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You are One Decision Away from a Totally Different Life
By Mark Batterson
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2013 Mark Batterson
All rights reserved.
PACK YOUR COFFIN
A century ago, a band of brave souls became known as one-way missionaries. They purchased single tickets to the mission field without the return half. And instead of suitcases, they packed their few earthly belongings into coffins. As they sailed out of port, they waved good-bye to everyone they loved, everything they knew. They knew they'd never return home.
A. W. Milne was one of those missionaries. He set sail for the New Hebrides in the South Pacific, knowing full well that the headhunters who lived there had martyred every missionary before him. Milne did not fear for his life, because he had already died to himself. His coffin was packed. For thirty-five years, he lived among that tribe and loved them. When he died, tribe members buried him in the middle of their village and inscribed this epitaph on his tombstone:
When he came there was no light.
When he left there was no darkness.
When did we start believing that God wants to send us to safe places to do easy things? That faithfulness is holding the fort? That playing it safe is safe? That there is any greater privilege than sacrifice? That radical is anything but normal?
Jesus didn't die to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous.
Faithfulness is not holding the fort. It's storming the gates of hell.
The will of God is not an insurance plan. It's a daring plan.
The complete surrender of your life to the cause of Christ isn't radical. It's normal.
It's time to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.
It's time to go all in and all out for the All in All.
Pack your coffin!CHAPTER 2
THE INVERTED GOSPEL
In the sixteenth century, the Renaissance astronomer Nicholas Copernicus challenged the belief that the earth was the center of the universe. Copernicus argued that the sun didn't revolve around the earth, but rather that the earth revolved around the sun. The Copernican Revolution turned the scientific world upside down by turning the universe inside out.
In much the same way, each one of us needs to experience our own Copernican Revolution. The paradigm shift happens when we come to terms with the fact that the world doesn't revolve around us. But that's a tough pill to swallow.
When we are born into this world, the world revolves around us. We're spoon-fed on the front end and diaper-changed on the back end. It's as if the entire world exists to meet our every need. And that's fine if you are a two-month-old baby. If you're twenty-two, it's a problem!
Newsflash: You are not the center of the universe!
At its core, sinfulness is selfishness. It's enthroning yourself—your desires, your needs, your plans—above all else. You may still seek God, but you don't seek Him first. You seek Him second or third or seventh. You may sing "Jesus at the center of it all," but what you really want is for people to bow down to you as you bow down to Christ. It's a subtle form of selfishness that masquerades as spirituality, but it's not Christ-centric. It's me-centric. It's less about us serving His purposes and more about Him serving our purposes.
I call it the inverted gospel.
Who's Following Who
Most people in most churches think they are following Jesus, but I'm not so sure. They may think they are following Jesus, but the reality is this: they have invited Jesus to follow them. They call Him Savior, but they've never surrendered to Him as Lord. And I was one of them. Trust me, I didn't want to go anywhere without Jesus right there behind me. But I wanted Jesus to follow me, to serve my purposes, to do my will.
It wasn't until I was a nineteen-year-old freshman at the University of Chicago that I had my Copernican Revolution. It started with this question: Lord, what do You want me to do with my life? That's a dangerous question to ask God, but not nearly as dangerous as not asking that question!
I got tired of calling the shots. Honestly, I wasn't very good at playing God. Plus it was exhausting. I stopped trying to "find myself" and decided to seek God. I couldn't read His Word enough. I got up early to pray. I even fasted for the first time in my life. I meant business. In fact, business as usual went out of business. For the first time in my life, I put Him first.
On the last day of summer vacation, I got up at the crack of dawn to do a prayer walk. Our family was vacationing at Lake Ida in Alexandria, Minnesota. The dirt road I walked down may as well have been the road to Emmaus. The cow pasture I walked through may as well have been the back side of the Sinai Desert with a burning bush. After months of asking, I finally got an answer to my question. I knew what God wanted me to do with my life.
On the first day of my sophomore year, I walked into the admissions office at the University of Chicago and told them I was transferring to a Bible college in Springfield, Missouri, to pursue full-time ministry. The guidance counselor thought I was crazy. So did a few friends and family members. Giving up a full-ride scholarship to one of the top-ranked universities in the country didn't make much sense on paper. The logical and practical thing to do would have been to finish my undergrad studies at the U of C and then go to seminary, but I knew this was my all-or-nothing, now-or-never moment. I knew I needed to quit hedging my bets, push all my chips to the middle of the table, and go all in with God.
Was it a gut-wrenching decision? Yes. Did I ever second-guess it? More than once! But the true adventure of following Jesus didn't begin until I went all in. That is the day I stopped asking Jesus to follow me and decided to follow Him.
Let me ask the question: Who's following who?
