Friday night, eight buddies and I headed down highway six to College Station to gather with a thousand other college students for a men’s conference. The speakers delivered the gospel and God’s presence was thick in that building as we gathered in His name. After the gospel was proclaimed, the Holy Spirit entered my friend Abhisek’s life. He confessed to his status as a sinner and put his hope in trust in Jesus. Praise God.
This August, Abhisek showed up at Baylor University with a Hindu label to his name, a searching heart and practically no knowledge of the Christian faith. Here, God has relentlessly pursued his heart. Today he rejoices in the miracle of salvation. Abhisek is a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come (2nd Corinthians 5:17). God has reconciled Abhisek by Christ’s physical body through death to present Abhisek holy in His sight, without blemish and accusation (Colossians 1:22). He has been transformed. I wept tears of joy for my buddy when I heard.
The next morning, I went on a run to have some alone time with the God of salvation to sort some things out. God had saved my friend from the wages of sin. The first four miles, I just praised God for that. The next four, I thought about the question: what now?
And that made me think back on the men’s conference. I love those events where you get together with other believers and worship and learn. They’ve been huge in my life and in the lives of many others. But in one huge aspect, I think they usually fall short.
Every big conference I’ve been to has preached the gospel. They’ve shared that Christ died and rose again and that in Him and Him alone lies the forgiveness of our sins. In His death and resurrection, a Holy God has been reconciled with broken, unholy people. Proclaiming the gospel is what these conferences get right. It’s what follows that proclamation that bothers me. After hearing that God became flesh and dwelled among us and died the most horrific death imaginable for us, you would think that the follow-up to that would be huge. It should be huge. Believing that someone loves you that much should change everything. In Les Miserables, some priest just gave a prisoner some candlesticks and it changed everything. Jesus DIED for us. So why is the follow-up to the presentation of the gospel always so boring?
They usually just tell us not to say bad words or do stuff with our girlfriend or boyfriend. If it’s just a guys talk, they’ll tell us to quit looking at dirty pictures on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, those things and the pursuit of holiness are incredibly important and absolutely should be preached, but is that the point of our new life in Christ? Is that the follow-up to the greatest love story of all time?
It’s no wonder that so many don’t respond to that. It’s just boring. Looking at the life of Jesus and his immediate followers, were there lives boring in any way, shape, or form? Did the disciples see Jesus die for them and then have their response be cutting a few bad habits out of their lives? Absolutely not. Look at what they did, look at the lives they lived, and look at the deaths they died. Their lives were the material they make movies about. Hollywood would make bank if they made a movie about the early church. They lived and breathed to glorify God, to live a life worthy of the calling they had received (Ephesians 4:1), and they loved like crazy to the point of death.
Matt Chandler, one of my favorite pastors and writers, closed out the night. The thing he said that resonated with me most was this. When men are bored, they get dangerous. They ruin their lives and the lives of the people around them whether it be by alcoholism, pornography addiction, or SportsCenter addiction. I think he’s right; a lot of men are bored because they heard the incredibly good news of the gospel followed by a list of dont’s, a subscription to Christianity Today, and a flyer encouraging them to vote in the upcoming election.
Did God save Abhisek just so he could ditch a couple sinful habits? Did God save me only so I wouldn’t say bad words or ogle girls as they jog by in yoga pants? I don’t think so. I think he saved us for that and so much more. The pursuit of holiness, that list of do’s and don’ts, gets a whole lot easier to follow when you aren’t bored.
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. Mark 8:34
The name of the conference we went to was Relentless. It’s fitting. There’s nothing boring about relentlessly pursuing and serving the Living God. I hope that the good news of the gospel is followed by a relentless pursuit of the risen God in Abhisek’s life, in my life, and in every believer’s life.