Living radically: I love those two words. As I hear them, I think of rebelling, being passionate, fighting unto death, swimming against the flow. They get me excited for life.
It was in 2010 when I was introduced to what I thought to be Francis Chan’s teaching of living radically. I remember my youth pastor handing me Chan’s book Crazy Love right before we headed to Mexico City on a mission’s trip. I began to read it and could not put it down. I was so fascinated with the whole idea. I always thought that the American church was lacking something. There had to be more, but I did not know what. I went on to YouTube and watched literally all of Chan’s sermons. Not too long after that we did John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life series in our small group. I could not get enough of these guys. I wanted to go out and do something big for God. As many teenagers though I felt like I could not live radically until I got out of the house. I did not feel like I had the resources to do it. And besides who is going to let a teenage girl do something crazy?
As I look back I see that I was on the right track but was a little confused with what living radically is. I thought living radically was going out selling all that you have and moving to Africa. Yes, sometimes that is what it looks like, but it is so much more. I also saw living radically as Chan and Piper’s teachings not a command from the Bible, which is the Word of God.
When I started to think and plan for this paper I had just gotten back from an intense week of camp studying marriage. I thought maybe that would be a quick and easy choice to pick. You know just throw everything I just learned down on paper and make it look pretty. I began to write and nothing was coming together. I went to my dad all frustrated, asking him what I should do. Should I switch my topic? We started to throw around ideas. I decided to switch topic and write instead about living radically and fully. I thought I had a pretty good concept of what that looked like. Truth is, I knew very little, and the stuff I did know was all head knowledge. It was not until I did this paper that I understood a little more of what it truly is. So here is my personal journey of God changing my heart and showing me what it looks like to live radically and fully.
I begin this journey by researching statistics. Dad is always telling us that we Americans are so blessed and spend all our money and time on ourselves. We are so consumed with ourselves. Maybe this is a good idea, I thought, this way I can know where I spend a little too much money maybe skimp a little in that area and then give the money I save to the poor or something, maybe the church. I search and begin to read statistics and more statistics. I see it then… “If you have any food in your refrigerator, any clothes in your closet, any small roof, rented or owned, over your head, you are richer than 75% of the rest of the world… If you have anything saved in the bank, any bills in your wallet, any spare change in a jar, you are one of the top 8% wealthiest people in the world” (Voskamp). I am one of the top 8% in the world. “Top 8%”, it begins to sink in. I go deeper in my searching. “An average American family will spend $1,200 per person on summer vacations. An average parent will spend $271 on Christmas gifts per child. An average American women spends about $3,000 each year on looking good, this does not include clothing. Americans spend about $10 billion a year on pornography” (CBS News). I reread them to make sure I read them correctly. I stop and just sit in my hard chair stunned. I always thought of myself as poor, and now here I sit facing that fact that I am one of the richest in the world. I look over the statistics once more to see if I can see more to what these facts point. I begin to feel sick. We spend our money on ourselves. We think of no one else but ourselves. It hits me right then that these are not just statistics, but me. I am consumed with me. My eyes are opened. It is no secret that we all yearn for more, something real, something deeper. Take a walk outside and you see it in your neighbors’ eyes, a longing. Or, just look into your own heart.
Ann Voskamp once wrote that we are each an Esther living in a palace with a gate built around it. As I think about this I realize how accurate that picture is. We are Esther with a job that Christ has called us to do. We are among some of the riches in the world with palaces. We do not lack in resources. But with a gate built around it? What? Gate, gate, gate… I’ve seen gates my whole life. They are the metal things that we use to keep things that bother us out and away from us. The gates in our lives keep us from going to do what we are supposed to do and keep it from coming to us. We distance ourselves from everything and everyone. Christ has called us to do something more, but we do not do it because it means we have to tear down our gates, become uncomfortable, and sacrifice. Ann went on to write that we are “living dead”. So that is what I see in everyone’s eyes, everyone is truly dead inside. Here we sit inside our palace thinking that if we just get the one more thing somehow we will be satisfied and have real joy. Have not we thought that before though? My brain clicks…hoarding all of the blessings which Christ has poured out on us and trying to get more isn’t the key to truly living. It is killing the joy in us.
I do not want to be bothered though. I want to do what I want to do. I do not want anyone to get in the way of my goals. I become uncomfortable. I do not want to be a living dead, but I love my palace. I want to be the one doing the job Christ has called me to do, but I love my gates. I want to be fully living, but I am afraid of giving up all I know. Cannot I just live like I am used to? Cannot I go into my palace and lock the gate? I stop my term paper. I realize at this very moment that my life is not really lining up with what God had made me for. I was made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I am glorifying myself and trying to enjoy “things” forever. I start to see the gates that I had built in my life. I do not want my reputation to be ruined—gate built. I do not want to give up my “toys”—gate built. I do not want to have to put to death sin— gate built. I do not want to give up my precious gym time—gate built. I do not want to have to sacrifice anything for anyone—gate built. I do not want to have to have to pull off the mask I have been wearing—gate built. I want to live a comfortable life. The war inside me begins to rage. I just want to forget everything I just read, but I cannot.
I begin to read the Bible in hopes of finding something that will tell me that the way I live is okay, that I do not need to get too carried away with this living for Jesus. The more I read the more I see this radical giving up. “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45 ESV). “And He said to them all, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me’” (Luke 9:23). Neither of those sounds like a casual living. “Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers” (Chan, 115). Francis Chan’s words replay over and over in my head.
