I’ve been thinking a lot about risk lately. In my little circle of Reformed theology, taking risks for God is currently cool. It’s in. It’s what all the cool kids are doing. Piper and Platt and Chan are writing about crazy, don’t waste your life, radical love. And I really am grateful for these guys. I’m grateful that they are encouraging my generation to go hard after God. I’m grateful for the Harris brothers challenging young men and women to do hard things for God. If any of you guys happen to stumble onto this, please feel my gratefulness.
But I’m starting to think that we might be getting the principle right but getting the application wrong. Here’s what I mean: when I read the books on being risky and radical and crazy, I come away feeling like I need to do something really, really big for God. I need to take a risk by uprooting my family and being a missionary to India. I need to be crazy for Jesus by adopting four Vietnamese orphans. I need to be radical for Jesus by starting an inner city ministry to the homeless. If I’m not doing something big for God, I’m wasting my life. If I’m not going big for God, I might as well be sitting in front of a slot machine in Vegas, slowly throwing my life away.
Now don’t get me wrong, all those things I mentioned above are good. If God calls you to do those things, do them with all your might! But if I don’t do these things, am I wasting my life? Am I not being crazy radical enough? I don’t think so. Here’s why: being a Christian is fundamentally radical, risky, and crazy.
In Mark 8:35, Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” To be a Christian, we must lose our life for the sake of Jesus. We must be willing to give up everything for the sake of Jesus. This at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. Jesus gets all of my life. Jesus gets all of me. Whatever he says goes. I am no longer my own. That’s crazy, radical, risky talk.
What does this look like practically? What does it look like to be radical for Jesus every single day? Well, it actually looks pretty ordinary. At least in the world’s eyes. Being radical for Jesus means fighting against our sin aggressively, and being willing to do whatever it takes to cut sin out of our lives (Matthew 5:29). It means blessing those who hate you, and giving your possessions to your enemies (Matthew 5:39). It means being poor in spirit, meek, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness (Matthew 5:2-11).
The Bible’s description of the radical Christian life is not particularly sexy or glamorous. Being radical for Jesus means being subject to the authorities (Romans 13:1). It means being patient in tribulation, constant in prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, and showing hospitality (Romans 12:12-13). These aren’t particularly exciting things, but I think we need to realize that these are radical! The world does not operate this way. Those who don’t know God curse in the midst of tribulation, never pray, indulge their sins, curse their enemies, and despise righteousness. If we seek to obey the Bible, we will be radical. If we seek to follow Jesus, that will inevitably lead to crazy love.
I’m not opposed to doing big things for God. We need more people in the mission field and the orphanages. But for most of us, being radical for Jesus means being faithful to do the “ordinary” Christian things. The Christian life is inherently radical, inherently risky, and inherently crazy. Following Jesus means dying to myself every single day. That is radical. If I seek to obey God’s word, my life will look very different than the rest of the world.
If God calls you to go to the mission field, wonderful! Go hard. But if God calls you to the cubicle field, don’t feel guilty! Be radical right where you are. Fight against your sin. Serve your spouse. Give generously. Spend time with the outcasts. Share the gospel with your neighbors. Remember Jesus doesn’t just want your risk. He wants all of your life.
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Stephen Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA, where his main duties include leading worship, preaching, and working with youth. He also has written a number of worship songs that have been included on Sovereign Grace Music albums. Stephen is the author of the book Game Day For the Glory of God: A Guide For Athletes, Fans, and Wannabes, published by Crossway Books in September 2008, and The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence, published by Crossway Books in April 2011. When not shining his dad’s shoes, you can find Stephen drinking coffee or playing video games.
Find out more when you visit his blog, The Blazing Center.