Scripture teaches us that every time God has appeared to man it has required great sacrifice, the sacrifice of their idols. If a man is to break with the world here is where that break will happen – the times when we lust for our old prison cell and our old gods, and we long to be defeated just one more time, to be the child of irresistible desires. But radical faith places us in the position of God versus slavery. When God appears, He demands the whole man and only a severe and dangerous faith will be sufficient to break the chains and open prison doors.
I will not speak of compromise or cooperation because we know who the slave driver is and what holds us hostage. We need not list our idols; the solution is the same; Christ bids us “come and die.” Death is the same for everyone, death is death. So, don’t talk of half measures or of cheap faith. The faith that defeats the world is not impotent or hollow but deadly; faith demands our life, and anything less is just compromise, shame, and friendship with the executioner.
But how is this faith represented? Faith, the only kind of faith, pictured in the Bible, operates at a whole different level. First, it is a re-creation of man, a man without fear, whose roots share the fertile soil of past saints and a true history, freemen, capable of standing up under fire because they are motivated by a profound belief and trust having confidence in a certain future. They are not necessarily charismatic individuals, but their presence is felt wherever they are regardless of how dangerous the situation may be to their own lives, and they encourage others to follow. The essential job of the faithful is to be, as Isaiah and Paul say, “Men.” Another level of faith is to acknowledge the historical occurrences when Christianity has gotten off on the wrong path going the wrong direction. Science and intellect can bring us to this point. What is needed is spiritual clarity and sanity along with the courage to make others aware, even though the awareness is painful and touches raw flesh. The fake history of Christianity and America, as it is spoon fed to “Christian” children in public, private, and homeschool, is unacceptable. Having the correct and inspired understanding of the New Testament puts to flight the demons of patriotism, denominationalism, and constitutionalism built on Old Testament rule of law and human pride.
Where does true faith lead? True faith leads to separation, exodus, and exile, being present “In the world but not of the world.” Every true believer must voluntarily separate from this hostile environment, from Babylon, and acknowledge his position as an expatriate and alien. Our witness to the world is that we live in direct contradiction to its positions. While the entire world is stampeding in fear to escape death Christians have already taken their exodus and have no part in this flight. Our exodus is true repentance from past friendship with the world and its fake history and desires. We will not follow the stampeding masses, nor will we be afraid, nor will we become refugees, because we are exiled already, and have fled to Jesus. We have no haven except that of Jesus and our exile is in the very place where our God is despised and hated, and if we are thinking of that place from which we have gone out from we will fabricate opportunities to return. True faith leads us to exodus and exile.
I have been told by past associates and family that I should settle down, but contrary to all of that “good” advice, we do not have to settle down. But what does that look like, this settling down? What really is meant is that we should get organized in our community, our class, our political system, or the economy, and affect the world by the world’s means. Isn’t it the first and last act of faith to declare that we are strangers and exiles in the world and to its means? The adventure of faith means pulling up stakes and like Abraham abandoning everything; Moses, too, left everything, country, wife, and occupation. When God calls us, He will, at some point, test our allegiance and temper our beliefs. He will not call us into a fight with the world or into seclusion or a monastery but will call us into exile to prove our loyalty.
If we are adapted to this world, accepted by it, integrated into its activities, politics, policing, military, etc., even its holidays, we are of the world and our exodus is a sham and fake? What does faith have to do with our professional functions, careers, social activities, things the world considers normal, conscientious, efficient, and good? What Christian has not come head-to-head with Christ’s words, “You, come and follow Me” and had to wrestle with their faith? Levi left, abandoned his publican’s money box, his office, and pride. The instructions of Jesus is to “Let the dead bury the dead.” Isn’t Christianity just as radical today as it was then? This is exodus and separation from the world, this is following Jesus who had “Nowhere to lay His head.” But what will become of us, those who have left everything Lord? “What is that to you, just follow Me.” Our faith is gauged on this exacting demand and no compromise is allowed. We claim we are ready to follow Jesus while focusing on a bank account, adequate insurance against a “margin of error,” and a few connections and bridges back to safety.
What is faith? It is the attitude that sheds no tears of regret that we have grown old, watched our wealth vanish, or regrets over lost opportunities. Faith is watching and listening to Jesus as He instructs His Apostles, while Judas leads soldiers out to arrest Him say, “But I do as the Father has commanded Me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise and let us go.”
Faith calls upon us to leave the world and its works. If we let old age and death do the job of separating us from the world, if we just let our lives fade away with the decline of our strength and submit to mere fate, we will have thrown away all our chances. That will be our demonstration that we were nothing more than impotent objects in the hands of Time and Chance. Rather than giving to the world the opportunity to define who we are we must choose the time for the break, it must be our decision and the announcement made, the stakes pulled up, and no looking back at society, people, states, politics, technology, careers, or anything. We must break with these things, not necessarily because they are evil, but so that the world can hear the strange word of God spoken from the center, from one who is exiled in the world but not of the world. The point is to create a dialog with the lost and not to retire to the desert, by one who has placed their “self” outside of this world, being at once close-by yet at an infinite distance.
The exodus of Jonah was not his running away but his entering into the heart of that which was repulsive to him; his exodus was his entrance into Nineveh. There were no fancy five-point sermons, only this message, “Yet forty days . . . .” Faith has nothing further to say than to flee the wrath to come, “Yet forty days.”