At ERLC 2016, Andy Stanley and Russell Moore had a lively discussion on their divergent approaches to Scripture’s place in their ministries, language, and basically everything else. One of the conversations centered around whether it’s easy or not to preach repentance. Stanley is a strong believer in taking a gentle approach, taking steps toward following Jesus. His idea is that it’s a better approach to invite to become a follower of Jesus, because following Jesus leads to a life that will be better and richer.
It was a lively discussion, and delved into all kinds of difficult and touchy subjects, and I appreciated Stanley’s candor throughout.
As I listened, I kept wondering, “what does it mean to have a better and richer life?” What exactly does that mean?
Now, before anyone thinks this is a hit piece on Stanley, it’s not. He had a lot of really helpful things to say (even if I wish they were things he said more consistently). So, I’m not accusing him of anything, ‘kay?
Instead, I’m thinking about this question. What is a richer life? What is a better life? There are two ways to look at it:
The first is to believe that it means your life will become materially better. That your relationships will improve; your bank account will be full; you will magically drop those 20 pounds you’ve wanted to lose since 1997… It’s the Christian life as defined by the American life. The message that, I think, many people in my circles probably think guys like Stanley preach. (Again, not saying he does.) This is the kind of message that leaves people disillusioned with Christianity, or a distorted version of it anyway. But as has often been said, when this is our understanding of Christianity, they’re not trying the faith and finding it wanting, but leaving it untried.
Then there’s the other view, what I believe is the biblical view: it’s the recognition that your life might actually kind of stink once you start to follow Jesus. You might lose your job. You might experience relational difficulty, or perhaps you’ll even get a terminal illness.
But what do you get? Jesus. You get God. You are brought into the family of God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and given an inheritance that will never fail. A place in the new creation, before the throne of God, and the promise of hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” as Jesus wipes the tears from your eyes.
That’s what you get. That’s what you get to look forward to. I can’t imagine a richer or better life than one with that as its foundation.