February 23, 2016

Jesus: A Good Luck Charm or Lord of All?

Ever noticed how easy and popular it is to *call* oneself a Christian but not prove it by one's actions? 

Yeah, I have too. I'll give you some scenarios:

Drove in my Jesus-bumper-sticker-laden van to the local theater to watch [insert trending horror film]. 
Gave money to that homeless person under that bridge. But I yelled at my brother when he begged me to give him money to buy some penny candy.

At the grocery store on the way home from work, wearing my favorite "I Am Second" t-shirt: I'm growing impatient, and start muttering to myself about how slow the line is. When it's my turn to check out, I practically toss my money at the cashier and fail to say "thank you" for their assistance. 

Just posted my 108th selfie on Instagram along with some Bible verses. (This one really steps on my own toes.)

Photo courtesy: Phoebe Kautt
 We go through our lives, giving little thought to the possible damaging consequences of our actions against our Christian witness. 

I've thought a great deal about this whole topic since I first began reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book, "The Cost of Discipleship," He made some punch-in-the-gut statements about the lives of Christians. One such section,

"But do we also realize that this cheap grace has turned back upon us like a boomerang? The price we are having to pay today in the shape of the collapse of the organized Church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost....Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and unbelieving. We poured forth unending streams of grace. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard....Was there ever a more terrible or disastrous instance of the Christianizing of the world than this? What are those three thousand Saxons put to death by Charlemagne compared with the millions of spiritual corpses in our country today?"

Note when he mentioned the 'spiritual corpses' in our country. I can't think of a better way to describe the condition of our nation, honestly.

Photo courtesy: Phoebe Kautt
This land is filled with people who claim to be Christians, but in reality they have just baptized or whitewashed their secular, hedonistic lifestyles with the name 'Christian'. In effect, we've turned Jesus into a 'good luck charm' when we are in pain or distress. Our own personal genie to Whom we send all our wishes and desires.

But Jesus requires so much more. He doesn't want us to carry the name 'Christian'--anyone can do that. He doesn't want us to just believe (as good as that may be)-- "even the demons believe and tremble" (James 2:19). He doesn't just want to be our Help in time of trouble.

Don't get me wrong:
  • We, as Christians, are supposed to wear that name ('Christian') boldly, and use it as a catalyst to unashamedly proclaim the Gospel (Romans 1:16).
  • Belief is good-- in fact, "without faith it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11:6). And in 1 Timothy 6:11 we are told to "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." (emphasis my own) But it's not enough. "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:14-26, but particularly vs. 26).  
  • Calling on God in our distress is perfectly Biblical, too (Psalm 50:15). 
The real problem is when we don't allow our faith to saturate every area of our lives.

"God didn't give you the strength to get back on your feet so you can run back to the same thing that knocked you down."  What impact do we as Christians have when we allow ourselves to be conformed to the image of the World, instead of the image of the Son? The Apostle Paul, in Romans 12:2, warns against such a lifestyle,

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Jesus portrayed the way to discern spiritual corpses from true Believers: 

Jesus hasn't called us to look or act like the World-- to look or act 'normal'. In fact, Jesus' own life was shrouded in abnormality. Among other oddities, He didn't have a home (Luke 9:58), wife, or children, and His own family thought He was insane (Mark 3:21).

Recently, one of my church's leaders, Stewart Bolerjack, gave the communion meditation. I found several things he said to be quite profound, so I quote:

"To be a Christian means that we have given our lives and our spirits

to God, that we willingly throw away whatever comes between us and God,

and that we have told the world that God is more important than anything the

world can offer. That’s unusual, not normal, and we may pay a price for it,

but that’s who we are: we’re 'not like them'." 

The World sure offers a wide range of 'delights': education, careers, riches, drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.
But as Solomon said, "all is futile," (Ecclesiastes 1:2). None of that has eternal significance. None of that stuff grants us an eternity in heaven with our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)

"Faith without works is dead." (James 2:14-26)

"Let us hear the conclusion 
of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
14 For God will bring every work 

into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil." 

(Ecclesiastes 12:13,14)

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