[This and the following Living Sacrifices parts written from 61511 – 112511]
Genesis 1:27– God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created them. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. But then man sinned against God and God left the Earth. The Earth, now separated from its creator’s direct presence, became cursed. Instead of being “very good” it became imperfect, and then bad, and then very bad. Yet some men still tried to take up their calling and fulfill their purpose of worshiping God, taking care of the Earth, and living the life God created them to live (fulfilling their good human desires and thus taking part in God’s pleasure of creation and life). And in those simple times it was enough to satisfy God. Good men lived good lives and were blessed in life. Bad men lived bad lives and eventually died, and that was it. But it still wasn’t like God intended it, and so God sought to restore his relationship with man (the main point of the creation).
Acts 17:30: “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
So it was that God made the Old World with its Old Covenant to pass away and he introduced a New Covenant which ushered in a New Age. But this new age wasn’t a new world, but rather simply a preparation for the New World, in which Shalom (perfect earthly harmony) would be restored to Earth and God would once again live alongside man as originally intended. As the old age was ushered in with God himself on earth walking alongside man, so was the new age instated with God himself walking alongside man, except this time God came to Earth in the form of a man, whom the world knows today as Jesus. And Jesus changed everything.
Whereas in the beginning God said, Enjoy life to the fullest, now he said, Live for a transcendent cause beyond this life, sacrificing your life for the sake of others. Before he said, Be fruitful and multiply, now he was saying, Take in the widows and orphans, and if anyone can remain single he should, for the end is near.
He said before “Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works.” (Ecc. 5:18 & 9:7)
Now he gave man a divine mission saying, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:15)
Instead of Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die, it was “They will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.”(Matt 24:9).
Jesus turned everything upside down in this new age, and his followers followed suit. His disciples actually acted like the end was near: quitting their jobs, leaving their families behind to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth preaching the Gospel. Even the ones who weren’t traveling sold their possessions so as to use everything in their power to prepare the world for the end. All their time, all their talents, and all their treasure. Aka the exact opposite of the American Dream, which more or less reverts back to a Christianized Old World mentality of “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die and go to Heaven.”
Christianity was a radical, revolutionary philosophy and way of life. It wasn’t acceptable to society back then and it isn’t acceptable in our modern-American church society either. The New Testament I read implies we should all surrender everything we have to live as living sacrifices, sacrificing everything we have to speed the Great Commission and hasten Christ’s return. Keep nothing for ourselves except that which equips our ministry, use the rest of our money to fund other ministries. Recognize that God owns everything, so everything that we have is only what God has chosen to loan us–talents he will one day come to collect, expecting at least interest. (Matt 25)
I haven’t taken a vow of poverty, mainly because Christ advised us not to make vows, but it is my conviction to live a life of “moderate poverty.” I still have a car and a computer and spend money on things that work towards my calling, but that’s it. I feel that as Christians we have no place to spend our money on anything that goes beyond necessity. Absolutely no vanities. Cut out expensive vacations, nice jewelry (including engagement rings), movies, cable, music, and restaurants from your budget. Of course some times going out is almost as cheap as buying something at the store and making it at home(and more conducive to your schedule); and sometimes (such as when travelling) you don’t have means of cooking. Restaurants are especially hard to avoid because people assume everyone goes out to eat and so I’m always invited to restaurants, which gets awkward constantly declining and you don’t want to disrespect people or miss out on opportunities to “fellowship in the gospel” with them. So my rule is that I don’t go out to eat unless it’s really cheap (like $2), it’s my only option, or it’s for a special occasion (which includes evangelistic opportunities). I would even go so far as to not invest much in retirement, since it’s a gamble anyways, because you could die tomorrow (unless of course you could designate your unused retirement funds to a ministry).
Of course there’s no way to make it all cut and dry because there are gray areas. Such as when it seems I “need” something to make my ministry as effective as possible– in my case I feel called to reach people through music (which can be more expensive the more effective you want it to be). But the bottom line is that as Christians we cannot afford the time or money to have lives of vanity. Even when it comes to our necessities we shouldn’t indulge in luxurious necessities. We need food to survive, but we don’t need the best-tasting food to survive. I challenge people to buy generic brands of everything. It will never be as good as the real thing, but that’s the price you pay for being a Christian (an incomparably smaller price than what God payed for you). I’ve heard it said that it’s not how much you spend that counts, but how much you have left. In the story of the poor widow’s offering, Jesus said her last 2 pennies were more than all the other donations combined. (Mark 12:41)
How much money would you give to save someone’s soul from Hell?
$1,000? $1,000,000? The answer should be, of course, “All of it.” Well, believe it or not, this option actually exists. You can pay to save souls by funding missionary work and child sponsorship, which presents the gospel in the most persuasive of ways and will inevitably save souls. So how much of your salary should you give towards the Great Commission? All of it. That’s not to say you give away all your money and have to dig through the dumpsters (that you live in) to find food. The healthier you are mentally and physically the more effective you are in The Great Commission, and the more effective you are at making money which can fund The Great Commission. Your specific calling will determine how healthy you should be or how much effort you put into your job, so as to not hinder The Great Commission by being too healthy or too hard of a worker.
Do not waste any of your time. Even in obeying the sabbath to rest don’t waste your time. Rest by reading literature to strengthen your spirit and meditation to stay close to God and hear from Him. If you’re too tired to read or pray then sleep or rest to get as much rest as you possibly can so that you’ll have all the more energy during the week to be active every day, draining your life and pouring it out as a drink offering. Do not watch TV for the purpose of being entertained only; only watch TV if it is spiritually-edifying somehow. If you desire entertainment then be entertained in a spiritually edifying way, aka fellowship with other believers in godly community, encouraging and sharpening them. Laugh at the things God would laugh at and let the joy and love of Christ which comes from fellowship of believers abound, which is greater recreation than any pop culture. Otherwise what good is entertainment or recreation if it doesn’t help progress God’s will? It is just a waste of time that could better be used fulfilling the Great Commission, even if it’s incrementally. If you find spiritually-edifying recreation to not be entertaining then you need to change. Your senses have been so numbed by their over-stimulation from this over-indulgent society that you can’t even enjoy the basic pleasures of life, you can’t enjoy the things that were created to please you.
When you’re on your death bed, what will you wish that you had done with your life?
The way I see it is like this: Every single thing that you do in your life will affect the ultimate number of souls who go to Heaven or Hell. Through a spiritual butterfly effect something as simple as a disgruntled comment to a stranger you’ll never see again (who at least assumes you are a Christian) can turn that stranger against Christ by giving them a bad impression of Christians in general and thus Christianity, so that they are more likely to avoid it altogether. Their impression creates a subconscious instinct that guards them from being offended again. Once they are hardened against it, they go on living their life subconsciously discerning reality around them, but now they lean towards anti-christ explanations and are progressively built-up to explain away Christ. Oh, that not one person would go to Hell because of us!
Therefore, every single thing that you do needs to filter through Christianity. From the first thing you do in the morning to the last thing you do at night. From the way you dress, the way you communicate, how you make money, who you associate with, etc. If you’re too tired, get more sleep. If you don’t have enough time/talent/treasure then cut out the things in your schedule getting in their way and put new things in your schedule that increase your time/talent/treasure for the ministry. If you’re not good at speaking then work on what you are good at. If you’re ignorant on apologetics, learn them now. Stop reading this and go learn it so that you can “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (Peter 3:15) And set up barriers in your life to prevent “the cares of this world” from stealing away your time/talent/treasure.
“What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Cor. 7:29)