Why is the Christian life so difficult? Pastor Chip Ingram shares his thoughts on the supernatural life of the Christian and explains why so many who confess Christ are failing to walk in a manner worthy of their calling.
Why is the Christian life so difficult? Pastor Chip Ingram shares his thoughts on the supernatural life of the Christian and explains why so many who confess Christ are failing to walk in a manner worthy of their calling.
Chip: I picture the chips of my life: there is a stack that says “family,” a stack that says “hobbies”, a stack that says “money” and “dreams.” You take all the chips; you push them to the middle of the table; and you say, “God, I’m all-in. You deal.” When Christians do that, God does supernatural, extraordinary things.
It usually gets worse before it gets better because there are things to clean up. You never know if you mean it until you actually do it. I believe the Lord will test us in that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, February 14th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. What does sold out, all-in, committed discipleship look like? Does it look like your life? We’re going to talk about that today.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today; thanks for joining us. I think our guest today wants to kick things up a notch. Don’t you think?
Dennis: I think he does.
Bob: I think he is a little dissatisfied with the state of Christianity. I mean, that’s the sense I get from looking at what he has written here.
Dennis: I agree with you, Bob. If you were going to interview anybody in the world on the Christian life, who would you interview?
Bob: Well, anybody in the world—
Bob: On the Christian life?
Bob: Living or dead? Or does he have to be living?
Dennis: Well, it’d be hard to interview him if he was dead.
Bob: I could ask him a lot of questions. We just wouldn’t get very many answers.
Dennis: Well, the answer is—the answer is who we have in studio today.
Bob: I’m glad you answered that for me.
Chip: I want you to know, Bob, I’m very honored to be here.
Dennis: He was about to name you. That voice is a familiar voice for a bunch of folks who listen to his sermons on the radio, Living on the Edge. The President and founder of that ministry, Chip Ingram. Chip, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Chip: Great to be with you, Dennis; and it is also good to be with you, Bob.
Bob: Just to show that he is—that he is forgiving and has a generous spirit.
Dennis: He is. He is.
Chip: I don’t have any anger issues at all.
Dennis: Bob, why don’t you share with our audience some of the titles you’ve given him in previous times he’s been on the broadcast? He’s been invited back a number of times. He’s only come a couple of times, though, because he’s just had a hard time getting over it.
Bob: We did some interviews around a book that you wrote that was called Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships; something like that, right? We referred to you as Dr. Love, right?
Chip: Yes. I heard that from others later.
Bob: Yes. Then, we also talked with you about anger. You’d written a book on—
Chip: Overcoming Emotions That Destroy. I know them better than you do. Don’t feel bad about it.
Bob: You’d written a book called Overcoming Emotions That Destroy. That’s right. You got the title right. So, I called you Dr. Anger in that one.
Chip: I’m afraid of what might happen out of this one.
Bob: I’m trying to think of what—I think Dr. Edge. We’ll just call you Dr. Edge for this one.
Dennis: Dr. Edge the new title for Chip Ingram. Chip has been a pastor for more than twenty-five years. He is the Senior Pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, California. He’s written a book called Living on the Edge: Dare to Experience True Spirituality.
You really are kind of an edgy guy, and you like challenging people. So, I’m going to ask you one of the questions you ask in your book.
Dennis: Why is the Christian life so challenging? Why is it so difficult?
Chip: It is not difficult. It is impossible. It is impossible to live the Christian life. Only Jesus can live the Christian life. I think much of religion and much of what we see is people in their attempts to be nice, little, moral people trying to “live the Christian life” in a fallen world.
It is a supernatural life that demands a radical conversion and, then, allowing the Spirit of God to produce the life of Christ in us. That is what God left us on the planet to do is to walk with Him and be salt and light in this radical, loving, winsome way.
Bob: I’m going to ask you a hard question now. Do you think most Christians are doing it?
Chip: No, they are not. I mean—my heart is please don’t hear—I’m not a big critic of the church. I love the church. I love pastors. But it is not anecdotal. The Barna Research, the Pew Research, the Gallup Research about one out of ten Christians—when we would line up values, when we line up how they spend their money, when we line up integrity issues, when we line up fidelity to marriage, about one out of ten Christian’s lifestyle is matching what the Bible would paint as a fully devoted follower of Christ.
Bob: You just juxtaposed people who are trying to live nice, moral lives with those who are living the Christian life. Are you saying that Christians are failing at trying to live nice, moral lives?
Chip: Yes. I think where they are failing in trying to live nice, moral lives—I think even worse they think that if they could do that, that would be the Christian life.