Are you following Jesus?
Or have you inverted the gospel by inviting Jesus to follow you?
Each year, I have the privilege of speaking to tens of thousands of people at churches and conferences all across the country. At first, I was shocked by the response, in a Christian audience, to a simple invitation. When I invited people to follow Jesus, about 50 percent would typically respond. What's astounding about that percentage is the simple fact that 100 percent of them thought they were already following Jesus. They weren't. They had inverted the gospel. They bought in, but they hadn't sold out. They were half in and half out.
At first, I thought this was an anomaly. How could half of us get it backward? Now I'm afraid it's normative. And if it is, then we desperately need a new normal.
More than a hundred years ago, a British revivalist issued a holy dare that would change a life, a city, and a generation. That timeless challenge echoes across every generation: "The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him."
The original hearer of that call to consecration was D. L. Moody. When those words hit his eardrums, they didn't just fire across synapses and register in his auditory cortex. They shot straight to his soul. That call to consecration defined his life. And his life, in turn, defined consecration.
It was Moody's all in moment.
Maybe this is yours?
In The Circle Maker, the prequel to this book, I wrote about the importance of prayer. It's the difference between the best you can do and the best God can do. You've got to pray a circle around the promises of God the same way the Israelites circled Jericho. And you keep circling until He answers. But you can't just pray like it depends on God. You also have to work like it depends on you. You can't just draw the circle. You also have to draw a line in the sand.
You are only one decision away from a totally different life. Of course, it will probably be the toughest decision you'll ever make. But if you have the courage to completely surrender yourself to the lordship of Jesus Christ, there is no telling what God will do. All bets are off because all bets are on God.
D. L. Moody left an indelible imprint on his generation. In the late 1800s, his sermons contributed to a great spiritual awakening worldwide. And more than a century later, his passion for the gospel continues to indirectly influence millions of people through Moody Church, Moody Bible Institute, and Moody Publishers.
Moody left an amazing legacy, but it all started with a call to consecration. It always does. And nothing has changed. The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.
Why not you?
Why not now?
Anytime God is about to do something amazing in our lives, He calls us to consecrate ourselves to Him. That pattern was established right before the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and conquered the Promised Land.
"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you."
Here's our fundamental problem: we try to do God's job for Him. We want to do amazing things for God. And that seems noble, but we've got it backward. God wants to do amazing things for us. That's His job, not ours. Our job is consecration. That's it. And if we do our job, God will most certainly do His.
Before I tell you what consecration is, let me tell you what it isn't.
It's not going to church once a week.
It's not daily devotions.
It's not fasting during Lent.
It's not keeping the Ten Commandments.
It's not sharing your faith with friends.
It's not giving God the tithe.
It's not repeating the sinner's prayer.
It's not volunteering for a ministry.
It's not leading a small group.
It's not raising your hands in worship.
It's not going on a mission trip.
All of those things are good things, but that isn't consecration. It's more than behavior modification. It's more than conformity to a moral code. It's more than doing good deeds. It's something deeper, something truer.
The word consecrate means to set yourself apart. By definition, consecration demands full devotion. It's dethroning yourself and enthroning Jesus Christ. It's the complete divestiture of all self-interest. It's giving God veto power. It's surrendering all of you to all of Him. It's a simple recognition that every second of time, every ounce of energy, and every penny of money is a gift from God and for God. Consecration is an ever-deepening love for Jesus, a childlike trust in the heavenly Father, and a blind obedience to the Holy Spirit. Consecration is all that and a thousand things more. But for the sake of simplicity, let me give you my personal definition of consecration.
Consecration is going all in and all out for the All in All.
My greatest concern as a pastor is that people can go to church every week of their lives and never go all in with Jesus Christ. They can follow the rules but never follow Christ. I'm afraid we've cheapened the gospel by allowing people to buy in without selling out. We've made it too convenient, too comfortable. We've given people just enough Jesus to be bored but not enough to feel the surge of holy adrenaline that courses through your veins when you decide to follow Him no matter what, no matter where, no matter when.
The Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard believed that boredom was the root of all evil. In other words, boredom isn't just boring. It's wrong. You cannot be in the presence of God and be bored at the same time. For that matter, you cannot be in the will of God and be bored at the same time. If you follow in the footsteps of Jesus, it will be anything but boring.
The choice is yours—consecration or boredom? It's one or the other. If you don't consecrate yourself to Christ, you'll get bored. If you do, you won't. And that is where the battle is won or lost. If you don't go all in, you'll never enter the Promised Land. But if you go all out, God will part the Jordan River so you can cross through on dry ground.
Stop trying to do God's job for Him. You don't have to do amazing things. You can't do amazing things. Amazing always begins with consecration. It's the catalyst behind every spiritual growth spurt, every kingdom cause, and every revival. And just as amazing always begins with consecration, consecration always ends with amazing.
