There has been enough in recent news for Americans to finally admit that being American is not synonymous with being a Christian, and in fact much of what we identify as the “American Dream”and the collective American identity may in fact be in direct contrast to what Christ demands of his followers.
For much of American history there have been many who have called themselves “Christian”, who may not even know the meaning of the word, let alone know the God they claim they follow, and now that American culture is at odds with Christian tradition, many of us finally have to ask ,”Why Jesus?”
Because if Christianity doesn’t have anything to offer that Atheism or Moralistic Therapeutic Deism offer, then it really isn’t worth the “culture wars” we are seeing played out.
So Jesus is either one more spiritual leader among many, who’s relevancy is only applicable when the tide is in his favor; or, he is who he said he was, and who the Bible claims, and he offers something that’s worth dying for.
In fact, if we’re claiming to follow Jesus, he better be worth dying for, because that’s exactly what he demands we do. Die. He demands complete, and total surrender, death to ourselves, and wholehearted allegiance to him alone.
You see, every other religion, including the religion of the “American Dream” and many “false gospels” that claim Jesus’ name but don’t know him at all, their promises are all about you. They promise you things that make following them seem worth it.
Many of these pretend gospels promise,
You can be a better, kinder, person
You can help people
You can gain blessings of family or wealth
You can be without fear in the face of anything
You can be happy
You can find contentment in having nothing
You can have everything you want in the “after life”
But really, if any of those things are the end goal, are they worth dying for? Are they worth being hated? Are they worth being skinned alive, burned alive, hung upside down on an inverted cross, having your head severed from your body, being pushed from a third-story window? Are they worth selling all you have, forgoing every comfort, to go to the ends of the earth to be sure that everyone know about it?
No, if happiness, or fearlessness or being kind are the end goal, they aren’t worth dying for, and they aren’t worth sacrificing even a little of our comfort. And that’s perhaps why we are seeing so many pastors concede on many biblical issues, because the gospel they have preached wasn’t really the gospel of Jesus Christ, the god they claimed they followed was really just a golden calf shaped into their own image. And many of us have happily gone along to sing praises to this weak god of our own making, and now suddenly we find ourselves lost in the sea of cultural changes that are drastically drawing the lines between popular christianity and true christianity.
Americans, wake up.
You may call yourself a Christian, you may attend a church, you may listen to sermons, read books, attend bible studies, and you just may be worshipping a god you’ve constructed. When the tides shift against these Americanized so-called “Christian” things and they are no longer popular, you will find that your god will crumble like every other false god.
Everyone of us, when faced with Jesus’ assertion, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, must count the cost, we must be willing to die completely to ourselves, not just saying words, not just doing the actions, no, we must die. To follow Jesus means that life is not about anything but Jesus. He’s the way, he’s the truth, and he is the life. Nothing else matters.
Because being a Christian is not about you, at all.
You see, when Jesus promises blessings, he’s promising himself, not wealth, not success, not friends, just him. And when you follow him, truly follow him, you realize knowing him really is the only blessing, ever. He’s it. So we don’t follow him to get anything, or to have ourselves be made into something great, we follow him because he is the ultimate, he is everything, and knowing him is everything. He is everything when people hate us because we tell them they need him, he is everything if our skin is filleted from our bones because we will not recant, he is everything if we smell our very own flesh burning off because we are proclaiming his name, he is everything if we lose absolutely every person we love in this world. Because we can never lose him. And he is worth sacrificing everything to follow. He is worth offering everything we have up to him and going wherever he tells us. He is worth laying our lives down and submitting our whole selves to, he is worth departure from every other identity we think we have, he is worth giving up every single sin we think is so precious, he is worth obedience, he is worth allegiance, he is worth everything, and more.
This Jesus is enough, because he is no mere teacher, nor spiritual guide, he is God. He is the one who, with a word, created this complicated, vast world that we have hardly even begun to understand. He is the God who is holy, who is just, and who is so loving and merciful, he took the punishment and wrath we all deserve, on himself. And because this great God made himself man, and showed us the greatest act of love by taking the wrath of the Father completely on himself, we can know him. Because he died the fullness of death, taking the due penalty of our sin, we can be united with the God who created us for himself. For those of us who give up ourselves to this God, we have forgiveness from our sin, we have freedom from the slavery of sin, we have the perfection of Christ put on us, and we have the power of God’s Spirit within us to walk in a manner that is worthy of the life we are called to in Christ.
Don’t you see? Following Jesus is all about him, it’s all about what he has done for us, and it is all about total and complete satisfaction in him alone. When we follow Jesus, our every waking moment becomes about him, our entire life is centered upon him, we follow his command, we go where he tells us, we submit every decision to him. Because nothing else matters apart from him. So we wake, and we walk with him in our days, we love our world, our co-workers, acquaintances, friends, and families by the power of Jesus, husbands love their wives by the power of Jesus, wives submit to their husbands by the power of Jesus, parents love and instruct their children by the power of Jesus, we love the body of Christ in the Church by the power of Jesus, we proclaim to the world that they need Jesus by his power alone, and we go wherever he tells us, and we talk about this Jesus who died, who rose, and who will be coming back like we are broken records, because he has brought we who were dead, to life.
So, why Jesus? Because he is Jesus.