Chip: That is a big part of the problem is we’ve got a very shaky definition of what it really means to be a Christian. The theme of our ministry is to help Christians live like Christians. If you said, “What is Living on the Edge all about?” Everything we do is to help Christians live like Christians.
You mentioned something as we were getting ready on the movie The Blindside. Sandra Bullock making mention of the actual lady who cared for that young, black man, who spent money and time, and opened their home, she was a Christian who lived like a Christian. Her comment, “I finally met a Christian who walks the talk.” This book is about how to walk the talk. It is obviously a pretty big passion of mine.
Dennis: It is a passion of ours because FamilyLife as an organization and FamilyLife Today as a broadcast exist to equip men and women, husbands and wives, moms and dads, grandparents to have an encounter with Christ and to pass that on—that living relationship with Him and His life being lived out through them to the next generation. If we fail in the Christian family, the church is not going to be—well, it is not going to be effective.
Dennis: The church and the family must be in cooperation with each other producing these Christ followers like we’re talking about here. Chip, the thing I like about what you’ve done in this book, is you started with a passage that I don’t hear being preached much today from pulpits, Romans 12:1-2. I want to read it because I don’t think we read it often enough. It was a passage that was used greatly in my life to call me out of trying to do it myself and to become a surrendered Christ follower.
Paul writes in verse one, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. That by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Now, I know why you started there; but why don’t you share with your listeners, why you start in Romans 12.
Chip: Well, I remember I was teaching a group of pastors in Nigeria, and we’re talking about growing a high impact church. We were telling about the purpose of the church is to make disciples. I remember asking them, “How do you know when you’ve made a disciple and how do you do it?” There was this stare of “I don’t know.” It was one of those moments where I said—we were doing these workbooks—“Guys, put your workbooks away. We’re all pastors, right? Open to Romans 12 for just a minute.”
I said, “If there was a great big server in Heaven and you logged on to heaven.com/disciple, do you know God from Heaven would send down on your laptop computer?”
Because one guy on the right was barefooted and the guy on the left had a laptop, that’s the world we live in. They all looked at me like, “What?” I said, “It would say becoming a Romans 12 Christian.” After eleven chapters of grace, it’s relational.
Dennis, what I wanted them to see was it is relational, it is grace; but it is about your relationship with God, the world, yourself, believers and non-believers. If we don’t begin—this isn’t how you become a Christian. This is we’re in Christ, what does God want from me? I mean, just that question, what does God really want?
He doesn’t want my attempts at morality or going to church or keeping rules. It may produce some things like that. God wants me. He wants me surrendered: all that I have and all that I am as a living sacrifice. 24/7 saying, “God, I’m Yours. I want to live for You. I want to give You whatever You want.” What He wants is my heart.
As we have taught this and as people have read this book and the feedback, I’ve had people say I’ve been a Christian twenty-two years, seven years, six months, I’ve never heard or understood that the real action doesn’t take place, the real power isn’t experienced until I have this very sober and almost frightening time of entrusting my life and saying, “God, all that I am, all that I have I surrender it to you.”
Bob: So, the surrender point is the pivot point?
Chip: It really is.
Bob: I’m glad that you mentioned that there are eleven chapters that come before Romans 12 because it is imperative that we understand that Romans 12 is a response to what God’s done for us.
Chip: Exactly. Big point.
Bob: If not, you wind up in that moral self improvement kind of category. I’ll just try to do this. I’ll try to live this way, be at peace with all men, love without hypocrisy, and all of the things that Romans 12 talks about. That’s got to come out of a life—that’s got to be a life response to what God’s done for us.
I’ve heard somebody describe it this way: it is the imperatives of the Christian life following the indicatives of the Christian life. You know what I’m talking about?
Chip: Good summary. Yes.
Bob: This is who God says you are based on what Christ has done for you. Now, live like who you are. That is what you are calling us to.
Chip: That is exactly right.
Dennis: Chip, I want to fight you for the soap box for a moment on the subject of surrender because I do think today that is a concept and a word that the church really needs to revisit. There was a leader of the church of one of the former Soviet states who said, “The problem with Christianity in America is that commitment means almost anything.” He said, “But if you really want to be a Christ follower, if you really want to be a disciple,” to your point—
Dennis: He said, “The word that must capture the Christian community in North America must be the word ‘surrender,’” because we’re not fully surrendered. We have these quasi-commitments and as result we live anemic Christian lives.
Bill Bright was all about this. He was all about having individual Christians take a piece of paper and confess their sins: all the places they had taken control of their lives. He would challenge individuals to make a list of where they had failed God. Then, he would ask them to write 1John1:9 across it.
