Tuesday, February 18, 2014

An Uncomfortable Christianity

Do you want to hear a really sad statement from the Scriptures?

So they feared the Lord, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. (2 Kings 17:32-33)

They feared Yahweh but served other gods. These were not the people of Israel. These were the people brought in by Assyria to resettle Israel after taking the people of Israel captive. It is what Assyria did after conquering a nation, they would resettle them in another place. It is actually an intelligent move, taking away the familiarity so the people would no longer have something for which to fight. It got rid of any underground, rebellious movement.

The people coming in learned of Yahweh, all that he had done for Israel, the great show of power, his promises, so they feared him, respected him, but they worshiped that which they were familiar. It seems to be some human trait that we have, sticking with the things that are familiar to us. We tend to stick with what our parents did. We tend to stick with their beliefs unless they prevent us from doing what we want to do.

When people are presented with Jesus and the great gift he has offered today, there can be general appreciation shown. When people are told of his love and his desire to rescue us from our destruction, there can be a moment of awe. They may respond to the invitation. They may even come to church but they aren't going to allow their "fear" of Jesus, their appreciation, to interfere with their life, their priorities. So what they become is a religious person, living the rituals, ceremonies, and doing what is expected, but nothing of the old has changed. They still worship the gods of their youth.

This is the reason Jesus did not send us out to make converts or to "win souls". He told us to go into the world and make disciples. It took him three years to prepare his disciples to become apostles and even then the work did not really take root until the arrival of the Spirit. But Jesus lived with, worked with, slept with, ate with his friends, teaching them as they went along, for three years. He invested himself into them. The fact is we can't disciple from a distance. If we want people to know Jesus we have to invest ourselves into their lives.

Too often evangelism is treated like the old gun slingers, where we put a notch in our belt for everyone who prays the sinners prayer, but they walk away unaffected and we never see them again. Maybe a seed has been planted for another time but the influence of their gods is pretty strong. They need someone who is willing to demonstrate Jesus' love by laying down their life, investing time and effort, to walk alongside, teach, support and encourage until they are strong in the Lord. Preaching is for those called to it but we are all called to make disciples.

We have made Christianity too easy, too comfortable and very few actually read, know and act upon the Scriptures. In some ways we are no better than those who fear Yahweh but serve other gods. To love Jesus is to obey him. To obey is to do what he has commanded. Among the things he has commanded is that we are to love others. To love others is to introduce Jesus. To introduce Jesus is to lay down our life in order to invest in their eternity. Not so comfortable.

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