When I was younger I went to church almost every Sunday with my family. I would go to youth group and then join my parents for the adult service afterward. During these years I received exposure to the Gospel and to God’s Word, but I always walked away from every service the same. Sometimes I would have a desire to change, but ultimately I just wanted the assurance that when I died I would go to heaven. I didn’t want to do anything uncomfortable or do anything that would involve risk.
In church it seems like we listen to convicting messages and easily walk away just feeling convicted. But that is not submitting to Christ; that is not living out the Gospel. In the Gospels, Jesus didn’t get upset with those that didn’t know. He got upset with those that knew and didn’t do anything. Take a look at Luke 18:18-30. When Jesus tells the rich young ruler to sell all of his possessions and give them to the poor it says, “…when he [the rich young ruler] heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”
He was not willing to respond to Jesus in obedience. He was not willing to give up his earthly possessions. He was not willing to risk it all for following Christ. And Jesus responded, “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
In contrast I thought of Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector who’s mentioned in Luke 19:1-10 (who also has a pretty great children’s song written about him). He wanted to see Jesus and meet with Him, and the opportunity came when that would happen. But he was known for being a thief, for cheating people of money. The crowd was confused as to why Jesus would want to meet with such a crook. And right there Zacchaeus repented and said he would give half of his income away to the poor and pay back four times the amount that he stole from people. And Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home!”
It’s not enough just to feel bad or to feel guilty, we are called to repent when we are guilty and respond in obedience. And let me tell you, there is so much freedom that comes through following Christ and submitting to Him. When we are following after our own selfish desires and things of this world we are held captive to those things.
The biggest impact in my spiritual journey happened when I started being involved with a community of believers. Their faith spurred me on and their love for the Lord inspired me to get in the Word and get to know him. And when I began getting in the Word, God began changing my heart which began changing the way I lived my life. God began giving me the courage to take risks, to step out of my comfort zone. If there’s anything I would urge you to do it would be to get involved with a community and get into the Word, or as Brad said so well, to “look intently into the Word and persevere in the Word”. Allow God to speak truth to you, to convict you, and share your experience with others that can help keep you accountable.
Brothers and sisters, every day we have the opportunity to repent or walk away sad. I love what Brad prayed over us on Sunday- that we would “step out of our comfort zone” and choose to obey Christ. Where is God calling you step out of your comfort zone? What do you need to repent of? What risk is God calling you to take?
Joy Krolak was serving in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the last two years, working with college students. She’s currently back in the states connecting people to God’s mission for the world, and preparing to go back to Bosnia and Herzegovina long-term. She loves being in nature, reading, playing board games and cards, and having deep conversations with people.