Dennis: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Then, he would say, “Now you must take that forgiven sin and turn to God and surrender your life and ask Him to become your Lord, your Master. You become His slave.”
That is really what happened in your life as a young man growing up. You had an encounter with Christ, but there came a time when you had to come to a point of complete surrender.
Chip: That’s where you experience both the joy and the power. Let’s not down play this. We’re people who want control. We’re people who want God to help us on our terms and our way.
What gives it to me in perspective is God wants the same place in my heart that He has in the universe. Think about that: He is the center of all that there is and for Him not to have that reign. We actually pray that in the Lord’s Prayer. Lord—what do we pray? “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” We’re saying we want His reign over us.
I trusted Christ. It was very genuine. I actually started reading the Bible, I grew spiritually, but I had two areas: basketball was one, and girls was the other. It was like God—I sort of—I didn’t grow up in the Church and never read the Bible. I thought getting an eighty on a test was pretty good, and I thought I was doing eight out of ten Commandments. I thought the two or three that I didn’t like weren’t very reasonable anyway and no one else was keeping them.
So, I thought I’m forgiven. I think I’m going to Heaven because someone told me I should be. I hope I am. My theology was all messed up. What I found is God lovingly made me see and helped me see that, “Chip, you’re going to be frustrated all the rest of your life, and I’m not looking for your religious performance. It is not about keeping rules. It is not about attending religious activities. I want you. I paid for you. I love you. I want relationship with you.”
At the end of the day, basketball—I said stuff like “You know I want to score twenty-five a game.” When they interview me, “It’s all because of Jesus” and stuff like that. Girls and basketball were nothing more than idols because my ego was around how I performed and my identity, and girls were about my security.
God said, “Anytime you rely on anything or anyone other than Me, you’ll be sorely disappointed. I love you so much, Chip, that I don’t want you to trade Me in for something small.”
I will tell you when I first understood the Lordship of Christ, what Romans 12:1 meant it was with fear and trembling. I wrestled—I mean I wrestled for months over it. At the heart of it for me was I didn’t believe God was good. I thought if I surrender—
Dennis: Yes. Yes.
Chip: You know what? I’m going to be single forever.
Dennis: I can identify with that because girls were a big issue for me and my dating life. I can remember thinking if I give this to God, He may not give it back.
Dennis: It really does go to the point you are talking about, to the character of God. I didn’t believe He was good and that He genuinely loved me and was concerned about my best interest, what was best for me. So, I remember at the point where I came to this issue of surrender. I remember being nauseated.
Dennis: Sick at my stomach. Thinking, “Man, if I do this, this is going to cost me.” The issue is that’s exactly right.
Chip: And it will. Here is the deal: it costs you short term with long term gain. Or if you do it your way, there’s some short term pleasure and really long term pain. I just have to tell people, “It was so traumatic for me.” Now some people are thinking, “You know, don’t tell me about your little college experiences. Grow up, buddy. I’ve got real issues.” But that’s where I was at.
Everyone, it may not be girls and basketball. It might be your career, your job, your geography. You can make your kids an idol, your mate an idol, your future and your success, your money. God says I want you to—here’s the picture I love. Played a little poker in the old days, and I only play for M&M’s now.
I still like to tune into a little Texas Hold ‘Em. It never gets interesting until someone says “I’m all-in.” Then, you deal the cards and the drama. I picture the chips of my life: there is a stack that says “family,” a stack that says “hobbies,” a stack that says “money” and “dreams.” You take all the chips; you push them to the middle of the table; and you say, “God, I’m all-in. You deal.” When Christians do that, God does supernatural, extraordinary things.
It usually gets worse before it gets better because there are things to clean up. You never know if you really mean it; unless, you do it. It is one thing to say, “I’m really surrendered.” You never know if you mean it until you actually do it. I believe the Lord will test us in that.
Bob: There are two words in Romans 12:1 that are actually almost contradictory; yet, it is the fulcrum of that verse where Paul says, “I urge you to become living sacrifices.” Now, anybody who lived in that culture knew that to be a sacrifice you weren’t going to live anymore, right? So, what’s Paul saying when he says, “Be a living sacrifice?”
Chip: Well, it is interesting, too, the tense of that verb, the offer or the offering. It is a point in time. You don’t slide into this on a certain day at a certain time instead of bringing a goat or a cow that you killed that represents something that you have and you put that on the altar. He is saying I want your life: your eyes, your hands, your dreams, all that you are. Living as a sacrifice before Me to fulfill and do My will and My mission.
