In or Out?

Many of us just do church. We do church like we do sports, school, work, hobbies, and other activities. Christianity gets put on our checklist of things we should do.  It gets bumped up and down on the list depending on the priorities of the things we want to do and the urgency of the things we have to do. Daily we make choices on what to do with our time and in the end I think we would be surprised at just how little time we spend with God, with His people, and at His church.  This seems a brazen contradiction for people who are heirs to the Kingdom, fellow heirs with Christ and children of the Almighty God.  Shouldn’t we desire to spend the majority of our time with God and with the people of God carrying on the work Christ came to do in this world?  Shouldn’t we desire to be people of the truth who grow up to be mature disciples in unity, maturing in our relationship with one another and with God and going out together to engage the world with the Gospel message?

Shouldn’t we be so enamored with doing the work of Christ in our world that it consumes us to the point that everyone that knows us and knows our passion would always know what we are doing and where to find us?

Jesus himself seemed frustrated at the idea that the people around him acted as if they did not know where to find him.  When his parents finally located him in the temple, after he had turned up missing as a boy, he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” When Jesus was in the garden, he said to the guards who came to arrest him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me?  Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me.” Who Jesus was, dictated what Jesus did and where Jesus went. His passion to do the will of the father weighed so heavily upon him that it consumed all that He did. We should all desire to have this kind of passion for the things of God.

In Ephesians 5 we are called to be imitators of God.  “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Imitate Christ.  Walk like He walked, love like he loved, give the way he gave. It’s a call to sacrifice. Are we willing to take this challenge on?  Are we willing to step up and be imitators of God in a world that is opposed to such ideas?

Imagine if we began to understand that discipleship is not a class, its a lifestyle!  Imagine if we all began to understand that Christianity isn’t something we do, it’s who we are.  Imagine if we had such passion for Christ that the priorities in life would fade into the distance in comparison to the weight of the glory of knowing Christ and making Him known. Maybe then we would truly understand what it means to be a disciple.  For believers, I think it’s time we stop imagining and start living.  Are you in or out?

“No one can sum up all God is able to accomplish through one solitary life, wholly yielded, adjusted, and obedient to Him.”    
    — D.L.Moody

Biblical Illiteracy Among Christians

“An old preacher used to say, ‘the Word has mighty free course among many nowadays, for it goes in at one of their ears and out at the other; so it seems to be with some readers–they can read a very great deal, because they do not read anything.  They eye glances but the mind never rests.  The soul does not light upon the truth and stay there.  Such reading is not reading at all.'” – Charles Spurgeon

I often wonder how we can claim to know and love that which we do not pursue?    When my wife and I were dating, one of the most exciting things about our relationship was discovering who we were.  We talked for hours, we relived our childhood, we discussed our dreams, and mulled over the things we liked and disliked.  Our relationship grew because we began sharing our lives with one another.  People would find it strange indeed if I asked a girl to marry me that I didn’t know or had only briefly heard about from someone else.  Stranger still would be for me to profess my love and desire for her, but refuse to live with her, talk to her, learn anything else about her, or even allow her to be a part of my life.  That would not only be dysfunction with a capital D, we might consider it a bit psychotic or abusive.  So why don’t we find it strange that many Christians today enter into a “relationship” with Jesus and claim to love and desire him and yet spend so little time reading the word?  I believe it to be a strange thing that you can find some of the most biblically illiterate people standing in the church singing songs like, “Standing on the promises of God”.

Gary Burge, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College wrote an article entitled “The Greatest Story Never Read: Recovering biblical literacy in the church” in Christianity Today.  He claims “Christian faith is not being built on the firm foundation of hard-won thoughts, ideas, history, or theology. Spirituality is being built on private emotional attachments.”  Thus claiming that Christians base their religion not on their understanding of the Bible but on the emotions they experience centering around the religion itself.  Can we really call this true Christianity?

Researcher George Barna, in his book “Boiling Point”, reports that “The average born-again, baptized, churchgoing person has embraced elements of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Scientology, Unitarianism and Christian Science—without any idea they have just created their own faith.”  Therefore he says, “we cannot really call the faith of American Christians a Bible-based faith. It is a synthetic, syncretic faith.”  Biblical illiteracy has led American Christians down the dangerous path of accepting and combining many different ideas from other religions and worldviews and thus creating their own religion.

