If-Then

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When I was a teenager, I learned a valuable lesson: if I wanted a warm shower each morning then I had to get up before everyone else in the house. It was just one of the rules of life. With all the things that our hot water heater (as awesome it was) had to go through in the mornings, I learned to either get up earlier than everyone or live with a cold shower. The idea of getting up early and enjoying that warm shower was way worth the cost of getting up an hour earlier.

Life is like that; we learn the value of cause and effect. In a high school math class, we learned to call them ‘if-then’ equations. If I wanted a warm shower then I had to get up early. This idea applies to all kinds of things. If I want to be in good shape then I must exercise. If I want to be wealthy then I have to be wise with my money. If I want to get a promotion later then I have to be a good employee now. On and on the list could go.

All of these things may seem like common sense ideas to most of us. Yet, we seem to struggle so much with the ‘then’ part of the equation. We want to be healthy but we don’t want to exercise. We want to lose weight but we don’t want to control our diets. We want to be wealthy but we don’t want to get disciplined with our finances. We have grown into a Burger King® culture where we want to “Have it [our] way.” What’s more, we want what we want now and not later. Our consumeristic mentality has taught us that things like ‘two-day shipping’ and ‘instant rebates’ should apply to all areas of life.

Sadly, this is not how God engineered the world to operate. You don’t get to plant a seed and instantly be able to pick apples off if the fully grown tree. I cannot go on a diet for a day and lose 50lbs. I can’t go to the gym one time and then have the physique of a bodybuilder. I can’t read one medical journal and immediately start practicing medicine (thank God). Instead, we have to learn to put in the work if we want to get the results.

This idea is even more prevalent in our spiritual lives. We want to have the dynamic relationship God had with Moses but we don’t want to spend 40 years as a goat-herder to learn how to wait and trust. We want to be able to reach people for Christ like Paul did but we don’t want to risk anything to do that. We want to see God work miracles like He did with Abraham but we don’t want to leave everything behind to be obedient. In short, we want God to do mighty things in our lives but we aren’t willing to trust the process (see my last entry for more on that topic).

I often wonder how many Apostle Paul’s have not come about because that person was unwilling to sacrifice for the Gospel. I wonder how many Apostle Peter’s or John’s have not come about because followers of Jesus are not willing to leave their businesses behind in order to be faithful to God’s call. I wonder how many David’s have not fought the giants of life because they were unwilling to leave the pasture in obedience. They wanted the ‘then’ but didn’t want to do the ‘if’.

Jesus encountered a similar situation in His ministry when he found that he had thousands of followers but the vast majority only wanted the easy life he could provide for them. If they were sick, He could heal them. If they were hungry, He could feel the multitudes. If they were bored, He could entertain them with stories and encounters with those who wanted to test Him. Yet, they were only His followers because it did not cost them anything. It was easy to be a follower of Jesus so long as He provided everything and asked for nothing in return.

However, as His path to the cross drew closer, He began to get more and more real with His followers about what it would cost them to be His disciple. Consider what Jesus taught when He said,

[37] “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. [38] If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. [39] If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:37-39 NLT)

This whole part of one of Jesus’ message is full of if-then statements. Jesus wanted His followers to realize that there was a cost to being His disciple. There could be no easy road to obedience; it requires sacrifice and discipline. It requires us to turn away from the things of this world and seek after the Kingdom. It means going against the flow of what is popular and even facing persecution to be worthy of being His.

This leads us to our Big Truth:

If the “if” becomes your “then”

Then “now” becomes your “when”

What this means, is that when we decide what we want most in this world then now is the time to go after it. How many times have we dreamed of doing something only to put it off until later? How many times has the Holy Spirit spoken to us about doing something only for us to dismiss it and come up with excuses? How many instances have come up for us to minister to others for us to simply pass over it and stay on the path that makes us comfortable?

Today, I encourage both you and me to look in the mirror and ask:

  • Do I love my father or mother more than I love God?
  • Do I love my son or daughter more than I love God?
  • Do I refuse to take up my cross and follow God?
  • Do I cling to my life rather than giving it away to God for His use?

If the answer to any of these are yes, then now is the time to change. Now is the time to be obedient. Now is the time to give up my Burger King® Jesus and follow after the real one. There is no time like the present; the time for us to be obedient is now.

If the “if” becomes your “then”

Then “now” becomes your “when”

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