Don't be Afraid to be a Renegade
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2006 23 Oct
The following is a report on the practical applications of David Foster's recent book, A Renegade’s Guide to God: Finding Life Outside Conventional Christianity, (Warner Faith, 2006).
Jesus never meant for you to be crushed under the weight of rigid rules and self-righteous religious agendas. You can still love Him with deep conviction if you break free and start living as a renegade for God – someone who rejects conventional religion yet embraces faith with a passion.
So go ahead and trade religion for real life in Jesus. Here’s how:
* Understand that God loves you as you are, not as you ought to be. Stop futile efforts to earn God’s love and accept the fact that there’s absolutely nothing you can do to make Him love you any more or less. Know that He loves you deeply and unconditionally right now.
* Seek transformation instead of just a moral makeover. Recognize that God doesn’t want you simply to change your morals for the better; He wants you to give Him your whole heart so He can transform you into a different person. Know that real faith transcends just adopting a certain lifestyle, joining a certain denomination, or espousing certain political views. Understand that true and lasting change is internal, not external.
* Get rid of shame. Don’t allow people to pile shame on you for past sins with which you’ve already dealt properly. Have confidence that, if you respond to guilt in a healthy way by confessing and repenting, you can count on God’s forgiveness. Remember that once God forgives you, you are free. Accept His forgiveness and move on with your life in peace.
* Stand out rather than fitting in. Understand that God’s goal isn’t for you to just be compliant and fit into a bland and boring group of nice people. Celebrate the unique person God created you to be, and don’t be afraid of standing out in a crowd. Reject labels from people who don’t know you well, and let people get to know you. Embrace God’s purposes for your life, and don’t settle for anything less. Use the distinctive talents He has given you to contribute to the world in ways that only you can. Overcome apathy and don’t waste the time you have. Pursue significance, putting your faith in action to make the world a better place because you lived. Discover true fulfillment by investing your life in what matters most.
* Dream big. Be bold about asking God what His dreams are for you; you will likely find that many of them are beyond what you’ve been dreaming for yourself. Then have the courage to embrace those dreams. Don’t let negative people discourage you from pursuing big dreams. Be willing to take whatever risks are necessary to follow God’s dreams for you, trusting that He will provide all you need along the way. Don’t be one of those people who looks back in regret for not having tried; give your best to pursuing your dreams, and look forward to them coming true.
* Have fun. Know that it’s not wrong to want to have fun. Remember that God wants you to be filled with joy.
* Trade safety for adventure. Recognize that true faith isn’t about safety from the challenges of our fallen world; it’s about engaging that world in redemptive ways. Abandon the false notion of Jesus as some kind of sweet, safe figure who makes you feel warm and fuzzy. Understand that He is the all-powerful God of the universe, and a relationship with Him will cost you everything, but be worth everything. Ask Him to give you the courage you need to live the adventurous life He wants for you. Be willing to take whatever risks you need to take and make whatever sacrifices you need to make to follow where He leads. Know that doing so will change you in profound ways.
* Seek conversion. Don’t settle for religion that doesn’t truly change you. Instead, confront the truth of your sins, express genuine remorse for them, take responsibility, repent, and receive God’s forgiveness and transformation.
* Give it your all. Understand that life with God is much more than simply going to church once a week; it involves a constant, growing connection to Him. Live your faith on Monday through Saturday just as much as you do on Sunday. Give your mind, body, and spirit completely over to something bigger than yourself – the Gospel. Let Jesus change your thoughts and behavior so His love is reflected in all aspects of your life – at home, at work, at play, at rest, and everywhere else. Get to know God’s heart, trust His love, and follow His lead. Ask Jesus to help you show the world you’re His disciple by demonstrating love, honesty, trust, freedom, joy, generosity, humility, and a hunger for Him.
* Be authentic. Don’t worry about projecting a certain image to others. Don’t cave into pressure to pretend to be someone you’re not. Realize that God is much more concerned about your true heart than about your appearance. Ask God to help you discover who He created you to be and to give you the confidence to be yourself with other people.
* Recognize that it’s all about love. Understand that no amount of good works you do will count for anything unless there’s love behind them. Remember that what matters most is simple: loving God and others. Make it a priority to let God’s love flow through you every day, in practical ways that bless other people.
* Distinguish Jesus from Christianity. Remember that real faith isn’t about a religious system; it’s about a relationship. Keep your focus on Jesus. Rather than just trying to get people to join a church, help them encounter Jesus and connect to Him above all.
* Know the reasons behind what you believe. Don’t just buy into faith simply because your parents did or because you want to fit in or please others. Seriously think about what you personally believe, and why. Be able to tell others why you’ve chosen faith.
* Trust. Realize that trusting Jesus is the key that unlocks all the treasures of heaven here on Earth. Understand that even when you don’t understand a situation or can’t predict its outcome, you can rely on the fact that you do know Jesus and trust that He will act according to what’s best for you. Remember that nothing is impossible for you if you call God on His promises and attempt whatever He leads you undertake.
* Embrace freedom. Watch out for people who claim to know it all and charlatans and cheats who claim to speak for God. Remember that, when you’re in a strong relationship with Jesus, you’re free to think for yourself. Exercise your freedom from pressure to please others or to fit into their agenda.
* Savor the sacred now. Be alert to God at work all around you. Look for the extraordinary hidden in the ordinary. Be fully engaged in the present time rather than stuck in the past or preoccupied with the future. View every day as the gift from God that it is, and be grateful. Take time to enjoy life. Never postpone anything that can bring joy into your life or that of someone else.
* Don’t be afraid of mystery. Break out of your comfort zone and stop expecting easy answers or pat formulas to life’s questions. Understand that, while Jesus is the answer to all things, that doesn’t mean all the answers are available to you. Know that God is too big to be owned, analyzed, or sanitized. Realize that any doctrinal statements people can make about God are descriptive, but not exhaustive, since we can’t know anywhere near all there is to know about God here on Earth. But also realize that God reveals enough for us to be sure that He is worthy of our trust. When talking with people about God, engage them in two-sided conversation rather than lecturing. Constantly seek to learn more. Embrace the mysteries of life as opportunities to keep seeking God.
* Live an abundant life. Don’t just eke out a small, safe existence. Instead, dare to do whatever God leads you to do, trusting that you can rely on His strength and the gifts and talents He has given you.
* Grow into greatness. Give your best effort to all you do, pursuing excellence. Rather than trying to use your talents to make yourself great, use them unselfishly to bless others and watch God make you great as a result. Be humble, acknowledging that your power is actually God’s power flowing through you.
Adapted from A Renegade’s Guide to God: Finding Life Outside Conventional Christianity, copyright 2006 by David Foster. Published by Warner Faith, a division of Hachette Book Group USA, New York, N.Y., www.warnerfaith.com.
David Foster’s passion is to be “an agent of change with a message of hope to a world in pain.” He is the founding and senior pastor of Bellevue Community Church in Nashville, Tn., the president of Foster Media Group (a consulting marketing company), and the CIO of Renegade Nation.net (an Internet gathering for emerging church conversation). He earned his doctorate from the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Ms.