“But the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, for they are spiritually appraised” (I Corinthians 2:14).
I was sitting in church last Sunday morning thinking about what outsiders say concerning our worship and how we practice the Christian faith. Most simply do not get it.
1) Some say we are taking the way of Jesus as an escape, that this is an easy way out.
My main response is laughter. It’s anything but easy, but only an insider would know that. You’re swimming upstream in a downstream world. What’s easy about that?
I know people who suffer greatly for the stand they take for Christ. If it were easy, they’d have bailed a long time ago.
2) Some say we give money to buy God’s approval.
Another joke. As I dropped my tithe into the offering plate last Sunday, I thought of this. The amount of the check is just about right for a monthly car payment. And yet, I write in “First Baptist Kenner” and insert into the envelope and send on its merry way, knowing I will never see it again and for the most part, will have no idea what it accomplished. And I’m fine with that.
I’m buying something? Trying to earn brownie-points with the Heavenly Father? Not even close.
Christians give out of gratitude and faith, out of obedience and love. Period.
3) Some say we work in the church in order to earn rewards in Heaven.
Again, missed me by a country mile. I honestly do not know a single Christian who is hoping to earn something from God by the years of Sunday School teaching, VBS working, or a thousand other tasks associated with ministry. Now, from what I hear, some aberrations of the Christian faith–use your imagination–do indeed teach that those who work hardest and longest at knocking on doors and handing out their literature will be given the best places of honor in the next life. But no one I know believes such a heresy.
On the other hand, the Word is filled with promises from the Father to reward the faithful. Yes, the reward is there. No, it is not what drives us from morning til night.
4) Some say we evangelize (i.e., spread the gospel) because we want to manipulate others and make them as miserable as we.
Oh sure. Our people leave family and everything dear to them, they travel to foreign countries where they spend years learning the language and culture, and they do this in order to make people miserable? One wonders if such critics think we are totally stupid.
I suppose they do, come to think of it. We can live with that. It’s their loss.
5) Some seem to think we follow Jesus because we are afraid of going to hell.
I don’t want to go to hell, true enough. But honestly, I rarely give hell a thought. Jesus Christ has taken that off the board for me. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Any right-thinking person should be afraid of going to hell. (That’s why, incidentally, many find it simpler to dismiss hell as unworthy of their thought. As though if they don’t believe something, it ceases to exist.)
But that’s where the good news of the gospel becomes so special. For believers in Jesus Christ, that’s all been taken care of. “…that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
There is so much outsiders just do not get.
–The nature of Scripture and why we love it.
–The reason for our obedience and why we delight in doing His will.
–The love we have for one another.
–Our humble courage and our courageous humility.
–Our imperfections and the unlimited grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
–Why we work for the Lord but not in order to get to Heaven. We work for Him because of His goodness, not in order to earn it.
This is why our Lord put one massive, earth-shattering requirement on anyone who would enter the kingdom….
First, you have to become as a little child. (Mark 10:15; Luke 18:16; I Corinthians 14:20; I Peter 2:2)
And, let’s be honest, that is a deal-breaker to people who pride themselves on their intellect. And that’s why the Apostle Paul noted in looking around at the membership of the church in Corinth–get that? In Greece, noted for its philosophers and ancient wisdom!–“there are not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble.” He explains, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong…” And why would He do this? “That no man should boast before God” (I Corinthians 1:26-29).
How does a brilliant man or woman–one with a superior brain and numerous degrees and great accomplishments–go about humbling himself or herself and “becoming as a child?”
–Get on your knees (in private) and ask God for mercy and help. (Read Luke 18:9-14 and figure out which one of those two men represents you best.)
–Tell Him you are a sinner and deserve his judgment and condemnation. You are and you do. If you cannot get past this, I suggest you start paying attention. A thousand things in your life send daily messages to this effect. (Romans 3 is a place to consult.)
–Ask, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” (It was Paul’s first prayer when confronted by the living Christ and the best prayer any of us can ever pray. See Acts 22:10.)
–Find a Bible-believing man or woman of God to help you. God has made you and me so that we cannot live this new life in isolation. Try it by yourself and you will abort it sooner or later, or end up taking detours into craziness. You will be needing a Christian church with lots of good friends.
That’s the starting place. Where will the Lord lead you from here? I have no idea, nor does anyone else. When He redeems you, God is doing something brand new. You will be a new creation (see 2 Corinthians 5:17) and what He does with you will be unlike anything He does with anyone else.
It is just what Jesus called it: “An abundant life” (see John 10:10).
Welcome to the inside, friend. Glad you came in from the cold.