Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Outside the camp

My friend has a quote from Hebrews 12 written on a whiteboard in her kitchen. It reads:


 "Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!"


It got me thinking about what it really means to have this written in our kitchens and I think my dear friend meant it to challenge her and it ended up challenging me too. What does it really mean to live out the sort of gospel that Hebrews speaks about. It got me thinking about the things I have sacrificed and what God might yet call me to offer up. It got me thinking about comfort and security and the call to lay down our lives. It got me thinking about priorities. Are my priorities really the same as those of Jesus? Even a few of them? I have encountered so much grace, so much goodness, so much wonder and have given relatively so terribly little back in comparison. So little.


Francis Chan's chapter in Crazy love is still pulsing around my soul especially the chapter about being 'lukewarm'. Jesus says we are to count the cost- we usually quote this to people about to follow Jesus which is its context- but for those who are running the race it is good to count the cost too. Have I understood the 'will be' in 2 Tim 3 v 12 which nobody seemed to mention on my Alpha course 20 years ago? So many get into following Jesus to get the desires of their hearts and are attracted by that nice Jeremiah verse about 'plans I have for you' and prosperity. When it doesn't work out like that they 'quit' which is exactly what Hebrews 12 tells us not to do.


Here's the question I ask of myself:


'Am I lukewarm?'


Here is Chan's diagnostic. How many of these apply to me? How many apply to you? And having seen that I am so very lukewarm what am I going to decide to do?:



1.  Lukewarm people attend church fairly regularly. It is what is expected of them, what they believe “good Christians do, so they go. (Isaiah 29:13)
2.  Lukewarm people give money to charity and to the church…as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living. If they have a little extra and it is easy and safe to give, they do so. After all, God loves a cheerful giver, right? (1 Chronicles 21:24; Luke 21:1-4)
3. Lukewarm people tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. They desire to fit in both at church and outside of church; they care more about what people think of their actions (like church attendance and giving) than what God thinks of their hearts and lives (Luke 6:26; Rev. 3:1; Matthew 23:5-7).
4.  Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin. They don’t genuinely hate sin and aren’t truly sorry for it; they’re merely sorry because God is going to punish them. Lukewarm people don’t really believe that this new life Jesus offers is better than the old sinful one (John 10:10; Romans 6:1-2).
5.  Lukewarm people are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act. They assume such action is for “extreme” Christians, not average ones. Lukewarm people call “radical” what Jesus expected of all His followers (James 1:22; James 4:17; Matthew 21:28-31).
6.  Lukewarm people rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends. They do not want to be rejected, nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talking about private issues like religion (Matthew 10:32-33).
7.  Lukewarm people gauge their morality or “goodness” by comparing themselves to the secular world. They feel satisfied that while they aren’t as hard-core for Jesus as so-and-so, they are nowhere as horrible as the guy down the street (Luke 18:11-12).
8.  Lukewarm people say they love Jesus, and He is, indeed, a part of their lives. But only a part. They give Him a section of their time, their money, and thoughts, but He isn’t allowed to control their lives (Luke 9:57-62).
9.  Lukewarm people love God, but they do not love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength. They would be quick to assure you that they try to love God that much, but that sort of total devotion isn’t really possible for the average person; it’s only for pastors and missionaries and radicals (Matthew 22:37-38).
10.  Lukewarm people love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves. Their love of others is typically focused on those who love them in return, like family, friends, and other people they know and connect with. There is little love left over for those who cannot love them back, much less for those who intentionally slight them, whose kids are better athletes than theirs, or with whom conversations are awkward or uncomfortable. Their love is highly conditional and very selective, and generally comes with strings attached (Matthew 5:43-47; Luke 14:12-14).
11.  Lukewarm people will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go or how much time, money and energy they are willing to give (Luke 18:21-25).
12.  Lukewarm people think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven. Daily life is mostly focused on today’s to-do list, this week’s schedule, and next month’s vacation. Rarely, if ever, do they intently consider the life to come. Regarding this, C.S. Lewis wrote, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this” (Philippians 3:18-20; Colossians 3:2).
13.  Lukewarm people are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor. They are quick to point out, “Jesus never said money is the root of all evil, only that the love of money is.” Untold numbers of lukewarm people feel “Called” to minister to the rich; very few feel “called” to minister to the poor (Matthew 25:34, 40; Isaiah 58:6-7).
14.  Lukewarm people do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty. They want to do the bare minimum, to be “good enough” without it requiring too much of them. They ask, “How far can I go before it’s considered a sin?” instead of “How can I keep myself pure as a temple of the Holy Spirit?” They ask, “How much do I have to give?” instead of “How much can I give?” They ask, “How much time should I spend praying and reading my Bible? Instead of “I wish I didn’t have to go to work, so I could sit here and read longer!” (1 Chronicles 29:14; Matthew 13:44-46).
15.  Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and risking for God (1 Timothy 6:17-18; Matthew 10:28).
16.  Lukewarm people feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith at age twelve, were baptized, come from a Christian family, vote Republican, or live in America. Just as the prophets in the Old Testament warned Israel that they were not safe just because they lived in the land of Israel, so we are not safe just because we wear the label Christian or because some people persist in calling us a “Christian nation” (Matthew 7:21; Amos 6:1)
17.  Lukewarm people do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don’t have to trust God if something unexpected happens-they have their savings account. They don’t need God to help them – they have their retirement plan in place. They don’t genuinely seek out what life God would have them live – they have life figured and mapped out. They don’t depend on God on a daily basis – their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health. The truth is, their lives wouldn’t look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God (Luke 12:16-21; Hebrews 11).
18.  Lukewarm people probably drink and swear less than average, but besides that, they really aren’t very different from your typical unbeliever. They equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness, but they couldn’t be more wrong (Matthew 23:25-28).


Now, sometimes you come across a talk that is preaching that pulses through your soul in challenge and conviction and that can shake you out of lukewarmness. It helps you dust yourself down and set your face afresh. It makes you not give up just when you thought you were about to. It compels you to give up your life once again, sacrifice again, risk again, have faith again and say 'send me' once again. 


It is called 'How the supremacy of Christ creates radical Christian sacrifice' and it has stirred my inner being. 


Maybe it will do the same for you.  

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