Article by Josh Vestal
“So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8 Here Paul makes one of the most astonishing statements, I believe, in all the letters which bear his name as author. First and foremost, this is a radical statement from Paul. If we are being honest, the American church is greatly confused about what it means to be a radical Christian. I am hesitant to even use the word radical here because of the negative connotations associated with the term. Technically speaking, there is a radicalness that is not Godly, but of the devil and the fallen world. Sadly, there are many who proudly flaunt the banner of radical who are actually enemies of the cross of Christ because they are operating in the flesh and not the Spirit. This would include that which (persons, philosophies, teachings) incites violence, persecution, terror, genocide and a host of other horrible things. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of that in history, often carried out by professing Christians. That is one extreme.
On the other side, there exists a persona of radicalness or perhaps a façade of radicalness that truly has no real root in Christ. I don’t want to confuse anyone, so let me explain this way: making a Facebook post about Christ does not make a person radical. Screaming the name of Jesus in the streets or the town’s local hot spots does not either. Wearing a Christian t-shirt does not make one radical. Being the lone sheep or the anomaly of the family, too, does not make one a radical Christian. These things are fine and good and even encouraged, but you can do all these things and be as lost as a needle in a haystack. Do these things proceed from a changed heart or is it a form of lip service? Trust is not to be placed in zeal, as zeal can be misplaced. Remember those sobering words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23? Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Remember what Paul wrote to Timothy describing man’s characteristics in the last days, “[man] having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:5). Consider also his words to Titus, “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him” (Titus 1:16). There is a way that seems right to man that leads to destruction.
So, what makes a Christian radical? My answer is simple: the radical Christian is the one who denies himself, takes up his cross daily, and follows the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything else is the result of this truth. He is the one who has counted the cost of discipleship, dethroned self, and embraced Christ for all that He is. He understands that he cannot saved himself and must place his trust in another. The radical Christian is the one who cries out “Jesus Christ is Lord” no matter what the cost. The radical Christian is one who will follow the Lord wherever He goes and will do whatever He requests. The radical Christian looks at the world’s fleeting pleasures and will cast them aside for their love of Christ if need be. He boasts in his infirmities so the power of Christ may rest upon him. The radical Christian loves his wife as Christ loved the Church. The radical Christian does not seek to provoke his children to anger. The radical Christian loves his enemies and blesses those who persecutes him even when it is the hardest thing in the world to do. Why? Because this is the lifestyle that Christ has called His children to. This is how Scripture speaks of being radical. I think Paul sums it up well in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
I’ll be the first to tell you that I am often convicted of luxuries. I sincerely praise God for the blessings and liberties that we enjoy in the West. We have so much to thank Him for. I am sitting in a soft chair. The air condition is keeping me cool. My clothes are clean. I have three cats and a golden retriever. I’ve been blessed with a precious family. And I often take it for granted. It is my normal. It is your normal. But think with me for a moment. If the rug was pulled out from under us, would we endure, or would we compromise? Did we lay our foundation on a sure strong rock or lay no foundation at all? I know it is uncomfortable to think about but think about it we must. We talk a lot about presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, but would we be willing to lay down our lives in the path of obedience to Christ? I recently watched a documentary about Christian persecution in the Middle East. It featured this dear lady whose identity is hidden, and she was asked questions about being a Christian in a country that enforces Sharia Law. She stated that every morning she kisses her husband goodbye knowing that it could very well be the last time that she sees him. Can you imagine?
The verse above shows us the apostle’s true desire when he visited the Thessalonians. Paul and his colleagues were willing to lose their lives to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. Why? “Because ye were dear unto us.” Didn’t the Lord in an act of sacrificial love save us? Aren’t we to extend it to others? Aren’t there people in our lives we consider dear? It was Christ who said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Brethren, it is my desire for us all to persevere in the faith until the end of our earthly pilgrimage. Thank you for allowing me to share some of my thoughts from this verse. May the Lord bless you richly according to His riches in glory. Look up, friends. Always up! Josh Vestal
Crossroads Church (Rosedale, VA)