Here is the part I wish people could hear and really know is that—just what you hit on, Dennis—is when you do that although it is hard, God’s plan is way better for you than you ever want for yourself; but it is on My terms not yours. Surrender is the key.
Dennis: All of us have seen the movie The Ten Commandments where Charlton Heston comes down from the mountain with Ten Commandments, and the nation of Israel is having a big time party with the golden calf that they’ve melted down from all their bracelets and earrings and everything.
We think, “How idiotic? Why would you want to trade the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the God of the Universe for an idol that—it can’t do anything?” Yet, day in and day out that is what we can be tempted to do, is embrace our idols and surrender to them.
Dennis: Rather than putting them aside and, then as Bob said, becoming that living sacrifice that Paul commanded us to become in Romans 12:1-2 and saying, “You know what God? You got me. I surrender. I am all-in.”
Bob: I have to tell you a funny story here. A girl I talked to in college. She was really struggling because she didn’t have a boyfriend. She really wanted a boyfriend. No guys were talking to her or asking her out. I remember the night we had a conversation. I said, “You know, you’re just going to have to surrender that to the Lord. You’re going to have to say, ‘I give up this desire. Lord, I will do whatever.’ God is keeping this from you until you surrender.”
So, I remember that night she prayed. About a month later, she came to me; and she said, “You know, thirty days ago I prayed that prayer; I still don’t have a boyfriend. You know, I gave it up to God. You said, ‘You know, God’s not going to give me a boyfriend ‘til I surrender.’ So, I surrendered. It has been thirty days, and I still don’t have a boyfriend.” The point was she hadn’t really surrendered anything. She was trying to play a little game with God.
Bob: We can’t do that.
Chip: No, no.
Bob: Surrender means really saying, “Lord, I am all-in. I am dead to me. I’m alive to You. It’s Your agenda now, not my agenda. We’ll go from here.”
Dennis: The assignment for every listener: if you’ve made that commitment, just refresh it. Just say, “Thank you, Lord, for bringing me to that point on such and such a date.” To Chip’s point, it does occur at a point in time; but to the vast majority who are listening to this broadcast, just a simple question: are you going to surrender? Will you do it right now?
Chip: I will say, as we’re watching thousands of people make that commitment, the greatest, deepest relationships ever experienced with Christ is taking that fearful step, trusting God’s goodness, and saying, “Lord, I’m all-in.” His power and His grace begin to flood their lives.
Dennis: I did that forty-two years ago. I shudder to think where I’d be today and what my life would look like. That’s when life came together.
Bob: That’s what you’re trying to get to and point people to in writing the book, Living on the Edge. You’re really calling people to authentic discipleship, to genuine followership.
I think sadly we’ve got a lot of people who are walking around today who are saying “Well, I did this at church, or I did that, or I’ve been in church for a long time.” If they pulled back and did the kind of sober self assessment that you call them to, they would see that the veneer is pretty thin on their lives spiritually. This book will help them do that kind of appraisal.
We’ve got copies of Chip’s book, Living on the Edge, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Subtitle is Dare to Experience True Spirituality. You may want to get a copy for yourself and a copy to pass along to someone else. Go to our website FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on how to order Chip Ingram’s book, Living on the Edge. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
Or call us toll free at 1-800-FL-Today, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word TODAY. When you get in touch with us, we’ll let you know how you can get a copy of Chip’s book.
By the way a couple of years ago, Chip was here and we had a chance to sit down and talk about a book he had written called Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships. Twelve ways to know you are really in love and how to say “No” to a second rate relationship, to less than what God’s calling you to. Primarily written for singles. When we shared this conversation on FamilyLife Today, we got a great response from all kinds of folks who got the CD’s to pass along to others or to listen to again themselves.
Well, this week if you are able to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount, we’d love to send you the two CD set of that conversation with Chip Ingram. It is titled Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships. You can ask for a copy when you make a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call 1800-FL-Today. We are listener supported; so, those donations are vital.
In fact, our program could not continue on this station if it weren’t for folks like you helping to support this ministry. Again, if you can make a donation this week online at FamilyLifeToday.com and you’d like to receive the conversation with Chip Ingram, just type the word “LOVE” in the online key code box; and we’ll be sure to send the CD’s to you.
Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word “TODAY.” Make your donation over the phone and just ask for the CD’s with Chip Ingram. We’ll get them sent to you. We do appreciate your support of this ministry. We appreciate your partnership with us.
We want to encourage you to be back with us tomorrow. Chip Ingram is going to be here again. We’re going to continue to talk about what it looks like to be an authentic follower of Jesus. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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