Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Hugh Halter's book, Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus, (Baker Books, 2011).
If Jesus were walking around on Earth today, He might be reprimanded by some Christians, or even asked to leave a church. Why? Jesus didn’t live the kind of life that the Christian culture now considers to be a good Christian lifestyle. His words and actions can seem shocking – and even sacrilegious.
But it’s crucial to follow Jesus Himself rather than just a certain lifestyle, since it’s a living relationship with Jesus that truly connects you to God. What you believe about Jesus and how you choose to follow Him are the most important factors determining what kind of person you become and how you experience God.
So don’t lose sight of the real Jesus underneath all the religious rules that supposedly make you a good Christian – and don’t be afraid to be sacrilegious in order to follow where Jesus leads you. Here’s how:
· Distinguish between being sacrilegious in a negative and positive way. When Jesus asks you to be sacrilegious, it’s never for a negative purpose, such as to defile something that’s holy. Instead, it’s for a positive purpose: to clear away religious confusion so you can see the purity of the Gospel message. Keep in mind that when Jesus spoke and acted in sacrilegious ways, He influenced people’s lives in good ways, not bad. Choose to learn from Jesus’ example and pattern your life after His life.
· Ask Jesus to clarify your image of Him. Reflect on how you view Jesus right now, and consider how you got your current image of Him. Then pray for Jesus to clear away any religious haze that has distorted how you see Him, and show you more clearly what He is really like.
· Follow Jesus as an apprentice. Following Jesus isn’t just a matter of what you do (even good activities, like attending church and serving people in need). Instead, following Jesus is about who you are. Jesus wants you to be an apprentice – someone who becomes more like Him by learning from Him. Rather than aiming to follow a certain lifestyle, make it your goal to grow to become the person that Jesus wants you to be.
· Open your mind. Ask God to help you recognize when your ideas are simply personal preferences (such as what political party to support, whether or not to drink alcohol, and what Bible translation to read) and when your ideas are truly essential to the Gospel message (such as beliefs in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross to pay for sin, and in His resurrection). Get rid of your preconceived personal preferences about what it means to be a Christian, and pray for the humility and teachable spirit you need to learn fresh insights from God. Gain a fresh perspective on the Bible by choosing a portion where Jesus asks you to do something, and then practice doing that regularly so you can get a clearer idea of why that’s important.
· Open your home. The people around you whom Jesus wants to reach need to see His love in action through you as one of His representatives. So be willing to open your home to people who are lonely or discouraged and could use some time with you and your family, talking and praying together over meals. Make room in your schedule to get together in your home with the people with whom you sense God leading you to build friendships and share His life-transforming love.
· Draw people closer to God through meekness. Choose to imitate the meekness through which Jesus won over people: He was incredibly strong, yet He didn’t express that power in the form of arrogant control. Instead, Jesus chose to direct His power toward humble service to others so that people could see real love in action. Rather than trying to force religious dogma on people, choose to meekly show them God’s powerful love in action. Humbly listen to others, learn about their lives, and serve them without taking a morally superior stance toward them. Keep in mind that you need God’s grace just as much as others do. Ask God to help you become a person who is accessible, approachable, and inspiring to spiritual seekers.
· Find Jesus wherever you go. Rather than just looking for Jesus only in church, start to notice Him with you wherever you go – at work, at home, while you’re out with friends or running errands, etc. Pray for a better ability to recognize Jesus with you in every situation you encounter. Reach out to people who don’t currently attend church, doing your best to be the church to them by loving them and inspiring them to seek Jesus.
· Show mercy to sinners. Since God is constantly showing mercy to you even though you sin regularly, ask Him to help you show mercy to the people around you who sin (which will encourage them seek God more because of His love flowing through you), rather than judging and condemning them (which will only alienate them). Rely on God’s help to obey His command to forgive the people who hurt you. When you see people celebrate Communion in church, don’t judge them as unworthy if you know about sin in their lives; remember that God is the only one who can correctly judge people.
· Become a peacemaker. Help the people around you find peace with God, within themselves, and with other people. Ask God to show you the specific ways in which He wants you to use your resources (time, energy, money, talents, skills, etc.) to bring peace to people who need more peace (from people you see regularly, like your family members and coworkers, to people you happen to meet, like people who are waiting in line with you somewhere). As you help bring God’s peace into other people’s lives, God will break down religious barriers and help them get to know Jesus in new ways that will change their lives for the better.
Adapted from Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus, copyright 2011 by Hugh Halter. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerbooks.com.
Hugh Halter is a church planter, pastor, consultant, and missionary to the United States. He is the national director of Missio (http://www.missio.us/) and is the lead architect of Adullam, a congregational network of missional communities in Denver, Colorado. Visit him on the web at: http://hughhalter.com/.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at: email@example.com send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
Publication date: December 5, 2011