Random Question: Do you believe Christianity, or Following Jesus, is an “all or nothing” proposition? If you are willing, please explain your answer in the comment section at the end of this post or through the contact me link here.
My mind is “ripping and tearing” this morning…
My thoughts were already stirred from several ideas I was contemplating; and like fuel to fire, a couple more ideas were thrown into the mix and my brain is ablaze with thinking. If you are a regular reader of the icrucified blog, you’ll remember the posts from the last few days. If you are not or haven’t caught up with the most recent posts, you should catch up with these in the following order:
- The Kingdom of Heaven is Like
- Interior Life only Skin Deep
- We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
The prevailing burden of my heart is the dualistic existence of so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Duality in this case means having “two minds” and/or “two hearts.” My making the distinction of “two minds” and “two hearts” is itself indicative of part of the problem. Our society and current culture are, to some degree, victims of modernity; indeed, the age of reason ushered us into the age of “Too Big for Our Own Breeches.” And, while I call us victims, we are still responsible for the choices we make and the actions we take. What am I talking about? In a nutshell, I am talking about non-eternal, material and trivial obsessions, and the pursuit of perceived happiness (which is most often just another form of immediate narcissistic self-gratification). More on duality in a moment…
Why am I worried about this and why is it my concern? I am obsessed with a hunger for the Heart of God and I believe it is the Spirit of God who has stirred my own soul with these concerns. The bottom line is this: God cares; and because God cares, I care. Hundreds, thousands, and millions of people are living and dying far from God and either category culminates with the same final chapter; eternally separated from God. Ironically, recent polls indicate ninety-five percent (yes 95%) of Americans believe in God (Duality plays into this incredibly high percentage of people professing belief in God).
The reason that ninety-five percent of Americans can profess belief in God is this; a certain (group one) percentage believe in a god of their own definition and not the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who is Jesus Christ. Another large percentage (group two) of this ninety-five percent profess belief in God with their words, conceding belief by virtue of their knowledge of God and their ability to be conversant with that knowledge. Their belief is that salvation comes through confession of knowledge and concession that affirming belief in God is sufficient to bear the title of Christian. The remaining percentage (group three), however small it might be, are likely to be Christians by definition of the Bible… that is people who are forsaking themselves and striving to grow closer to God and allowing Him full reign over their lives. The problem is the overwhelming numbers that comprise groups one and two. An even greater problem is how many people think they are in group three, but are really in groups one or two (see post We Don’t Know).
There are quite a few passages of Scripture that teach us about the exclusivity of our relationship with God through Jesus. It would seem to me that anyone professing allegiance to God, the God of the Bible, (especially those professing to bear the title of Christian) would perform their due diligence in understanding what the terms of our relationship with God are. I don’t want to make this post about quoting a truckload of those Scriptures, although I would be more than happy to discuss those at length should that be the desire of anyone. My focus in this post is to point out the absurdity of professing alliance with Jesus Christ, but failing to live as he lived (1 John 2:6).
(Note: redefining how Jesus lived to suit your lifestyle does not count as living as Jesus lived. An omnipotent and omniscient God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow is the God we follow… This God, Jesus Christ, does not need our help in making Him relevant through our own reinterpretations. God has sufficiently interpreted Himself and fully revealed Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ… there is nothing else necessary for us to add.)
This lack of acknowledgment or refusal to pursue exclusivity in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ perpetuates our dualistic tendencies. We want both worlds; we want the world of eternal perfection with God and we want the world of temporal self-gratification in the here and now (the Bible refers to this as lusts of the flesh or being in love with the world…not knowing what we want and/or being double minded). Somehow, someway… a horrendous number of “christians” have convinced themselves this is not only okay, but that God fully approves of it. Try as I might, and I am not a prude, I cannot find anything that alludes to this ideology from my Bible reading. My intent is not to sound harsh, intolerant, and/or all fundamentalist, my intent is to sound an alarm and say that if you think we can “serve two masters” please read the Bible again.
Jesus tells us that He will send us and give to us His Spirit, He prays that we will actually share the Triune Nature (in this world, while we exist in this fleshly body –see The Gospel of John chapters 13 through 17). Peter writes that we have been given all we need to live godly lives, even sharing in the Divine Nature of God Almighty. I could go on… The point here is this: How can we pursue two paths? So much of what we do in our world today is incongruous with the life of a disciple of Christ. I wrote yesterday about apathy and spiritual sloth. If we bear the indwelling and Living Spirit of the Almighty God within us… leading us in Truth and Revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ and rallying us toward exalting Him with all glory and praise, how can we be apathetic about the mission of God? How can we be duplicitous in our worship and service to God? How can we not be concerned with the things God is concerned with? How can we (a professed 95% Christian nation) veer so far from the precepts of God?
I looked at a blog posting this morning that described several groups of “ex-christians.” While reading about the defining categories of each of these groups, I wondered how each had defined God in their heart-mind. Apparently, their own definitions had not met their own standard of God. Sadly, they walk away just as the Rich Young Ruler, and end up following themselves.
I wonder; in a day and age when we are persuaded and hypnotized by the media into believing we are the center of our universe, when we rank in the top five percent of all the wealth on this planet, how we might be saved from ourselves. Jesus tells his disciples, “While it might be near impossible for the rich to enter into Heaven, nothing is impossible for God.” There is hope. Our first step is to empty ourselves of ourselves and seek the true infilling of God’s Holy Spirit. Presently, for the majority of us, there is no room for God to speak into our lives… much less take up residence in it. I am reminded of a story I read not too long ago that follows:
Once upon a time, an ancient story tells, the master had a visitor who came to inquire about Zen. But instead of listening, the visitor kept talking about his own concerns and giving his own thoughts. After a while, the master served tea. He poured tea into his visitor’s cup until it was full and then he kept on pouring. Finally, the visitor could not bear it any longer. “Don’t you see that my cup is full?” he said. “It’s not possible to get anymore in.” “Just so,” the master said, stopping at last. “And like this cup, you are filled with your own ideas. How can you expect me to give you Zen unless you first empty your cup?” –Excerpted from The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages by Joan Chittister, O.S.B.
I end this post as I began; asking the question, “Is Christianity an all or nothing proposition?” If the answer is “no,” then I have been mistakenly reading from the wrong Scriptures or failed entirely in my understanding of them… (I do not believe this to be the case, but would invite conversation if you should think otherwise). If, on the other hand, the answer is “yes,” then we must awaken from our slumbering dreams of self and make straight our way on the narrow path (Matthew 7:13-23). Perhaps the real question is “Have we adapted the rules of our faith so that we are allowed to ‘pick our own Jesus’, or are we our own Jesus?