Who would’ve thought a mere seven-word phrase could shape an entire society? It is ingrained into our very being from the time we are young that America is a land of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. It is easily our most beloved maxim. We have come to accept it, however, without truly thinking about not only its serious implications, but how it has shaped the way we think about our lives.
Looking at Jesus’ life, I see a picture that is actually quite the opposite of Life, Liberty and Happiness. He calls us to Death, Servitude and the Pursuit of Obedience. Yes, I did just say that—Jesus’ call for our lives is basically the antithesis of what American culture expects of us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an America-basher. I very much appreciate what this country has done for me. I simply think we need to be aware of how deeply we are affected by our surrounding environment.
I could reference multiple passages in which Jesus says that the last is first, that one must serve in order to be a leader, that you must lay down your life to truly be a follower of Him. Have we really lost these basic truths because of a short catch-phrase? My generation has a lot of passion, I’ll give us that much. But we also have this infuriating sense of entitlement. Jesus tells us to lose our rights all over Scripture. If you want a specific verse, read the Gospels. Let me be blunt: Life is not supposed to be fair for a Christian. It’s that simple. Want to sell something on Craigslist? Because I do. It’s completely fair to sell our possessions. What if you just gave something away, though? What if you blew someone away with an unexplainable generosity?
Christian behavior, at least in my generation, is actually pretty counter-cultural. Going to church is not the norm among twentysomethings. Neither is waking up on Saturday mornings to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. What’s scary, though, is that our minds have been programmed by culture. This is why the apostle Paul stresses the mind and our thinking in much of his writing. Romans 12:2 says, “Be renewed by the transforming of your mind," not by transforming your behavior. Philippians 4:8 says “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable … think about such things.”
To truly follow Christ, the very way you think about life must change. Satan is most effective when he’s working in our head. Behavioral changes are noticed. They’re easily spotted by friends and can be pointed out. Attitudes change subtly, though. We must daily be renewing our mind. Andrew Murray said: “The manna of one day was corrupt when the next day came [see Exodus 16: 1-20]. I must every day have fresh grace from Heaven.” I don’t want to sound like a legalist, and I’m all about freedom in Christ and worshiping as you see fit, but taking time to meet God every single day—whether through Scripture, prayer, meditation, whatever—is probably the single most important thing you will ever do.
Sounds kind of simple, doesn’t it? Well it’s not. It’s hard. There are days where you literally do run out of time. It happens to me frequently as I get closer to college graduation. I’m actually quite bad at daily making time for God, so really, I’m preaching to myself here. Hopefully you just tag along for the ride. And it’s not something revolutionary. This isn’t some prophetic word of God that you’re hearing for the first time. I think we all need to be reminded though. Find ways to remind yourself. Personally, I tape up notecards above my desk with Scripture or quotes I like. It looks dorky, but it’s sometimes the only way I remember. Do whatever works for you, but find ways to prioritize making time with God. It’s too important to just let slip by and keep putting off.
The first key to change is awareness. That’s all I’m asking for here. Be aware of how culture has shaped the way you think. I challenge you to take 10 minutes today and reflect on it. Also be aware of the importance of putting God into your day, every day. Culture is a good thing. I love cheap fiction as much as the next guy. Just please don’t pursue liberty and happiness—put instead Christ and obedience first, and you’ll receive those other things as well.
Jeremy Anderberg is a recent college graduate and will be going on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the fall. He is also recently engaged. He loves reading, coffee and writing.