Have you ever heard a message about being all in as a follower of Jesus? Or have you ever been the person actually giving the message about being all in?
I can answer yes to both!
In fact, in regards to the second question, I can say yes as of last week.
It certainly was not my first time, but as recent as last week I preached a message about the importance of being all in when it comes to our Christian faith.
But something was missing from my talk, and it became blatantly obvious to me when, after finishing my message, a student came up to me and asked me what it looked like practically to be all in as a Christ follower.
She caught me!
For the past 30 minutes I had described the importance of being all in - but I had failed to provide some practical ways to practice and apply this concept.
What does it look like to be all in?
Is there a litmus test that can definitively prove my loyalty?
Is there a list of 10 things that I could do that would put me on the all in list?
The answer is not clear.
I thought about it further and I realized that when it comes to being all in, even the Bible can be a little confusing on this. For example, one time Jesus was teaching and he said that whoever loved him would prove it through their obedience:
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).
Is this what it means to be all in? If so, what does Jesus mean by "my commandments?" Does he mean the 10 Commandments? Does he mean his teachings in Matthew 5? Is it a combination of all of them?
Another time Jesus was asked about what it meant to do the work of God and Jesus gave a different response:
"'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent'" (John 6:29).
Is this what it means to be all in? Does it simply require belief that Jesus was sent by God? Is there anything beyond this?
In the book of Romans, Paul says that the journey of faith is marked by confession and faith:
"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved" (Romans 10:9-10).
Is this what it means to be all in? Is it about a heart belief followed by a confession?
Paul indicates that an all in faith means turning from sin and pursuing that which is righteous:
"But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
And then James says that the true demonstration of faith comes in actions:
"You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24).
So what does it mean to be all in? Is it faith? Is it works? Is it obedience? Is it turning from sin?
At the risk of sounding too simplistic, I have to conclude that the answer is that all of these things play a part in the journey of being all in as a follower of Jesus.
All in means being obedient to Jesus' commands: YES
All in means having faith in the life and death of Jesus: YES
All in means putting action to your faith and living it out: YES
All in means turning from sin and living righteously: YES
This is not a comprehensive list, but it certainly conveys the idea that there is not one exclusive answer to the question.
And at the same time, I think that trying to define what it looks like to be all in is a foolhardy endeavor. While the things mentioned above may in fact be indicators of an all in faith, rarely can this be conclusively proven by what is seen. Undoubtedly, being all in is a matter of the heart.
I do not think that it is possible to "arrive" at being all in. Our spiritual walk with Jesus is one that is ongoing and we will never arrive at perfection in this life.
So how can we answer the question, "What does it look like to be all in?" I want to share four indicators that I think can be helpful for an individual to assess if they are heading in the direction of an all in faith.
The first indicator is belief. 1John 3:23 says, "And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ." What are you believing? Do you believe that Jesus is God in flesh? Do you believe in his sacrificial work on the cross? It is clear that belief is the starting point for all in faith.
The second indicator is obedience. 1 John 2:3-6 says, "And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected." Obedience is simply doing and living the way that God requires. Is your life marked by obedience? Are you doing what God is asking? An all in faith will start with belief and be followed up with obedience.
The third indicator is repentance. Repentance is a spiritual word that simply means to feel sincere remorse or regret. However, I think that spiritual repentance goes beyond simply a feeling of regret and also demonstrates a turning and changing of course. When John the Baptist came preaching his message was one of repentance. Repentance is recognizing that the way you are heading is wrong and doing whatever it takes to alter course. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Is your life marked by repentance and confession? When you make a mistake or sin are you quick to repent and commit to turn away from it? An all in faith starts with belief, is followed up by obedience, and is marked by repentance.
4. RELIANCE ON THE HOLY SPIRIT
The fourth indicator is reliance on the Holy Spirit. This is an aspect in the life of faith that we cannot overlook. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the ability to continue in our belief, obey, and convicts us of sin so that we can repent. The work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christ-follower is extraordinary significant. Romans 8:8-11 says, "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." What does this Scripture mean? It means that the Holy Spirit is living inside of us if we have put our faith in Jesus. Since this is the case, the Holy Spirit empowers us to live in a way that our flesh does not allow. Galatians 5 reinforces this truth: "But the fruits of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..." This means that the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives produces the spiritual fruit that pleases God. Are you relying on the Holy Spirit? Are you sensing the Holy Spirit working in your life to make you more like Jesus?
An all in faith starts with belief, is followed up by obedience, is marked by repentance, and is nurtured by reliance on the Holy Spirit.
I do not think that we will ever "arrive" at being all in when it comes to our faith in Jesus - but that does not mean that we can't come as close as possible to living out what this looks like here on earth.
May we continue to pursue being all in for Jesus.