Lord, Make Us Abnormal

Lord, Make Us Abnormal

To some, the statement I’m about to make will sound controversial. To others it will sound obvious. Either way, it’s a commentary about Christians I’d rather not admit. That is, most Christians are powerless.

Leonard Ravenhill said, “Christianity today is so sub-normal that if any Christian began to act like a normal, New Testament Christian, he would be considered abnormal.”

Consider what Christianity looks like today in the typical American believer. This person is a bit self-seeking, a little materialistic, somewhat consumerist. Most of his daily choices are about improving his life. That includes his spiritual pursuits, from his church groups, to the podcasts he downloads, to the seminars he attends.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things. But for most American Christians, these activities are about self-improvement. They lack the true power of the Holy Spirit.

What passes for normal Christianity in this country today is not only powerless, it is also passionless, lacking self-sacrifice. In other words, it is cross-less — and therefore, Christ-less. It’s time for Christians to take a spiritual inventory to see whether our “spiritual” activities are leading us closer to God’s heart or just causing us to become religious. In other words, we want to know God’s way—to hear gospel truth—but we avoid living it. Sadly, church culture in our society encourages this kind of life. It’s acceptable to enjoy sermons and enter into worship—yet go home entirely unchanged.

Ez. 33:32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.

Whatever happened to a life of total surrender to Jesus? I confess—part of the problem is me and other preachers, because we lack power in our preaching. That was not the case with Paul.

1 Corinthians 2:4-5 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.

If Christians aren’t preaching or living a life empowered by God, we can’t blame the Lord. It isn’t because His grace lacks power. The problem is with us. God didn’t stop giving his people power in 100A.D. Jesus never said, “Greater works than these shall you do—until the Reformation.” No, He said in Acts 1:8, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

We need to begin praying, “Lord, make us abnormal with a Holy Spirit empowered life!”

There is an urgency in this message. We need the power of God, because the days of persecution are coming upon us. The Holy Spirit will make us seem abnormal to conventional Christianity, but He will lift up Jesus Christ in our life to show unbelievers that Jesus is alive.

 2 Timothy 3:1-7 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 

Paul is describing our culture. Included are religious people, who have a form of godliness but deny its power. Paul’s advice to Timothy was, “Have nothing to do with them.” He was saying, “It’s dangerous to be around those people. You’ll start to think their way is acceptable.” Paul said these religious people were always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. In other words, they listened to all the gospel teachings but never took them to heart. That made them powerless, because they did not acknowledge the truth. In other words, they didn’t “act like they know” the truth. They didn’t live it.

Note how Paul begins this passage: “There will be terrible times in the last days.” What will most Christians do when things turn really bad? Jesus answers that question and makes it clear that what we consider “normal” Christianity won’t be sustainable in the days to come.

Matthew 24:12-13 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Are our hearts truly prepared to deal with hard times? I pray we’ll react as the church in Acts did when they learned of a coming famine. They didn’t stockpile goods in preparation. Instead, they took up an offering for other churches, whom they knew would suffer, and trusted God to meet their need.

You may think, “That isn’t very responsible.” Yet that’s exactly what Christians in other countries are doing today. I read about a church in El Salvador where the average income is four dollars a day. I was astonished to learn that the people give half of their earned income toward charity. They were asked, “Why do you give so much?” They answered, “Because Jesus told us to give when your brother has a need.” When they were told, “But you are in need.” “Oh, no,” they responded, “we’re blessed. We want to bless in return.”

Would we do the same? Will we be eager to bless other brothers and sisters when we have little in our own accounts? The coming hard times will reveal the condition of our hearts.

For the first time in history, less than 50 percent of Americans identify themselves as believers of any kind. That figure is even lower—30 percent—for people under thirty. Without a spiritual revival, our nation will be lost completely to secularism and godlessness. Tolerance for Christians will only decrease. What should we do? We can learn from Christians who lived in godless societies in the past, and from believers in Islamic countries who face suffering today.

Hebrews 10:32-39 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

We are not suffering the confiscation of our property yet, but some of our brothers and sisters in Christ are in a great contest in the face of suffering in other parts of the world. Already, demonized people are killing Christians in churches and schools in this country. We will surely face great trials of our own, because we’re not immune to what is coming upon the world.

That is why we can’t afford to be “normal” in our faith any longer. Think about the fast-growing numbers of non-believers I mentioned. Each represents a soul headed to hell, someone for whom Jesus died. Those numbers alone call us to rise above self-centered Christianity, to proclaim Christ’s Gospel without fear. That calling requires His power, which can’t be achieved or obtained on our own. It is given by grace alone. Do we want it? Do we seek it?

To have the power of the Holy Spirit, we must humble ourselves, repent of all sin, give up all rights, pray for the Holy Spirit, take up a cross, and follow Jesus. What does all that look like? One example of such a person was the Apostle Paul.

Philippians 3:7-16 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

There is a lot in this passage, but let’s consider five things Paul says about a fully devoted follower of Jesus.

1. A Fully Devoted Follower of Jesus considers ALL THINGS “LOSS”.
Paul had made great advances in living a religious life. He believed he was pleasing God and was a leader in Judaism. Paul said: “These are what I THOUGHT OF as my ‘profits’. I had them in the asset column of my account with God, but I’ve seen their true worthlessness and I’ve now shifted them over into the liability column and find myself totally in debt to Jesus Christ.” After that, nothing in life was allowed to take his focus from following solely after Jesus.

