People crave a 'safe' religion which neither confronts them nor challenges them. They want to simply show up somewhere and somehow by doing so receive eternal credits that insure their passage to heaven. For the most part, people want their cake and to eat it too. They want the spiritual benefits of being a so-called Christian and at the same time they want to enjoy all the world has to offer.
Jesus Christ confronted this kind of mentality time and again in His ministry. Jesus made things perfectly clear in Matthew 6:24:
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
I have heard people twist and turn and basically rip this verse out of their Bibles for years. I even heard a preacher at a so-called 'prosperity gospel' church go as far as to say this verse was not in the original texts. A second grader could easily determine this verse is very much in all the texts and what was said was a lame attempt to adulterate the integrity of Gods Word to suit ones theology.
Listen folks, it is high time that we cease trying to rip out of Gods Word those things which confront our unbelief or challenge our comfortable way of thinking and living. There is perhaps no section in all of the New Testament more challenging than Jesus 'Sermon on the Mount'. There is really very little in that sermon which is easy to grasp or live.
Look at these verses and tell me they are easy to carry out:
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matthew 5:28
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. Matthew 5:39
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. Matthew 5:44
I think you get the picture here. In Jesus very first 'sermon', he laid out a entirely new way of thinking and living which basically ripped the Pharisaical law to shreds. Jesus let it be known that outward shows of piety and religion meant nothing to Him or God. Jesus demanded that people look into their hearts and manifest those things associated with love and not selfishness.
We simply cannot serve both God and man. We cannot strive to become rich in this world, storing up earthly treasures we cannot take with us when we die and still expect to serve God. Jesus Himself said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get to heaven. Some of the great Saints of yesteryear proved conclusively that it is far easier to serve God with ones whole heart when ones life is not burdened down with the responsibilities and issues that arise from trying to have all the world says you need to be happy.
A few years ago I read a book by John Michael Talbot called 'The Lessons of St. Francis'. This book greatly opened my eyes to how God intended us to live this life. St. Frances lived in the thirteenth century and turned his back on worldly wealth to embrace the simple virtues of solitude, humility, creativity, community, compassion, service and prayer. If there is one thing St. Francis life proved, it was that simplicity and spirituality go hand in hand. Logical would then dictate that complexity and ungodliness go hand in hand.
For the millions upon millions of Christians who want a non-confrontational watered down gospel that makes them feel good, there are a multitude of places available to get their 'needs' met. For those desiring to lead a quiet and peaceful life in Christ Jesus, there are very few places remaining which teach and promote the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is truly a sad and disturbing statement to make, but it is true nonetheless.
If you are honestly attempting to see if your Christian faith is a convenient religion or the real, true, vital and living faith Jesus gave His life for, you will have to wait for the final installment in this series. To wrap this up we will see what is needed to truly examine ourselves according to the Word of God in order to establish whether we are simply acting religious or living our faith. Until then, may God richly bless you with greater understanding and enlighten your heart to see the simplicity of His plan for your life.
Let us prize Him.
by A. B. Simpson
Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word.
Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.
Once 'twas painful trying, Now 'tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, Now the uttermost.
Once 'twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast;
Once 'twas constant drifting, Now my anchor's cast.
Once 'twas busy planning, Now 'tis trustful prayer;
Once 'twas anxious caring, Now He has the care.
Once 'twas what I wanted, Now what Jesus says;
Once 'twas constant asking, Now 'tis ceaseless praise.
Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me.
Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored, Now for Him alone.
Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He's mine;
Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine.
Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored, Safe within the vail.
Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him. That does NOT sound like a walk in the park to me! Over and over again we are told that we can expect to face trials and persecution. The New Testament makes this very plain. The question we must ask ourselves is are we ready to follow Jesus no matter what?
And I will add "Amen and Amen" as well.
In John 16:33, Jesus said "You will have troubles." So much in that statement, the troubles faced by all mortals, the persecution of non-believers, the very difficulty of living up to the guidance given in the Sermon on the Mount..
When we try to pick "our Jesus" from some sort of menu instead of what is said in the Logos of the Bible, we are led astray.
Great series, my dear friend and companion.
B2Y, I couldn't agree with you more in this area. I became quite tired of 'playing church' as I call it, and in the last two years have been blessed to see a new church built within minutes of my home. One that teaches the true Word of God, calls sin a sin, and does everything possible to equip us to live Christ-like lives in a sinful and broken world. If I had to, I'd drive an hour to get to this church every Sunday, and believe it or not, there are regular members who do just that.
You're right, God doesn't want us to have a luke-warm faith. In revelations, there is a verse that says he will "spit out" the luke-warm church. The Lord wants us to follow him with all of our hearts and it is he who gives us the strength and compassion to do so.
Thanxs for this blog.
Dear B2Y--You have shined a light on my life, and I'm left with only two prayers: "Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief," and "Lord, be merciful to me the sinner." Keep it up, my brother. This is the kind of stuff all of us in the Church desperately need to hear. With agape and phileo. :) YBIChrist--Ron