Nicky Gumbel tweeted today, 5th April 2014:
‘What’s popular isn’t always right. What’s right isn’t always popular.’
He’s very right. It’s popular to have a “progressive” view of the Christian faith. It makes it easy to be a Christian if you make the message more “inclusive”. Or “encompassing”.
It’s easy to be a christian if you’re not challenged by it. If you don’t need to change your behaviour or thought patterns, then why not? A ticket to heaven and do what you want here.
But it isn’t what the Bible says.
Following Christ is free – but it’s costly if you really follow Him.
It’s “free” in the sense of it being available to anyone and everyone. We can all choose to follow or not.
It costs us because of what we will have to surrender to Him when we make the choice. Sin can be great pleasure for a season. But when the season is over it brings pain and heartbreak. The Joy from following Christ may involve pain during this season, but the Joy and happiness that comes with true Holiness and living a separated Life in Christ just keeps going.
Many people I’ve known have encountered problems and walked away from Christ as a result. Not that their problems weren’t real. Marriages failed or people in a local church rejected them when they moved home because they did things differently. Work problems, health issues and money worries. All of the reasons could be “rationalised” as a reason to abandon Faith.
But a century ago – maybe 150 years now – none would have been considered reasonable reasons. In the old Revivals they would simply have been understood as being attacks by an enemy seeking to drive us away from God, and the Faithful would have gathered round in support
Now we see it as “reasonable” to walk away – after all, “they’ll be back” seems to be the watch-phrase.
But will they? Probably not today. Modern society drives wedges like no other society has ever managed to between God and His Church. The enemy is surely kicking himself that he didn’t bring this society in years ago. He could have destroyed so many lives so much sooner.
Charles Spurgeon, the 19th Century minister wrote of Luke 23:26
“We see here a picture of the church: She follows Jesus, bearing the cross. Note that Jesus did not suffer to keep you from suffering. He bears the cross not for you to escape it, but for you to endure it. But we can comfort ourselves with this thought: As with Simon, it is not our cross, but Christ’s cross that we carry. When you are mocked for your devotion to Jesus, remember it is his cross.” (Morning by Morning)
Carrying the cross of Jesus is very different from bearing our own sin. Our sin will crush us. Jesus’s cross is the yoke He speaks of. Easy and light. We walk with Him and bear His cross so He can carry our sin.
But saying it isn’t popular. Speaking out Truth never makes people popular. Jesus was killed for it. Through the last 2000 years the martyrs of the Faith have all been killed for it from Stephen’s stoning onwards to those imprisoned and executed today for daring to question the koran or denouncing Mohammed as the false prophet he is.
What’s Popular when it comes to Christianity is seldom correct. Of course an unpopular theology could be wrong as well, but it’s usually an obvious one. The bigot at the roadside trying to claim God hates inter-racial marriage. The arrogant individual condemning the rape victim for aborting the foetus.
I’m not saying I condone “abortion” per se, but I recognise God’s ability to forgive us any sin. The question of when it’s “abortion” and when it’s “contraception” is also a sore point. I don’t believe a “morning after” pill given to a rape victim is abortion. But termination at 20 weeks is. There’s a difference between preventing a pregnancy and ending one after the fact is established as a means of birth control. Even so, it’s not unforgiveable, but I’m certain God won’t condone it.
It’s not just what we say, but how we say it that’s the real issue.
We need to be able to tell people about the Love of Jesus without them feeling they are condemned for being less than perfect. We were in their shoes once, and someone did that for us. They were Jesus to us, and we responded to His Love through them, not (usually) fear of a wrathful deity, but the care and compassion of a Loving God.
Many years ago I shared some of the Gospel with a friend but lost my nerve before I could invite him to accept Christ. I’ve regretted it ever since. He had been touched by God during our conversation, and even reduced to tears at the understanding that God recognised the mask as a mask, and how deeply sad he was inside under it. It was like watching a train come towards me, and I blinked when the enemy whispered to me “He’ll go from tears to lauging in your face” as I steeled to invite him into the Church. I didn’t ask, and there’s not been many days since that I haven’t prayed that someone with more maturity than I had then has come across his path. It’s over 20 years, and I still think about it every day – not feeling condemned, but being aware of the enemy’s ability to whisper doubt and fear into my mind.
Another time the enemy tried the same trick allowed me to speak words of healing when I stood fast. As James 4:7 says “Therefore, submit to God. Moreover, take a stand against the Adversary, and he will flee from you.” (Complete Jewish Bible)
I submit to God and stand my ground. If I just stand, it may be close – 10000 falling by my right hand close – but it won’t touch me. I stand and hold fast to my confession.
So starting this lent, quit trying to be popular and up-to-date. Rather seek to be Right in God’s eyes. Sometimes you’ll be both. Take our eyes off Jesus and often we are neither.
Christianity is not a popularity contest. It’s not life and death.
It’s more than that.