Paul says, “It’s all rubbish!—career, money, possessions, houses, cars, popularity, fame, security, a “nest egg” for the future, fashion, the toys of this world – IT’S ALL RUBBISH. And I’m not pursuing them anymore. There is something more valuable, more worth living for … that I might gain Christ.”

Jesus, and Him alone. That’s FULL devotion and it is the standard for normal Christianity. Today, people consider it abnormal. Therefore, I pray, Lord, make us abnormal.

2. A Fully Devoted Follower of Jesus HAS A PASSION TO KNOW CHRIST. Paul says, “I want to KNOW Christ.” The word “know” here means “to know personally and intimately by experience”.

Paul is saying: “I used to be content with a lot of knowledge ABOUT God.” Paul had been trained by the best. He sat at the feet of Gamaliel, the leading religious scholar of the day. Paul knew lots of Scripture from memory. He’d studied theology. He knew a lot ABOUT God. He says: “But then one day I MET Him. And you know what, He wasn’t AT ALL what I expected! For all my knowledge, I never knew Him!” When God revealed Himself to Paul in a blinding light along the road to Damascus, he discovered it was JESUS! He’d been trying to serve God by opposing Jesus, and He turned out to be the same Person! And Paul says: “NOW, having caught a glimpse of Him, ALL I want is to know Him more!” Do you have that kind of passion to know Christ? Today we consider it abnormal. Therefore, I pray, Lord, make us abnormal.

3. A Fully Devoted Follower of Jesus LIVES A NEW LIFE. “That I may know Him AND THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION.”

If you believed Jesus died for your sin and you were baptized to make Him Lord of your life, then the VERY SAME POWER that came into Jesus’ dead body and raised Him to life again (the Holy Spirit) has now come into your life. He is living and active in you--convicting, correcting, leading, guiding, comforting, revealing the Truth, and giving peace, joy, love, and all the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Therefore, there is more to know and more power than what we have experienced. Paul says “I want to know, in ever increasing measure, that resurrecting power of God.” How do we get it? Paul says, by living up to what we already know and have attained.

If you’re a fully devoted follower of Jesus, you can’t live the way you used to live anymore. If we just lived out the Gospel we already know, then the power of God would be evident and more would be given.

Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The Christian life isn’t an “improved” life – it’s an entirely DIFFERENT life! God, the Holy Spirit, empowers us to live a new life, regardless of the consequences—and there will be consequences, which leads us to the next characteristic of a fully devoted Christian.

4. A Fully Devoted Follower of Jesus IS PREPARED TO PAY THE PRICE.
Paul goes on in verse 10 to say: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

Around the world, thousands of people this year will pay the ultimate price for their faith in Christ. I want us to be prepared! I don’t want us to be part of those whose love grows cold and fall away. However, it’s not just physical death we need to prepare for. Today, and every day, we are called to die to SELF.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:31 “I die every day--I mean that, brothers--just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Paul was referring to dying to self, and living for Christ, which is sometimes HARDER than dying physically.  A fully devoted Christian is willing to go to death, but faith also embraces death to self - MY desires, MY attitudes, MY thinking. Unfortunately, we consider that kind of faith abnormal! Therefore, my prayer is, “Lord make us abnormal.”

Romans 14:7-8 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.  If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

5. A Fully Devoted Follower of Jesus PRESSES ON TO THE FINISH. Maturity as a believer is not measured by how much we know - it’s measured by the passion with which we are committed to LIVING OUT our faith.

James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

A fully devoted Christian, acts like Jesus. Everything he does is performed with the same spirit and purpose as he prays, reads his Bible, and attends worship on Sunday. He is a person that is just as devoted in his daily activities as he is on Sunday. That is the powerful, abnormal witness that attracts people to Jesus.

Are you willing to become abnormal? Are you willing to pray, “Lord, I’m tired of settling for what we call “normal” Christianity. Make me abnormal. Whatever it costs, Lord, take all my sin and self-concern away. Make me an empty vessel and fill me with your Holy Spirit so I might have power to be your witness wherever I go and whatever I suffer.” If we are sincere, I believe God will answer that prayer.

Christianity grows rapidly when unbelievers see something abnormal—something worth living and dying for. There is good news in the Middle East. When Muslims see the suffering and persecution of Christians in their country, perpetrated by believers in Islam, they take notice when those Christians remain faithful to Jesus and pay the ultimate cost. They wonder, where did they get this power to endure? As a result, many are looking into this Jesus that Christians profess and the Holy Spirit is convicting them that Jesus has to be Lord! Therefore, let us pray, Lord, make us abnormal so people will be drawn to You!

If you are willing to commit your life to the Truth—that is, to Jesus Christ, we invite you to make that public confession, repent of your sin, and give your life to Jesus through baptism. He will give you a new life, born of the Holy Spirit. Then you will have power to face the difficult days ahead. You will also have power to be a witness of Jesus Christ while the Holy Spirit conforms you to the image of Christ. That may seem abnormal, but that is the power of Jesus Christ living in you.