for all things. It is knowing that He will use everything that happens in our lives to mold us into the image of Christ, and to bring glory to Himself. Knowing that, we can not only accept whatever comes, we can embrace it with a passion – a passionate faith – a confidence in His faithfulness and love.
Extreme Christianity is a faith that began at the cross of Christ and His resurrection, and it goes on daily carrying the dying of Jesus and the victory of His resurrection. It began with trusting in His finished work to save us, and it goes on daily trusting in His finished work to live through us. It began with resting in Him and His efforts and it goes on by resting in Him and His efforts. It began with being called to good works, and goes on by knowing it is actually Christ Himself who is at work in us both to will and to work out His good pleasure.
It has been called “mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis. Watchman Nee called it “the normal Christian life.” Both were using irony to make a point that it is simply the way the Christian life is supposed to be. However, it is not by any means “mere” in the sense that it might be considered easy. It is not complicated, but it is not easy. If it were, we would all be doing it already. It is “normal” in the sense that it is what is set forth in the New Testament for us, and it is the way Christianity really should look just because that’s what it really is. However, it is not at all normal in the sense that it is the way every, or even most, Christians live.
Jesus referred to it as righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees (supposedly the most righteous people of the day) (Matthew 5:20). He also said He came to give us life “more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
He took don’t kill to the level of don’t even devalue another person by being angry, considering them worthless or calling them a moron or fool.
He took don’t commit adultery to the level of don’t lust.
He took don’t make false vows to don’t make any vows, just be honest.
He took an eye for an eye to don’t get revenge; turn the other person’s wrong into an opportunity to bless.
He took love your neighbor and hate your enemy to love your enemy, too, and pray for him.
He took prayer, almsgiving, and fasting out of the public eye and made them personal interactions with the Father.
He took the Sabbath from resting on the 7th day to a life of abiding in and resting in God. Sabbath is no longer a day of the week. It’s a 24/7 lifestyle.
He took going to the temple as the dwelling place of God, and sent His Holy Spirit to indwell us and make us God’s house (Hebrews 3:6).
He took the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies, and became the mercy seat (propitiation) for us (Romans 3:25).
He took the priest in the temple and became our High Priest, and instituted the priesthood of the believer – making us a kingdom of priests.
He took the sacrifice lamb, offered repeatedly and ineffectually, and became the sacrifice lamb once for all.
He took the law, commandments, prophets, rites, and rituals, and made it all very simple (but not easy):
- the “first and greatest commandment” – love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength;
- the second commandment (James calls it the Royal Law) – Love your neighbor the same way you love yourself;
- pure and undefiled religion – visit orphans and widows in their distress and keep yourself unstained by the world
We do not need the government providing welfare, health care, mandating fairness and defining hate crimes, hate speech, mandating integration, defining marriage (or even regulating marriage), or even regulating education, or much of anything else. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the system we have and we are stuck with it. However, what we need is for the church to quit investing in brick and mortar and stained glass and corporate management (in the name of “church staff”) and begin investing in the lives of people – financially and spiritually. The church needs to quit playing church and effectively equip the saints – individual Christians – to be the church, to be Christians, and to do the work of the ministry. We as individual believers need to get passionate about living in the presence of the Living God. You are His dwelling place. That is extreme. If we truly believe that, our lifestyles we reflect it.