How Shall We Then Live?
Searching for the Narrow Road
We are living in troubled times. The past two months have created in many a gnawing sense that the world we live in has shifted and no one seems sure where or when it will resettle. Countless blogs and articles have been written on how we are to understand and respond as followers of Jesus. There seem to be as many opinions as writers.
I am searching as well. As we face a seemingly endless barrage of attacks on biblical values and kingdom ethics, to quote Francis Schaeffer’s famous book title, ‘how shall we then live?’
My emotions have ranged from disbelief to anger to frustration to resignation to doubt and even discouragement. Have you felt some of the same? How do God’s people respond? To quote Psalm 11,
“For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.
When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
What, indeed? I have been searching for a heading on the Christian’s moral compass to navigate through the present storm. I have been seeking a consistent, reliable and true answer to the question, ‘how shall we then live?’
Last Sunday I found it.
The words of a beautiful and simple song have provided my navigational bearings in a world gone mad. You likely know the refrain, “You can have all this world, give me Jesus.” It was while singing those words that I realized that I had been living the opposite, something like, “I’ll get back to you, Jesus, but right now I’m all wrapped up in the stuff of the world.” It was only when I turned everything back right-side up that my joy returned.
The troubling issues of our day are set in submissive relief when we pray, “Give me Jesus.” It is a version of Matthew 6:33,
“seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all of these things will be added unto you.”
In some mysterious but profoundly transforming way these simple words resonate so well in my spirit, which seems to leap inside me when I sing, “Give me Jesus.”
A word of caution. To say, “you can have all this world” is not an escapist prayer, but a cry of surrender that results in freedom. It is not abandoning the world, but abandoning our self, losing our self and our pursuit of worldly things. It is the devaluing of so much that our culture holds so sacred.
In the end it is reversing the lie of the enemy. The father of lies tells us that the good life is all about what we possess. We are set free the moment we respond, ‘you can have it, give me Jesus.’ He fills our heads with fears and doubts about our future and our security and we reclaim it when we respond, ‘you can have it, give me Jesus.’
He twists the truth and tells us that we can avoid ridicule and persecution if we will yield to the values of this world, and we regain our courage when we reply, ‘you can have it, give me Jesus.’ He wants us fearful, anxious and discontented so he can work in us a spirit of bitterness, hopelessness, and discouragement, and we reject these life-sucking alternatives when we reply ‘you can have it all, just give me Jesus.’
Give me Jesus, everyday, every minute, with every waking breath. When everything looks lost, give me Jesus. When I don’t know where to turn, give me Jesus. When I am at the end of my rope, give me Jesus. When I am tempted to reach out for answers from anyone else, look for solutions in any other place, put my trust in any other person and seek my future according to any other values, give me Jesus, give me Jesus, give me Jesus.
The truth is if we have Jesus, we have everything we need. Perhaps the victory that God is working out through these troubled times is raising up a people who will surrender their idols and misplaced loyalties and turn back to him with the simple cry, ‘give us Jesus.’
During the years we lived in Scotland I remember one particular road we would take occasionally as a bit of a shortcut. It was quite narrow as it wound around the hills of Royal Deeside. At about the point where I felt the pavement was encroaching in and our wheels started to hang over on each side, we came to a sign that read, ‘Danger- Road Narrows.’ Really? How much narrower can it get?
If we seek Jesus we will find ourselves right where he told us he would be, namely, on the same kind of narrow road. In Matthew 7 Jesus tells us,
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Are we entering a time when the road is narrowing and choosing it will come at a greater price?
I envision this narrow path as running between two cliffs that loom up on each side. On one side is an increasingly Christophobic culture and on the other is an ever compromising church. The former hates the things of God, the latter is abandoning His truth. As they grow in size and steepness the path between them grows ever narrower.
We shouldn’t be surprised to find Jesus here. He walked this narrow path confronting the culture of his day with His Father’s truth. As a result the Roman rulers scourged him, his followers abandoned him, the world mocked him and the religious leaders crucified him. From this same path he looks to us and says, “If anyone would come after me they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.” Are we ready, prepared and committed to come after Him on that road?
The only way to walk this path is to abandon our allegiances to the values of our culture and to refuse the temptations of the easier path offered by a church that has lost its first love. Both decisions will put us in conflict with those who follow the ‘patterns of this world’, but as Paul charges us,
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2-3)
Put simply, the narrow way is traveled by those who say with their lips and believe in their hearts that ‘you can have all this world, give me Jesus.’
Is the state of the world weighing heavily on your heart?
Are you searching for the right route through the churning seas of cultural decline and ecclesial compromise?
Then I invite you to join me. I am going to start looking more intently for the narrow road, the place where sacrifice and joy commingle into prayers of repentance and psalms of praise.
How shall we then live?
Let us immerse ourselves in the Word. Surround ourselves with like-minded kingdom people. Put our hands in the hand of the Master and walk with him down the narrow road with one unrelenting passion and humble prayer, ‘give me Jesus.’