Just don't be a Jesus Freak
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Coming to faith in Christ later in life has presented me with a different experiential perspective than others who might have come to faith when they were kids or who may have been raised within the bounds of a Christian worldview. Whereas the idea of God, prayer, resurrection, and eternity might have had the opportunity to grow dull on the hearts and minds of someone raised in a Christian environment, these were all entirely foreign to the structure of my former worldview. Though my worldview before coming to Christ was not coherent, nor did it have a robust articulation, nevertheless it had its boundaries established, and all that I listed above fell far outside of those boundary markers. So after I was saved, my worldview was forced to go through a radical change.
I remember a bible study leader early in my faith asking what it was like to go through that transition, from atheism to Christianity. I remarked at that time that I didn’t experience any type of physiological change, but the lens through which I saw the world was steadily transforming. The way I saw and understood the world slowly and progressively adapted, and old perspectives had to be abandoned for new perspectives that more closely reflected scriptural insights. It was a challenging process, but it offered me an opportunity to think more seriously about the Christian belief system.
I think that one thing that becomes more clear to me as my faith and knowledge of God and His word grows, is the significance of the truths found in Christianity. There are meaningful implications that follow from the truthfulness of these propositions which is why I’m always confused by Christians and even non-Christians who seek to temper the intensity through which one lives their religious convictions.
“You can be religious, just don’t take your religion too seriously.”
“You don’t have to make everything about God.”
“You don’t want to be a Jesus freak.”
These are statements that I have heard both in the church and outside the church. There is a level of tolerance that society seems to have for the fervor one has for their religious convictions. Those who maintain a quiet, private, secondary, and non-imposing religious life are to be highly praised, while those who maintain an open, public, and comprehensive religious primacy are to be loathed, ridiculed, or isolated. This is certainly to be expected from a pluralistic secular society, however, it is far odder when it comes from those who claim to be Christian.
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These attitudes to me seem to be indicative of a lack of understanding of the significance of the metaphysical claims that are believed by Christians. These attitudes are also reflective of a willing syncretism, especially in the American church, that wants to have one foot in the world and one foot in the church. However, the propositions and the teachings of Christianity do not allow for such a mediocre response. Instead, they require a radical pursuit that necessitates a response of fervor in one’s life.
My goal in writing this article is to take a proposition that is taken to be true in Christianity and highlight the significance of its implications in order to show that taking this proposition to be true requires one to participate in this radical pursuit. If you take this proposition to be true, then the only appropriate response would be a life of fervor and devotion.
The Purposed Life
One of the most significant beliefs about Christianity is contained in the opening line of Scripture.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
I want to unpack for you some of the entailments that follow from the belief that God is the creator. The foremost of these is entailments is that of teleology.
God has created.
Since God has created, He has created teleologically, that is with purpose and design. There is intention encoded within everything that God has created and those intentions are designed to fulfill the highest purpose for that which has been created. Everything that God has created has a purpose, including humanity.
As humans, we thrive on having a purpose. We rarely do anything without having some purpose and expected outcome for doing it. We put down others for the purpose of feeling better about ourselves. We seek higher-paying jobs for the purpose of having more stuff. We work hard on our appearance for the purpose of others thinking more highly of us. It is the purposes that serve as the fuel through which we act. The more we desire the outcome and the greater the correlative relationship between the action and the outcome, the more likely we are to act in that manner. However, are these the purposes that God created for humanity? Is God’s ultimate purpose for a man his betterment of status, feeling, and glory?
This illuminates the importance of God’s revelation to humanity. For mankind to understand God’s intention for creating him, God would need to reveal it to Him due to man’s ultimate finitude and sinful state. Though mankind would still have a purpose, without revelation man could not know its purpose without God’s condescending communication of it.
God has revealed.
As Christians, we believe that not only has God established those purposes through His creative act, but He has also graciously revealed them in Scripture.
In Genesis 1:26, we learn that man’s teleology is that of vice-regency, in that humans are to rule on behalf of God on earth, exercising His will and desires throughout creation. We are to reflect God’s image and likeness in creation. This means being holy as God is holy. We are to do this, not for our own glory or notoriety, but instead for His glory. To understand the greater depths of our purpose, we must understand God’s character, God’s will, and God’s desire, each of which is contained within God’s revelation. The more we examine its depths, the greater we understand its comprehensive nature.
We have been given our ultimate purpose from God and He has revealed that purpose to us through the revelation of Adam the first man. Though Adam, and subsequently all of humanity, failed in his role, we see Christ, the revelation of God, fulfill this role perfectly, thus serving as the ultimate paradigm through which we understand fulfilling our role as vice-regents.
Christ as the exemplar.
So what can we understand from Christ’s example of vice regency as it relates to religious fervor? Did Christ try to avoid being too public about His religious convictions? Did He caution against being too serious about religion? Was His devotion to God tempered?
I think that time and time again Christ demonstrates a fervor toward God and a pursuit to fulfilling God’s will that is far above what we see in the world today. Jesus flips the tables of the money changers for disregarding the purpose and significance of the temple. Jesus resists the temptations of Satan for forty days in the wilderness. Jesus willingly goes to the cross to suffer on our behalf even though He could have done otherwise. Jesus’ ultimate concern was not Himself, but the will of God.
It is from this examination of the life of Christ that one is able to deduce what it means to fulfill the ultimate purpose set for humanity. This means a radical pursuit of the will of God, even if it means you might suffer. Even if it means you will be rejected. Even if it means you lose your life. Being a vice-regent of God can carry a high price tag, but it is the only purpose worth pursuing because it comes from the ultimate purpose maker.
God has created humanity and intrinsically from that humanity has a purpose. God has revealed that the purpose of humanity is to serve as His vice-regents on earth which means seeking to accomplish His will and desire as we exercise dominion over creation. This is not a partial pursuit, but instead is a comprehensive pursuit that requires a devotion of one’s life to this purpose. In all things, we are to seek to bring glory to God and God has sent His Son as a paradigm through which we can understand what it means to fulfill our ultimate purpose of vice regency. What we see from Jesus is a life that is entirely devoted to glorifying God by seeking to do His will. Thus with Christ as the paradigm and the purpose being revealed, the only appropriate response for Christians is a life of fervor. A life that is willing to walk away from all that is not glorifying to God. A life that makes glorifying God the center of everything. A life that does not hide what one believes but serves as a vice-regent of God.
If you believe that God has created, then this is the only logically appropriate response.
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36)