Monday, May 9, 2011

Christianity 101-Are You Serious?

There are some things in life that just demand that we face them with more seriousness. Taxes come to mind. Fail to take them seriously, blow them off and you’ll find yourself in trouble with a little group known as the IRS. How about dealing with a major illness? People who are told they have cancer generally buckle down into a very thought out and careful treatment regimen. Even something as simple as trying to reach a personal goal needs to be faced with seriousness if one is to truly reach beyond themselves.

In 2009, I made a personal commitment to ride my bike 100 miles in one day. I made that commitment in the spring, and the plan was to do it before the end of the summer. I’m not sure how many of you have ever ridden a bike a hundred miles, but it isn’t a breeze. It takes training, preparation, and planning. I had to think through how I was going to approach the training, and build up my body’s endurance over time. Additionally, I had to plan a route, work out a support system for drinks and food for the day, and develop a strategy to how I would ride the distance. It took serious thought.

I think as we delve into this subject of Christianity, it is fair to say that we should enter into this with a serious mind. Many in the USA today often seem to waltz in and out of church like it was going to the movies. Is it entertaining enough? Is it too stiff or too loose? Are the seats comfortable? Do I like the preacher? Others seem to think they are Christians by genetics. I was born in America, so I’m a Christian.

Whoa! Not so fast, partner. I think maybe we need to take a serious look at Christianity. It is not something to take lightly. A person died to get this thing going. Many others have died along the way to be faithful to the God who gave His Son. Back in the early days of the Way of Christ, folks could be thrown into prison, flogged, fed to lions, or hung on a cross simply for professing a faith in Christ. This was back before a cross was a piece of jewelry. It was an instrument of a torturous death, capital punishment.

Christianity is serious business.

If you are just looking into this Christianity stuff, then good for you. Be serious about the investigation. Look at the details of scripture, and don’t simply take another person’s word for what is said. Study it for yourself. In the Book of Acts in the Bible, there are a whole group of people from a village called Berea that were considered quite noble because they didn’t take the Apostle Paul’s word for what was true from the scriptures. Rather, they listened to him, and then they researched it themselves to see if it was true. (Acts 17:10-12) Follow their lead. Don’t take mine or anyone else’s word as gospel. Check out the details for yourself.

If you are a Christian, then my question to you is: Just how seriously do you take your faith?

Is it just another facet of your complicated life? Or, is it your driving force, your source of strength, and your hope for your future? When you read the scriptures, do you allow it to impact you, or does it roll off as just some nice sayings from an old book?  Do you even read the scriptures?

I wonder what would happen if Christians began to once again take the Bible seriously. What if Christians everywhere began to really love their neighbors as themselves? Or, they began to consider the needs of other people before they considered their own? Hmmm.

What about you and me? What if we began to take a serious look at Bible passages as they impacted our own personal daily walks in this life? One reason that I like to teach classes and write blogs is because it drives me to take a closer look at myself, and it makes me strive with more determination to be a better Christian. Let’s take a look at a few verses with our new “serious” perspective. Let’s consider what “serious” looks like in this sampling.

Matthew 6:31-34
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Take a few moments to consider…if we are really serious…what does it look like to seek the kingdom of God FIRST? How would priorities change? How would lifestyles change? Would your life be different, if you seriously began to pursue God and his righteousness as priority one?

I John 3:16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

What would it look like if we as individual Christians stopped talking about loving others and actually began to earnestly do something about it? Bob Harper from the Biggest Loser yelled at a competitor a season or so ago that she should “Stop talking and just do it!” I think that is what the Apostle John is saying. Stop talking about feeding the hungry, and get them some food. Stop talking about …you name it…and get it done.

What would it look like if we all did that?

Ephesians 5:18-20
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How would it change your worship gatherings if everyone began to do that? If they were filled with the Spirit of God? If they were sharing their worship with one another instead of sitting like little marble statues, staring straight ahead as if they were the only ones in the room? If they were allowing their hearts to engage with the words that were coming out of their mouths? How would that change your church’s worship?

How would it change your worship?

There is something special that is generated when a congregation begins to sing TOGETHER. They look at one another; they see the enthusiasm in each other’s faces, and build off of one another’s faith. It can take our mutual worship to places that most of us cannot imagine, and many of us have never experienced.

1 Thessalonians 5:19
Do not put out the Spirit’s fire;…

That one likes to hit me between the eyes. I tend to be a rather subdued guy. I’m too self-conscious. I see people “lifting holy hands” during worship, and I want to, but instead I subdue the urge. Sometimes, I’ll feel a small compulsion to share my faith with a person, and I talk myself out of it. How about you? Do you feel an urging in your spirit welling up, but instead you take both hands and push it back down?

What if we decided to take this verse seriously? How would that change us? How would it change our churches?

Back in January 2010, I took part in a yearly kick off devotional for the teen group and parents at the church I attend. Now, this is a group that is supposed to be the most enthusiastic of our church. Teenagers. Parents of teenagers. It should have rocked the room! Instead, I couldn’t believe how the room lacked any kind of energy. At one point, we sang the song “This is How We Overcome.” A line that is repeated over and over is: “You have turned my mourning into dancing. You have turned my sorrow into joy.” I looked around at the faces as those lines were being sung, and I almost gave in to the urge to stop the song and address the group, but instead I took both hands and pushed the compulsion back down. You see, the words were coming out of their mouths, but someone forgot to tell their faces! It was humdrum. It was mundane. There was no power in the voices, no joy in the tone. Where was the music of the heart?

I came to the conclusion that we often are either lying to God when we sing, or we are simply just going through the motions of voicing words that we aren’t really connecting with. Either way is not good.

There was no Spirit flowing that night, and I snuffed out what may have been the Spirit of God urging me to point out the problem.

What if we stopped doing that? What if we sang and MADE MUSIC in our HEARTS to God?

These are four examples of particular verses. We could go on and on, but, I don’t think that is an urge I should follow.

As I bring this installment to a conclusion, let me just say it again: Christianity is serious business. We are talking about things like death, redemption, salvation, and eternity. In the coming weeks, we will explore sin and its consequences. We’ll look at God’s answer to that problem, and our response to His solution. These are all serious subjects.

Can you take a serious look?

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