Chip Ingram is senior pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, Calif., president of Living on the Edge ministry and a frequent seminar leader at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. In a recent conversation with Decision, Chip discussed how we can daily walk with the Lord.
Q: You’ve invested your life in helping Christians become committed, devoted followers of Jesus Christ. How did it begin for you?
A: I grew up in a good, moral family. We went to church, and I intellectually believed in God. So I thought I was a Christian. But I had absolutely no concept of a personal relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ.
One night after graduating from high school, I was staring out a window at our house and prayed: “God, if You exist, show Yourself to me in a way that I can understand. And if You created all that there is and You are real, I will do whatever You want me to do.”
A few weeks later, I was at a summer camp with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, where I heard the Good News of the Gospel. I learned that there was nothing I could do to earn God’s favor, but that Christ died in my place to forgive my sins and that this free gift could only be received by faith.
I didn’t understand much, but I did understand my desperate need for a Savior and the clear teaching of Scripture that says Christ paid for my sin once and for all. So I committed my life to Him.
Q: But it didn’t stop there. Two key Scripture verses had a profound impact on you.
A: About 2 1/2 years later as I encountered multiple struggles, God used Romans 12:1-2 to help me come to grips with what He indeed wanted from me. He didn’t want my religious activities, and the highest priority wasn’t to keep some set of rules. God wanted me and my life, and He wanted to reign in my heart as He reigns in the universe—so that I could enjoy an intimate, joyful relationship with Him. I surrendered my life to the Lord. That was 33 years ago, and I’m still on this journey of becoming more like Christ and living out my faith every day.
Q: You’re speaking of total commitment to Christ?
A: It’s my will, my mind, my emotions, my possessions, my relationships—everything—aligned around Jesus Christ in submission to Him. Surrender isn’t only for Christian leaders. It’s for everyday people like you and me. Total commitment is the channel through which God’s best and biggest blessings flow. It’s how we enjoy His power and presence in our daily life.
Q: Why is this so critical?
A: Tragically, many of us are living fake, hypocritical lives. Whether it’s our ethics, moral purity, priorities, money, whatever, we aren’t living a nickel’s worth of difference from unbelievers. They’re telling us, “You say you love God, but you’re not honest, or you’re having an affair or you’re walking out on your family.” We’re undermining the very message that we believe when our lives are not significantly and progressively reflecting Jesus.
At the same time, we’re missing out on knowing and enjoying God and what He wants for us. When we read the first 11 chapters of Romans and grasp that we’re sinners and are lost but that God lovingly died on the cross and that our sins have been removed and that we’re forgiven and filled with the Holy Spirit, we’ll want to, out of response to His incredible grace and mercy, surrender our lives to Him as our spiritual act of worship. In light of all that He’s done for us, we’ll want to say, “All that I am and all that I have belongs to You. I love You, Lord!”
This then becomes our motivation to spending time reading, studying, memorizing and applying God’s Word—and fellowshipping with other believers and reaching out to our non-Christian friends with the Gospel.
Q: Where do we start?
A: The Christian life demands deliberate effort. But God is not interested in our performance. A good starting point is acknowledging that the Christian life is impossible to live in our own strength.
We’re also to stop allowing ourselves to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our mind. We’re talking about battling the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. Every day we’re bombarded by messages that seduce us and say that sex, status and salary will fill the deepest needs of our lives. We’re to be vigilant about what goes into our mind and have it renewed. Then we’ll experience God’s will, which is good, acceptable and perfect. True spirituality is lived from the inside out.
And we can’t live the Christian life alone. We need each other. Authentic community is “doing life” together—sacrificially serving and being deeply devoted to one another in brotherly love.
Q: How can we make a lasting difference as devoted followers?
A: How we treat those who have done evil to us will be the most powerful means of impacting our world. When we bless those who persecute us, or keep from taking revenge against someone who has betrayed us, we convey the love of Jesus Christ in a practical and radical way.
You and I can’t become more like Christ and reflect His beauty, love and holiness unless we, by His power, rely upon the Holy Spirit living in and through us. Only God can supernaturally change our hearts and those we’re praying to reach. We proclaim His message, but only He can do the impossible!