The gospel of Jesus Christ is both scandalous and beautiful. The greatest travesty of justice the world has ever known resulted from the greatest act of love the world could ever know: the exchanging of the life of the Son of God for the lives of willful and traitorous sinners. The outcome of such amazing sacrifice is that God’s unyielding and unmerited grace, mercy and forgiveness has been continuously poured out on His people down through the ages. His people, in return, willingly lay down their lives to Him, content to live or die a martyr for such a great God. There is another part to this story however and a sadder one: many who claim to be God’s people have done violence to the Gospel they claim to obey by twisting the commands of God into a fashion unfaithfully designed to please both God and the world.
Discontent with chains that bind, no matter how lovingly placed by God’s own hands, many in the modern church have attempted to explain God in more modern terms, making Him more comfortable, more accessible; the result has been a degradation of the Holy One, a redefinition of the way of salvation, a lessening of respect for the commands of God and a refusal to accept holiness as the Christian norm. The goal has been to make us more comfortable, to create a more pleasant pathway to heaven and to make the road more inviting for sinners to walk. We have been committed to mankind’s benefit rather than to the glory of God. Commitment to self never meshes with commitment to God; we cannot serve two masters. In our blindness, we fail to see that this is what attempting to do, seeing instead a chance to save souls (even if it isn’t done strictly in accordance with God’s Word) and a way out of the persecution Christ promised to all who truly follow Him. If the world likes us, they won’t want to persecute us, right? They’ll step right on over and join in the fun and together we’ll take a ride to heaven. That it has consistently failed to happen that way has escaped us and has lead to us repeatedly trying yet another method or another program, hoping against hope for the right results. We are often confused at the outcome: we become more like the world and the world stays the same. We are attempting the impossible: we cannot change society while refusing to change ourselves. We want to lead them to a God we refuse to obey; the hypocrisy is astounding. Yet, while doing such violence to the Gospel, we often look askance at those who refuse to join in the fun, failing to see that at least they have the sense not to pretend to be God’s people if they aren’t willing to live like they are.
We have spent much time molding and re-molding God’s standards until they suit us. Like so much play dough we bend this one and shape that one until we are pleased at the outcome. We fail to see that God isn’t pleased. By our own insufficient wisdom we have spiritually impoverished ourselves: we have settled for KoolAid and peanut butter crackers when we could have known true feasting. In rejecting God’s way of salvation and His standard of holiness, we have rejected God Himself. It is only we who fail to see this. All who look at our feeble and foolish efforts from afar are laughing scornfully and mocking our self-made shame. We fail to heed their derision when wisdom would dictate that we should. Sometimes our best friends comes in the guise of our worst enemies for it is they who are wiling to unabashedly tell us the unvarnished, and frequently unfavorable, truth about ourselves. This the world is doing for us and we don’t have sense enough to listen. When worldly people are truly passionate about something, they go all out: if there are rules to follow then they follow them, if there is a price to be paid they pay it. It seems that only we in the church who are foolish enough to believe that we don’t have to obey the rules on either side and yet be able to please both God and the world.
We have a choice to make: we can continue to choose to serve the god of self, materialism and fun or we can choose to take up our cross and serve the living and True God. We can continue to try to marry the church with the world and be content with the monster that we create or we can choose true wisdom and realize that the mixing of two opposite and opposing forces isn’t going to ever be pleasing to our Great and Holy God. Christ Himself has told us that if we love Him we will obey Him; we must examine what this love is. There is a world of difference in loving the True God, the Great I AM, and in loving the thought of God only. Being attracted to God isn’t the same as being attached to God and wanting to escape hell isn’t the same as desiring heaven at any cost. True love is tough and unyielding in the face of opposition or pain; true love stays the course always. If our love for God can be bent under worldly ways and dissolved at the thought of persecution then we don’t love God. If we aren’t seeking His highest, His best and aren’t willing to fully live for Him and Him alone, then it cannot be said that we love Him. We are called to holiness: being set apart unto God and for His use alone. We are called to godliness: to developing Christ-like character through the life of the Holy Spirit within us. We are called to righteousness: to living God’s Word out in a practical way day-to-day. We are called to lay down our lives and take up our cross daily and walk the narrow way. If these things do not result in the rejoicing of our hearts, minds and souls, we don’t belong to God. Pretending to be a character in a play has never resulted in an actor truly becoming the person he plays; in a far more significant way, pretending to be a Christian never made any man a child of God. Either we love God enough to obey Him or we don’t. If we love Him, we must take up our cross and follow hard after Him all the way Home. If we don’t love Him and we have only been pretending, let us be honest enough to call a spade a spade and stop pretending. God has never rewarded dishonesty or disobedience. Why would we be foolish enough to think that He is going to start rewarding it now?