Normal Christianity

Normal Christianity

Responding to Our High Calling

by Leslie Ludy | September 1, 2010

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”

– Ephesians 4:1

A Christian publisher once told me, “You shouldnʼt always write about missionary Christians like Gladys Aylward and Amy Carmichael. Why donʼt you share about some normal, everyday Christians who live in the suburbs and work for IBM? Those kinds of Christians are just as important as the ones who go to the mission field. Donʼt just focus on Christians who had a ʻspecial callingʼ to go and change the world.”

Iʼve thought about that statement many times over. What is normal Christianity? Do certain Christians have a special call to live radical lives of abandon to Jesus Christ, while the rest of us are free to wallow in mediocrity and self-indulgence?

The heroic Christian women who I admire the most lived anything but “normal, everyday lives.” They all had one very important thing in common: they were passionately, ardently, fervently in love with Jesus Christ. They put Jesus Christ above pleasure, riches, comforts, family, friends, and worldly applause. And they put Jesus Christ far above their “right” to live a self-indulgent, pleasure-seeking life.

Amy Carmichael sacrificed her right to be married and chose instead to spend her life rescuing 1,000 children from being sold into temple prostitution in India. Her romance with Jesus Christ far exceeded the most beautiful fairy tale ever written.

Sabina Wurmbrand sacrificed her right to live “happily ever after” with the love of her life, Richard, when it came down to a choice between saving her husband and standing up for her First Love, Jesus Christ. She inspired her husband to stand against those who were blaspheming Christʼs name, and as a result she and Richard were separated by imprisonment for ten long years.

Gladys Aylward spent all of her youth and beauty in a war-torn Chinese village, choosing service for the kingdom of God over marriage, family, and the comforts of this world. And as a result, a hundred violent prisoners were subdued into quiet obedience, two hundred orphans’ lives were saved, and thousands were pulled out of darkness into Godʼs marvelous light.

Catherine Booth laid down her right to a comfortable marriage and family life – not only allowing her husband to pour out his life for the destitute and dying, but serving right by his side as he did so. She chose all-night prayer gatherings, long days trudging through slums, and attack from the modern Church over a stable existence in a cute home with a white picket fence.

When I study these womenʼs lives, I am astounded and inspired by their level of commitment to Jesus Christ. They didnʼt just say He was their first love; they lived it. Whether they gave up their right to be married in order to serve Christ, or gave up the “happily ever after” lifestyle theyʼd always dreamed of, nothing was more important than protecting the honor of their Lord and King.

Iʼve heard many modern believers refer to the great heroes of ages past as “special Christians.” So letʼs take a moment to explore this question – did these great women fall into a “special category,” living extreme lives of radical devotion that most ordinary followers of Christ are not called to live?

I fear that all too many of us have fallen prey to the lie that the Christian life is all about us. All too often, we assume we are living the normal Christian life if we attend church a couple times a week, listen to Christian music on our iPod, and sign an abstinence commitment in our teen years. But the normal Christian life is so much more than a commitment to some moral standards or squeezing some Christian activity into our self-focused, self-built lives.

Ian Thomas said,

The Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you – your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything – then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it.

Christ said, “...Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). The word deny here literally translates, “to forget oneself, lose sight of oneself and one's own interests.” We are meant to let all thoughts of self become swallowed up in Him.

This is normal Christianity. Radical self-denial, self-sacrifice, and self-abandonment. Completely forgetting about self and self-interest, and willingly and gladly pouring our lives out for the glory of our King. We are called to far more than most of us ever dream or imagine. To go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. To seek and save the lost. To be His hands and feet to the fatherless. To give up our very lives for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is not a special calling for a few select followers of Christ. This is the high and sacred call that God has placed every single one of His children. Jesus said, “...As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21).

When we give our lives to Jesus Christ, we exchange the normal and comfortable, for the radical, extreme, and foolish. Normal Christianity means never being “normal” again.

What does this radical life of abandon to Christ look like on a practical level? Itʼs not about following a formula, but about absolute obedience to the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Itʼs about laying down selfish pursuits and becoming consumed only with serving and loving our King. It looks different for each life, but in every case, there is the fruit of extreme selflessness and radical pouring out for His glory.

Jolene, a recently married woman from Montana, chose several years ago to pour out her life for foster children in need, and even adopted a thirteen-year-old boy as her own when she was still single.

Karris, a young woman from California, chose to leave her home and comforts in her early twenties to give her life for orphans in Haiti.

Annie, our setapartgirl Creative Director, has spent years of her life sacrificially giving her very best time, talents, and energy to build young women into mighty warriors for the kingdom of God.

No matter where you have been or where you are at, Christ has placed this same high calling upon your life. Steal away to be alone with Christ, and lay your life before Him. Allow Him to gently reveal to you the selfish patterns of your life, and ask Him to forgive you and remake you in each of those areas. Exchange your right to live a comfortable, predictable life for the privilege of losing everything for His sake. And then get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. As Jesus said, “...whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35). Truly, there is no better way to live.*

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