A friend of mine - one whom I consider to be a wise, old man stuck in a young man's body - succinctly summed up our entire conversation with one statement:
People are comfortable with the idea of Jesus as Saviour, but they're not interested in Jesus as Lord.
It's unnerving, isn't it? To think that we're raising a church generation that wants to be saved from a horrible death but has no interest in submission. Part of me wonders if this is more of a western issue in the church body. We're obsessed with individualism, following our hearts (which, I mean, come on, are sinful), and hearing from our friends to just "do you" (again, what?). Does our culture train us to think that what feels best to us or seems most natural to us is right? Are we convincing ourselves that our highest priority is to be happy? Because I'm starting to notice that I hear a lot of Christians saying things that are in direct conflict with what Scripture teaches us. What happened to pursuing Christ on a cognitive level and not just an emotional one? Where is the desire to spend time with the Lord in order to know Him more? What about the Bibles?! We can't become like Him if we don't know who He is. And if God has already spoken on the matter, why aren't we listening?
I don't know about you, but I really like getting my way and I really hate being told no. But here's the thing: so often what I want is not best for me or those for whom I care a great deal. Admittedly, most often what I want serves only myself and hinders the process of discipline-for-holiness in my life. I like to be the center of my own world, but one of the very first things I learned about Christianity is that it's not about me (or you).
In Luke, Jesus makes it clear that to be a disciple, you must give up everything. At 17, I thought I needed to be okay with forgoing earthly possessions in order to follow Christ. As I've learned more about the perfect and sovereign nature of God - and my deeply depraved self - I've realized that everything means so much more. Perhaps less shocking to you than it was to me, but I'm pretty sure Jesus meant everything. Jesus asks for complete abandonment of self in order to know Him more, which means complete abandonment of everything that sort of looks like following Jesus but isn't. Which is more dangerous than obvious sin because it's a lot harder to spot.
I still fall to this faulty way of thinking often, but it helps me to think of Jesus as King - which He is. I admit, however, that since we have never lived under monarchial rule, it's a difficult concept to grasp. Historically, if a king announced a law with a penalty of death if broken, it was serious and people responded appropriately. You were risking your life to go against the king, the highest ruler in all of the land, and you would die. I don't believe that sort of reverent fear exists when we think of God's Word. He is the King, and He has been clear about His expectations. It doesn't matter what you want if what you want is in conflict with what He says. You are not the sovereign King and you do not set the course. While the beautiful thing is that the expectations are only met by the death of Jesus Christ, we should still be aiming to please and obey Him. A King deserves no less, and by accepting His gift of eternal life, we walk into a life of submission to His ways.
Like so many other concepts of Christianity, the world gets flipped upside down. Walking in submission to the Lord is ironically the most freeing way to live. While it doesn't necessarily include happy (but who wants a fleeting feeling when offered more?), it most certainly offers joy and holiness, which are so much better.