Tonight on the way home, I put in a CD of ‘the greatest sermon ever preached on American soil,’ Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He really says it like it is. When I finish it, I will likely listen to it again. I just finished “Pilgrim’s Progress” by Bunyan, and it was a strange mixture of profundity and triteness, yet, it also, like Edwards, calls us to a higher level of commitment.
Why are you a follower of Christ? What have you sacrificed as rubbish before the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord? What are you really willing to sacrifice? For myself, I’ve sacrificed precious little, and would like to think I’d sacrifice it all, but find myself trying to find ways to have my cake and eat it too.
I am not even thinking, much less suggesting sacrificing for sacrificing’s sake—that is what the Pharisees did, and were condemned for it. What I’m wondering is has He asked for sacrifice in the past and I ignored it, assuming that was a passing thought rather than a command in the form of a request from the One before whom I’ve claimed to bow the knee.
We humans have the most amazing ability to rationalize pretty much anything, and in this culture, pragmatism is a heralded alternative to devotion. Is it better to give in to the world for the sake of “relevance” or “building ministry relationships,” or risk being thought of as weird, backwards, and so on because we are being asked to compromise the call of Christ? We talk of being strategic, but is that a way to avoid being uncomfortably faithful?
It would be nice if it were a black and white issue. But one of the reasons it is so difficult is because it usually is not. It depends on the situation. Even in the Old Testament, there are times God told the Israelite army to go up in battle and other times He said to wait or to take a different approach. He also gave us minds and expects us to use them.
Yet, He also wants to be, at the VERY least, consulted. The Israelites got themselves into trouble when they assumed that God’s answer the last time was good this time and went forward without seeking things out. It is also hard to wait for an answer, or even to have confidence that we have or have not received one—was that God, or just my mind working out possibilities?
There is a difference between recklessness and obedience by faith, but it is a fine line, and I fear I tend to opt for the safer choice by default. Is it a lack of faith or wisdom? This question is made more difficult because our culture, while revering those that take stands and are the rugged individual and trendsetters, at the same time discourages people from doing those things when it really matters.
When His mother asks Him to do something about the lack of wine at the Cana wedding, Jesus’ initial response is that it isn’t His time yet. It is easy to rest on that and say that I’m part of God’s reserve force, in case reinforcements are needed later, or I’m supposed to come in at a later phase of the battle. If that’s true, then fine, but am I keeping myself ‘battle ready?’
Lewis describes people of this modern/postmodern age as “men without chests:” "We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst."
Our culture has replaced the hero with the anti-hero, and wonders why we don’t have any more heroes. It says that life is meaningless or that at best you create your own meaning and wonders about voter apathy. It admires the single-minded exotic devotion of terrorists to their faith, yet ridicules its own people who dare suggest our domestic faith has a role in the marketplace, labeling us as extremists. With that definition of extremist, is it any wonder apathy is considered normal?
I do not have answers to the questions I’ve raised. I want them, but I need to ask my Lord, not my neighbor, pagan or Christian. I share them, because it is worthwhile, no, vitally necessary, that each of us has that conversation with Him. It is easy to assume the cares of this world are the object of our current assignment, but that does not make it a valid assumption. The Lord has a plan for this world and has honored us with roles in it. These roles are very diverse, and even change over time, so it behooves us to check in with the Boss regularly. He does not resent the ‘intrusion,’ but values it. If you ask Him, and don’t feel you are getting an answer, keep asking, and keep doing what you know you should in the meantime. He will make it clear if you are paying attention.