Now, more than ever, it is essential that American believers actually pick up their Bibles and read it to discover if their beliefs match up with the truth found in the Word of God.  The Bible is filled with knowledge and wisdom from God.  We read about God and how He relates to humanity.  If the wealth of information never gets from the pages of your Bible into your mind, it is of no value.  We cannot simply rely on listening to sermons and Bible studies.  It’s not sufficient to simply attend church, listen to Christian music, and take notes during the messages.  This type of Christianity is not a good example of “meditating on God’s law day and night” (Psalms 1:2; 119:15, 48; Joshua 1:8).

Psalm chapter 19 declares that God’s instruction is perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, reliable, and righteous.  It also says that it revives the soul, makes us wise, makes the heart glad, and teaches us how to live.  The Word of God is an invaluable treasure greater than gold and honey.  Yeah, the Bible is more valuable than money and food…two of the most sought after items of all time.  Think about what people do for money!  Steal, cheat, kill, and even go on reality TV to eat some nasty 100 year old rotten egg to attempt to win cold hard cash.  Yet, in the end money will be gone and it’s value will be altogether worthless.

Would Christians go so far as to do crazy things for Jesus?  Here is an unpopular question: Which would influence you more?  If I asked you to read two chapters out of the Bible everyday for a year because it is the most valuable book in human history would you be motivated to do it?  What if I told you that I would monitor your progress and if you actually read the Bible everyday for a year then I’ll give you $1,000,000.  Would your motivation change?  In the end I believe more church goers would be willing to read their Bibles more if they were getting paid for it.  Why is that?  Isn’t it because there are many evangelical Christians who don’t really believe that the Bible is more valuable than all the gold in the world?  Yet the Bible claims, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul.”  – Matt 16:26.

Think about the advice of Deuteronomy 6:6-7 “And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” The American Christian might say, ‘surely that isn’t literal.’  I would venture to say this is the type of foolish, lazy reasoning that accentuates our problem.  Many Jews have taken this to be quite literal and have bound boxes containing the word upon their arm and forehead or attached it to their doorposts.  While I may not go as far as to say that we should all get Deuteronomy 6:4-5 tattooed on our arms and foreheads (though I am not entirely opposed to this), I would say that we should go so far as to making the Word of God a part of our everyday life so much so that it becomes permanently attached to all that we do and all that we are.  Grudem points out that “The nature of opposites in these verses (sit/walk, lie down/rise) suggest any and every time, place, and activity.”  The Word of God should, quite literally, become our greatest and most prominent priority and therefore it should interrupt our everyday lives as it might if we were literally wearing it on our foreheads.

I’d Rather Have Jesus

Many people are familiar with the song “I’d Rather Have Jesus”.  Originally a poem composed in 1922 written by Rhea F. Miller.  The tune of the song was written by George Beverly Shea after his mother left the poem on the piano in their home.  The message this song portrays is quite compelling and powerful and yet I have to wonder, can this really be said of us in America?  Somehow American Christians have gotten the American Dream confused with the will of God to the point that many assume religion is simply another element of the dream itself.  We have our stuff, our health, our money, our insurance, our retirement, and our religion.  Notice these things appeal to our security.  We feel most secure when we’re healthy, wealthy, and protected.  In fact religion can merely be just another insurance policy and retirement plan in the eyes of many.  These things become our idols. When all is well we are grateful to God for all that he gives us and when these things are threatened then we pray harder than ever that God might restore them.  God becomes nothing more than a means by which we attempt to acquire these things.  It’s as if we somehow believe that God has moved history in such a way that Jesus died on the cross so that his people can live the dream, be happy, do what they want and tip their hat to him every now and then.  This song is a plea to believers to realize that Jesus is far more precious than any of these things.  Jesus should be our dream, our aspiration, and our desire.

I’d Rather Have Jesus
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand.

Than to be a king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway,
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame,
I’d rather be true to His holy name.

May the words of this song echo in our heads as we drop more money in our retirement, sign our insurance policies, pay our car payments and plan for many more years of self pleasure and indulgence.

Matthew 16:24-26 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?’”

Philippians 3:8 “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”

God help us adjust our priorities in this life to reflect the Kingdom of God that the Gospel might be proclaimed through the lives of people willing to give up the American Dream for the sake of the the Kingdom!  May our dream become the advancement of the Gospel by any and all means possible.