When you look back on your life, the greatest moments will be the moments when you went all in. It's as true today as it was the day Abraham placed Isaac on the altar, the day Jonathan climbed a cliff to fight the Philistines, and the day Peter got out of the boat and walked on water.
In the pages that follow, we'll look at a dozen all in moments that double as defining moments in Scripture. I'll also share stories of ordinary people who are making an extraordinary difference with their lives. They will inspire you to risk more, sacrifice more, and dream more.
The longer I follow Jesus, the more convinced I am of this simple truth: God doesn't do what God does because of us. God does what God does in spite of us. All you have to do is stay out of the way. It's that simple. It's that difficult.
Stay humble. Stay hungry.
If you aren't hungry for God, you are full of yourself. That's why God cannot fill you with His Spirit. But if you will empty yourself, if you will die to self, you'll be a different person by the time you reach the last page of this book. As I wrote this book, I prayed that God would rewrite your life. It starts with giving the Author and Perfecter of your faith full editorial control. If you let go and let God take control, He'll write history, His Story, through your life.CHAPTER 3
DRAW THE LINE
"Take up your cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23 NLT
In AD 44, King Herod ordered that James the Greater be thrust through with a sword. He was the first of the apostles to be martyred. And so the bloodbath began. Luke was hung by the neck from an olive tree in Greece. Doubting Thomas was pierced with a pine spear, tortured with red-hot plates, and burned alive in India. In AD 54, the proconsul of Hierapolis had Philip tortured and crucified because his wife converted to Chris tian ity while listening to Philip preach. Philip continued to preach while on the cross. Matthew was stabbed in the back in Ethiopia. Bartholomew was flogged to death in Armenia. James the Just was thrown off the southeast pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem. After surviving the one-hundred-foot fall, he was clubbed to death by a mob. Simon the Zealot was crucified by a governor of Syria in AD 74. Judas Thaddeus was beaten to death with sticks in Mesopotamia. Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot, was stoned to death and then beheaded. And Peter was crucified upside down at his own request. John the Beloved is the only disciple to die of natural causes, but that's only because he survived his own execution. When a cauldron of boiling oil could not kill John, Emperor Diocletian exiled him to the island of Patmos. He then returned to Ephesus, where he wrote three epistles and died of natural causes about AD 100.
Every Christian living in a first-world country in the twenty-first century should read Foxe's Book of Martyrs. It's a reality check that puts our first-world problems into perspective. It redefines risk and sets the standard for sacrifice. By comparison, many of our risks seem rather tame and many of our sacrifices seem somewhat lame.
Our normal is so subnormal that normal seems radical. To the first-century disciples, normal and radical were synonyms. We've turned them into antonyms.
In Luke 9:23 – 24, Jesus threw down the gauntlet with his disciples. He wanted to see who was in and who was out. Or more accurately, who was all in.
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it."
The disciples took this literally. We can at least take it figuratively. I'm not suggesting we will die physically for Christ, but we must die to ourselves. If Jesus hung on His cross, we can certainly carry ours! And that isn't just our greatest responsibility. It's our highest privilege.
Anything less than the complete surrender of our lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ is robbing God of the glory He demands and deserves. It's also cheating ourselves out of the eternal reward God has reserved for us.
We won't come alive, in the truest and fullest sense, until we die to self. And we won't find ourselves until we lose ourselves in the cause of Christ.
It's time to ante up.
It's time to go all in.
If Jesus is not Lord of all, then Jesus is not Lord at all.
It's all or nothing.
It's now or never.
The Americanized Gospel
We have Americanized the gospel or spiritualized the American Dream. Take your pick. But neither one comes close to the true gospel. When you try to add something to the gospel, you aren't enhancing it. Any addition is really a subtraction. The gospel, in its purest form, is as good as it gets.
We want God on our terms, but we don't get God that way. That's how we get false religion. It's pick and choose. It's cut and paste. The end result is a false god we've created in our image.
Excerpted from All In by Mark Batterson. Copyright © 2013 Mark Batterson. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Now or Never
1 Pack Your Coffin 13
2 The Inverted Gospel 15
3 Draw the Line 23
4 Charge 35
5 This Is Only a Test 41
6 Burn the Ships 51
7 Crash the Party 63
8 Rim Huggers 75
9 Climb the Cliff 81
10 Build the Ark 93
11 Grab Your Oxgoad 103
All in All
12 SDG 117
13 Throw Down Your Staff 123
14 Take a Stand 137
15 Thirty Pieces of Silver 147
All or Nothing
16 The Idol that Provokes to Jealousy 161
17 One Decision Away 171