A long-time pastor of mine, Donna Auerbach, used an unforgettable expression. She said some Christians looked as if they had been baptized with pickle juice. Think: Joyless. Lifeless. Rigid. Legalistic. Critical.
Have you known some? Has it kept you from wanting to be a Christian? Has it made you reluctant to put both feet into the kingdom of God?
The good news is that pickle juice “Christianity” doesn’t match up with such bible statements as:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 NIV).
. . . serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything (Deuteronomy 28:47).
It seems to match up with this scripture:
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20 NLT).
However–have you ever noticed that the person who said this (the apostle Paul) is the same person who used the word “joy” or “rejoice” twelve times in the short book of Philippians? (Two of them are in the first bible quote above.)
Dead but joyful. Doesn’t seem to compute, does it? I mean, in Galatians 4:4, Paul he says he’s been crucified. That’s not something anyone would want. Then he says he no longer lives. That sounds like he had given up everything worth having–his personality, his passions, his dreams–everything. Where’s the joy in that?
The answer is buried somewhere in this scripture:
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. ” (Matthew 16:24 NLT).
When Jesus–or Paul–talked about dying or being crucified, they were talking about letting go of selfishness. They were talking about giving up the inferior brand of living we are capable of creating on our own in order to step into a more abundant life. They were talking about meeting Someone they wanted to follow the rest of their lives.
They were talking about a covenant relationship with Christ. You’ve heard of two people becoming blood brothers? That concept was clearly understood in Jesus’ day. It involved pledging loyalty and partnership to each under, no matter what. And it wasn’t mandatory. People only did it because they really believed in each other. They wanted to pool their strengths and were willing to supply what each other lacked. Like a good marriage.
A couple Sundays ago, my current pastor gave a sterling example of how our covenant with Christ works. His comments went something like this:
We say that if we belong to the Lord, all we have is his. Well, ten percent of our wealth belongs to him.
The rest is ours. He gives us all things freely to enjoy.
But, because we’re in covenant with him, whenever he asks for something, it’s his.
Also, the better we know him, the more we love what he loves. The more of ourselves and our possessions we throw into his kingdom. Not because they’re his. Because they’re ours–and that’s what we want to do with our stuff.