We’re constantly hearing messages that say, “Go for your dreams!”, “Do what makes you happy!” and “Follow your heart!” But Jesus has a very different message, and this year while I was so busy trying to gain an education, pursue a career in entertainment, learn new skills, meeting new people and traveling , I had to stop and evaluate the key question: What is it all for? What is the ultimate purpose for everything that I’m doing, learning, and spending my time on? Is it for self, or is it for God? It dawned on me that everything I do had to be focused in one direction and that is upward. Whether it’s an education, a career, a ministry, a hobby, a home, a family, it all needs to be about Him and not about me!
About 5 days ago I began a study on living a life sold out to God and i began to recognize that i wasn’t fully sold out to Him – that my life wasn’t fully available to God – to let Him take me out of my comfort zone or really live sacrificially. I had boundaries around what I was willing for God to do with my life when it came to living a poured-out, sacrificial life. I was willing to pray, to speak with people about my faith , and to do those things “church people” do, but God began to burden my heart with SERVING. I began to recognize that there is a whole aspect of the Christian life that I was overlooking, and that was answering that sacred claim that He had on my life to say, “Lord, I’m not going to put boundaries around how You can use me and how You can use this life to reach the least, the lost and the vulnerable.”
In Matthew 16:24 it says “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” and “deny” literally means to lose sight of oneself and one’s own interests. In Ephesians 2:10, He reminds us that we’re created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. So when we understand this concept – that we are to deny self, to lose sight of self and our own interests, take up our cross and follow Him, and that He has prepared in advance good works for us to walk in – we begin to realize that this life isn’t supposed to be about us.
Now I know many people get reluctant when they hear the words “good works” because it sounds like earning your salvation or trying to prove something to the world. There are so many messages for women today like, “You don’t need to prove anything to anybody. Just be yourself! Stop trying to earn everybody’s favor by doing all these good things!” There is an element of truth to that because if you’re doing good works for the approval of men, then you’re not doing them out of the right motive, but that does not mean that we abandon living a sold-out life and build our life around selfish pursuits. It is actually a privilege and an amazing invitation to sacrificially give to the One who gave everything for us, and that’s what living a sold-out life is all about; not about trying to prove something to this world; not about trying to show our good works to men, but to say, “Lord, I want to sacrificially give to the One who gave everything for me.”
When we give our lives to Christ we are no longer our own. He has a claim on our lives. He has a purpose for us beyond going after our own dreams and frittering our lives away on selfish pursuits. We are His Body. He has commissioned us to become His hands and feet to a lost and dying world. I love the picture of communion, the Lord’s Supper, because when Jesus offered the Lord’s Supper to His disciples, He was, in essence, saying, “All that I am and all that I have is being spilled out for you.” And yet there’s another side to communion, as we take that symbol of His blood and His body we are declaring, “Lord, all that I am and all that I have is now for You.” It’s a symbol of our covenant with Him. He made a covenant with us, and we respond and make a covenant back with Him. It’s heart-breaking to see so many Christians completely overlook that beautiful covenant that Christ wants to enter into with us. We have a claim to all that He is, but He has a claim to all that we are.
If you have chosen the set-apart path of a man/woman who fears the Lord, your life is not your own. The Spirit of Christ has a claim upon you. You have a call upon your life; you have a job to do, and so do I. He has called us to minister His love to those in need. This sacred claim is the highest privilege we could ever receive. We can never repay what Christ did for us on the cross. But because He has made us His hands and feet to this world, we have the incredible opportunity to give to others the very same astounding, transforming love that He gave to us. Our act of worship is to offer our body to Him as a living sacrifice. This is not just sitting in our comfortable church buildings and singing about how much we love Him. It is demonstrating our love for Christ by practically giving it to those who desperately need it (see James 2:15-17) and being the light that this dark world needs.
The world is absolutely flooded with those who are destitute. Every day people are dying and over 150,000 people die each day without knowing Christ. These people have a claim on your life. They have a claim on my life. They are a priority to Christ and therefore must become a priority to us. If we are so preoccupied with self that we will not show the practical, life-changing, hope-giving love of Christ to them, our faith is dead. Just because we are comfortable does not give us an excuse to ignore the cries of the lost and broken. Jesus went to seek and save the lost. He did not stay among the wealthy and important. He went out of His way to find those in need. And He calls us to follow in His steps.
Beloved, there are a lot of other things that God has asked us to do to live a poured-out life, to begin loving sacrificially, and to get out of our comfort zones. It will require taking steps of obedience, and i dare say that there will be many heartaches and discomforts along the way. And so I ask you the question that God is always bringing back to me, “Are you willing to give everything to the One who gave everything for you?”
Now it’s easy to think, “Well, I have so many of my own issues. I’m the one who needs people to minister to me. I’m not ready to turn outward. I’ve got my own issues to work through.” That may be true and you may need someone to minister to you, and God does care about the issues that you’re struggling with. But one thing I want to tell you is that turning outward is an amazingly effective cure for depression and personal issues. It wouldn’t seem that it would make that big of a difference, but it does. When you suddenly get your eyes off yourself and begin living for a higher purpose than yourself and becoming a vessel of Christ’s light to reach the lost and the destitute, it gives you a joy; it gives you a sense of purpose; and it lifts you up out of a pit of depression. If the enemy is trying to come to you and say, “You’re too bogged down with your own issues to turn outward.” Turning outward may be the very thing that brings God’s healing into your life!
Your one step of obedience may be very different from mine. There are many causes that are on God’s heart, many burdens that He wants us to be carrying. I encourage you to ask God what one step He would be asking you to take in the new year. Instead of getting overwhelmed, focus on shifting your heart-attitude. It’s a heart-attitude that says, “My life is no longer my own. I’ve been bought with a price. I’m ready to put aside selfish, shallow pursuits, and make myself available to you, Lord, no matter the cost.”
It’s so important to point out that living a sold-out life is going to look different for everyone, but it’s not a duty. It’s not an obligation. It’s not something we should do out of some legalistic sense of, “This is what I have to do because I’m a Christian.” Rather, it’s an amazing privilege to pour out our lives for the One who gave everything to redeem us. As we enter into a new year I pray that we put selfish pursuits aside and live sold-out lives for the glory of God!