I was dead in my sins. I am now His child not because of things I have done, but because of His grace. I would claim all of these things, but deep down I do not really think of myself as being really that bad. Sure I sin here and there but over all I am for God not against Him. Until now. Now I begin to see my rebellion towards God. I think I know best. I want to live my life my way. Christ pours His grace out on me and begins to break me down and show me that all I have worked for has been for nothing. It does not satisfy. In the scheme of eternity it makes no difference.
I am awake and cannot sleep. My mind is racing with things that I have to do the minute my feet hit the cold ground in the morning. I cannot go to sleep every night thinking about my to-do lists. I stop and breathe. I start to think about the book in the Bible that I decided to randomly read earlier that day. I begin to think about me being Gomer and Christ being Hosea, me running away and selling myself, choosing to sell myself. Me in a sense being a prostitute, trying to find value and worth in the world. If you know how the story goes you know that Hosea goes after Gomer. He does not stop, he pursues her. I sit in my dark and quiet room in awe of Christ’s love for me, Gomer. Just as Hosea went to the messiest places on earth to find and save Gomer, so does God. When God found me I was not something neat, and nice, and put together. I was in chains, I was naked, and I was sinful. It is this God who saw through my masks that I wore and saw my heart for who I really was, a wretch. But out of His goodness and grace He bought me with the blood of His only Son, Christ, as Hosea bought Gomer. In his book Crazy Love, Chan writes, “The irony is that while God doesn’t need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don’t really want Him most of the time. He treasures us and anticipates our departure from this earth to be with Him- and we wonder, indifferently, how much we have to do for Him to get by” (Chan, 61). My heart wells up. It is this God that I get to pray to. He wants me. He chose me. Not because I am something special, but because He is good and gracious.
I wake up the next morning feeling transformed and refreshed. Yes, it is another work day. Another day filled with rushing, screaming kids in my ear, another day of to-do lists, but it is also another day of Christ loving me. I know all I need is Christ; therefore I have all I need. So today is not a day of need but a day of receiving and a day of being able to give glory to Him. I see a little more of the Father’s love for me. It is this that makes me want to glorify Him.
Just a couple days later I am sitting in my bedroom bored out of my mind. A book caught my eye, “One Thousand Gifts”. As I flipped through the pages I stumble across this… “If I close these fingers, try to hold, hoard the river—dam up the grace—won’t the water grow stagnant? Long the children and I once looked at photos of the dead Dead Sea, and we read how the Jordan River streams into the sea and nothing flows out of the sea and the salt content rises and everything dies. I think of this. That fullness grows foul. Grave is alive, living waters. If I dam up the grace hold the blessing tight, joy within dies… waters that have no life. I turn my hand over, spread my fingers open. I receive grace. And through me, grace could flow on. Like a cycle of water in continuous movement, grace is meant to fall, a rain… again, again, again” (Voskamp, 184). Joy leaps in me. So this is the key to living fully. The piece to the puzzle I have all been longing to find. It’s been here along.
Open my hands wide with fingers spread opened to receive grace, and then let grace to continue to flow through me unto someone else. I cannot get it out of my head. It keeps replaying over and over. It is like the pounding of a hammer. As a nail sinks deep into wood, so does this sink deep into my soul? Grace is not to stop with us, but flow in and through us. This is how we fully live.
I sit still trying to convince my squirming sister to do the same, that is when I hear it from the pastor and then dad repeats it again that following Sunday… “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 ESV). “‘Love one another’ is not a new commandment. So what does He mean?” they ask. “It is a new commandment because Christ is about to show them to what extent we are to love one another. We are to love to the extent of laying our lives down for one another as Christ did for us.”
David Platt describes radical living as, “The gospel that saves us from work saves us to work”, meaning that we have been saved from the work of trying to earn the favor and rightness from God. We know that there is nothing we can do to be righteous before God. We could make tons of sacrifices and move to the most dangerous place on the earth and give all we have away and yet we are still sinful to the core of who we are. “God is not wanting you to make sacrifices. He wants you to be a sacrifice,” writes Derek Thomas. “The radical life begins with a radically death, a death to ourselves, a death to every attempt in our life to try to earn the favor of God. To acknowledge I can do nothing before Him to earn His favor, and Christ has done everything necessary for me, so I trust fully in Him. ‘Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling’” (Platt). As we are resting in Christ He is working in us. We begin to see the world differently. Our hearts are changed. We begin to live totally differently, and we begin to work for the glory of God as an overflow of faith in Him. We begin to work with passion. Faith in the gospel drives this radical living.
My mind races... So living radically and fully is not going to see the whole world. It is not going on the dream vacation or owning an Audi. It is not doing everything on our bucket list before we take our last breath. It is not living as safely and comfortably as we can. Living radically is not even necessarily about where you live, it is about how you love.
Living radically and fully is letting the love of Christ move you. It means being done with loving Jesus—without doing what He says. It means doing the small things with His Great love (Voskamp). It is opening your hands wide open to the grace that He pours out on us each and every day and then letting it flow through you unto someone else. It is loving others as Christ has loved us. “Radical isn’t as much about where you move – but about looking into the face of Jesus – and letting Him move you where you are. He may move you to Africa – or across the street. But if the love of Christ moves you – it will move you out into the world. He will move you to tear down gates” (Voskamp). Love will move us to tear down our gates. Living radically is forgetting about our reputation. It is putting to death sin. It means becoming real. It is sacrificing our goals and desires for what Christ has called us to do. Living radically and fully is not chasing a comfortable and safe life, but embracing a risk taking and at times painful life.