January 18, 2006

A Call for Radical Discipleship

1502 page5 capith this issue we introduce a new emphasis in the Adventist Review. The second issue each month will feature the life of discipleship under the CrossWalk tag.

Previously the Adventist Review featured the church?s global mission in one issue--we called it the World Edition. The introduction of Adventist World eliminated the need for this emphasis, however, thus freeing up a slot in the monthly cycle. As the editorial staff discussed and prayed about the content to fill this slot, we became convicted that we should call our people of all ages to radical discipleship.

It?s time to quit playing at religion. It?s time for us to heed the prophetic call: ?Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you? (Isa. 60:1, NKJV).* Time is too short, the night too dark, for us to cruise along as Christians. We must wake up, get up, and get out, taking seriously our profession to be followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus was a radical. Take the Gospels just as they read, and you can?t escape that conclusion. No ?gentle Jesus, meek and mild? about this Man--He posed a threat to the religious and political powers of the day. Quite soon in His ministry they concluded that He would have to be eliminated; they plotted and schemed, and at last had their way.

1502 page5Jesus of Nazareth was executed. Beaten and bloodied, He was spiked through hands and feet to a Roman cross. No milquetoast on Golgotha?s tree!

Jesus was radical in His teachings. He declared that a new kingdom was dawning, coming into being in His own person. That was a message sure to get the attention of King Herod and Pilate, the Roman governor!

But this kingdom was totally different from any kingdom this world had ever witnessed. It was a kingdom where, not the rich, the strong, the proud, and the highborn, claimed citizenship, but where ?the poor in spirit?--the nobodies--found a place. A kingdom where not the edge of the sword nor the barrel of the gun held sway, but the infinitely more powerful weapon of love.

Jesus was radical in His attitudes. He didn?t curry favor; He didn?t build a political following, didn?t cultivate the favor of influential people, didn?t scheme, manipulate, pull strings. He stood apart--fearless, independent, self-assured, clear of eye and clear of conviction. A man like that scared the powers that be. He couldn?t be bent to their ends. And He was popular: especially in Galilee crowds flocked to hear Him, wondered at His words.

Jesus was radical in His actions. He welcomed the marginalized into His fellowship--the poor, the broken, women, lepers, Samaritans. He went out of His way to give a lift to the down-and-outers, the ragtag and bobtail of society.

Jesus was radical in His living. He enjoyed company--a tasty meal, conversation, time with friends--but He always looked beyond this existence. The shadow of a cross hung over His life--His ?hour? when it would all be over at high noon, when this Man who saved others would not save Himself.

Over the years Christians have settled down into comfortable conformity. As the religion of Jesus grew and spread, as it became the dominant faith of society, its radical nature leaked away. When it became advantageous to confess Christ--instead of dangerous--the Jesus lifted high on crosses in cathedrals ceased to be seen in His radical character.

And Seventh-day Adventists? We have been around for quite a while now, 160 years or so. The years inevitably bring changes: we have grown, spread to all the world; we have built many and large institutions. And--let?s face it--the radical nature denoted by our name has slowly leached out by respectability and the desire to be accepted.

As I read the Gospels, I cannot escape Jesus? call to radical discipleship. ?If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,? He says (Matt. 16:24). ?Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,? He adds (Matt. 10:37). And that cross, radical in His day, is still radical in its call to identify with Him.

What does it mean to follow Him today? Radical prayer. Radical study of His Word. And radical service.

In one word: Lordship.

That?s what CrossWalk is about.