Monday, September 12, 2005

Attractive Christianity: The New Gospel

Some people would say you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Some say if you preach a positive message full of hope and love and all the wonderful things God can do for someone that you’ll have more people come to a personal relationship with Christ. These same people argue that Christians, in large, have lost their ability to celebrate life. They say the world sees being a Christian as a drudgery, as a burden.

They say we have bought into Satan’s lie that God is angry at us. They say that wherever Jesus went, life was a party. Therefore we are to be happy, joyful, and show the world that in Christ we are happy and blessed. They say that life was a party with Jesus, and that is why His first miracle was at a party, at a celebration. They ask, “how is it that Christianity became to be known as life without pleasure?”

They tell us that “we should be attractive to the world”, that we should “be attracting people to God.” They tell us that Jesus didn’t come to give us rules to live by. In fact they tell us that He came to set us free from all the “do’s and don’ts” of Judaism. They say that Christ came so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

Sounds pretty good, right? What possible problem could I have with people wanting to be attractive to the world? What problem could I have with telling people that God loves them, that God wants them to be happy, that God wants to bless their life’s endeavors, that “He thinks they are awesome”?

Yes, Jesus did preach that we would find rest in Him. Yes, He did say that His burden was easy and His yoke was light. But did He only preach a “positive” message? Did He promise to abundantly bless whatever we did? Did He tell us that life was a party? Did He tell us to be attractive to the world?

These same people contrast Jesus’ ministry with John the Baptist’s ministry. They rightfully say that John came preaching, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2) They say Jesus preached positive messages, calling the sick to health, the blind to sight. And did He do this?

Absolutely. Yet, He did not blindly promise good things without sacrifice. He called for change. After John the Baptist was put in prison He preached, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”(Matthew 4:17)

So, I ask you. What is the difference in their messages? Both men call for repentance. John’s message wasn’t “negative,” it wasn’t even a different message. Repent! The Kingdom is at hand! They both were preaching repentance, why? Because it is only after you repent of your sins and submit your life to God’s will for it that you can come into a relationship with Him. Jesus preached repentance, He preached sin, He preached...dare I say it? He preached that those who do not come to Him and submit their lives to Him will go to HELL. That sure doesn’t sound very loving, very friendly (at least to the untrained ear).

Now, I am not saying that Jesus was negative. He preached a very positive message, but it is only “positive” if you view it from an eternal view point. He tells us that whoever follows Him, whoever picks up his cross and follows Him will suffer. They will be persecuted. They will be hated and delivered up for death. That doesn’t sound to positive now does it? Well, here’s the catch. Those who do these things, those who remain faithful to Christ till the end will be given a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8) and enjoy eternity in heaven with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But do not be fooled. You have to follow Christ and Christ alone. And if you do it is very likely you will suffer on earth.

And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. (Matt 10:21-22)

For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake (Philippians 1:29)

Second Timothy 4:2-3 tells us to, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” Does it say that we should ignore people’s sin to give the appearance of being tolerant and accepting? No. The passage tells us to preach the word, to reprove and rebuke. How can one do that if you are concerned with seeming like being a Christian is a burden filled with lots of rules to follow? Christ Himself told us that He would “suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed,” (Mark 8:31) and that those who would not carry their crosses and follow Him were not worthy of Him. (Matthew 10:38) This implies that there is a load to bear, there is something that will be laid upon us.

But this does not mean that He is not with us. It does not mean that He will not provide for us. He tells us not to worry, but to continue to seek the kingdom and that our needs will be met, after all God knows what we need before we even do.

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matthew 6:31-34)

Does this mean that we will be rich? Does it mean we will be well liked amongst the world? Does it mean that we will be blessed beyond our wildest dreams in worldly things? No. As I have already documented those who truly follow Christ will be a reproach on the world, they will be hated.

The world will not want to hear a solid message based upon all of Christ’s teachings, rather they will seek out someone to tell them that they are God’s friend. That being His friend is the basis for all other aspects of a relationship with God, but this is simply not the truth. The basis for a relationship with God is the understanding that we are all sinners and that it is through His mercy that Christ died to pay the do punishment for those sins. It is only in knowing and submitting your life to that truth that you can begin to have any kind of relationship with God. But the world doesn’t want to hear that.

They will look for someone to tell them that God just wants to open the windows of heaven and pour His blessings out on them. They will seek someone out to tell them that they have believed a lie. God isn’t mad at them, or anyone else for that matter. They will seek someone out to tell them “what a wonderful person God is” and that He wants life to be a party for them.

The people that teach only the happy messages of Christ miss the point. Christ did not come to earth to bring peace (not yet anyway), but a sword. He came to set brother against brother. (Matthew 10:34-35) Christ did not come to make this life a party, rather He came to offer us the chance to be reconnected with God through Him. He said that those who love Him would keep His commandments. He came to set us free from our sin not our standard for living. He came to save our souls, not our social lives.

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