I have traveled a bit in my life. While I don’t have much of a proclivity for foreign languages, I think that I can probably order a Coke or ask how much something costs in three or four different languages. How much does it cost? Cuanto Cuesta? in Spanish, C’est combien? French, or the Italian, Cuanto Costa?
It’s a good phrase if you need a party pinata or a cool souvenir on an adventure abroad. However, this question of expense must be thoroughly researched and established as we step further into end times events. There is no such thing as a free lunch and while our eternal salvation is freely given, the Christian life that follows often comes at a very costly premium.
This week in the news we have been seeing more ISIS beheadings of Christians. 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian men working in Libya were kidnapped because of their belief in Jesus and slowly beheaded by 21 knife-wielding assassins on a blood-soaked beach.
This grisly event was filmed and delivered with a threat that they are coming for the rest of us. Immediate threats were made to the Pope with a reminder that they are now, only 500 miles from the Southern tip of Italy. 500 miles: Less than the driving distance from Dallas to El Paso. A sobering thought. (Yes, ISIS is an equal opportunity terrorist group and are often very nasty to fellow muslims, however, this week we are discussing the Christians that they love to hate on.)
We all get through this life by assessing information, evaluating threats and prioritizing our choices according to all that input. I know a host of smart people that don’t read or watch the news. It distresses them and in their busy work-a-day lives they choose to avoid distress. I know a much larger segment of society, that while they may be Christians, have never seen the importance or value in deepening their knowledge of/ or relationship with Jesus and consequently, at best, have only a rudimentary knowledge of the Bible or End Times Prophecy. They seem perfectly content with that status quo. Any decisions or reactions this group ever makes will be skewed based on lack of viable Godly information. Combine these two groups with the atheists, agnostics and assorted drifty dumb-bells and you have an enormous cross-section of voting Americans who are totally clueless about what is coming down the pike. Soon.
They have no capacity, no paradigm or foundation on which to assimilate the current, critical world events with Biblical truth. Whether or not they sense it or are even aware of this critical deficit, all these folks are stumbling in darkness, pinning their hopes, not on the true promises of God, but only on the government nanny- state or the continuing upward trends of their stocks and bonds.
Ignorance, however, is rarely bliss. And knowledge (Godly knowledge) is Power. This prevalent attitude of benign ignorance, and misplaced priorities within the body of Christ is deceptively dangerous. In our lives of ease, our spiritual faith unchallenged, we have fostered within the body of Christ an atmosphere that indulges spoon-fed, pre-packaged interpretations of Christianity. This eventually erodes the Church and leads to a lack of faith. Continued lolly-gagging in this no growth comfort zone must lead inevitably to severe drain of whatever faith you had that lead you to salvation and leaving only very low expectations. Thus weakened and drained, complacency also engenders our powerful message of the Love of Christ to nothing more than a serious discussion in a comparative religions course. The core issue then, is that we have not assessed a value on what we have been given. We have not counted the cost, or even realized that there may be a cost. Nor have we placed any sort of special consideration on what our faith, or lack thereof, may cost us at some future date.
Somewhere along the line American Christians have grown comfortable with the removal, by in large, of the good stuff that comes with the power of the Holy Spirit. With no expectations of power that comes with the Presence of the Holy Spirit,we have effectively sucked the fire and relevancy out of our sanctuaries. Church has become a motivational, moral lecture series, some more exciting or moving than others. Rarely from the pulpit do we hear specifics about prophecy. Even more scarce are sermons or teaching about the reality of Satan, the certainty of hell. Even less popular are studies dealing with healing, deliverance within the body of Christ or developing one’s spiritual gifts. Now, generations of easy bake, no trouble, do-it-your-own-way Christianity has left the erroneous impression that our faith is like that EuroPass Railroad ticket my family purchased for me back in the summer of 1977.
With the EuroPass in my backpack I didn’t need to think about how much money I had left in my pocket or rates of exchange. I knew that I could hop on a train, on my own schedule and eventually reach my destination. I was paid for, I was done, I didn’t need to concern myself with the cost or keep going to a ticket window. Just like that classic Beatles song, I had A Ticket to Ride. Not only did I not have to count the cost…I never even had to consider what the cost was for the ones who had paid it for me.
Easy Christianity makes us feel good when it suits us. Churches can provide for us a link to the past, make us feel safe and warm, give us a social outlet and a sense of community as well as a starting line for well-meaning good works. None of those things are bad and yet they mean little if they are not accompanied by regular, rich, heartfelt worship, the meat and potatoes of deep Biblical knowledge, by producing real fruit of the Spirit which disciples, builds up and prepares the people for the surety of what is coming. If you are in a comfortable church that provides the fluff but no meat, that teaches a powerful history but has no faith or hungering burn for that same power right now…it’s time to go find one that does. Time is too short to be playing church when we need to BE the Church!
I believe that American believers have lost their corporate understanding that everything: every choice, each life, every idea, every sacrifice has a value, a cost, an exchange rate. Forgetting Jesus’ chat in Luke 14, many have been lulled by the complacent expectation that things will always be as they have in the past. Nothing will ever really impede our lifestyle or the fine American dream for our children. Daniel, Matthew 24 and the book of Revelations predict as yet unfulfilled prophetic, specific sweeping natural disasters, and geo-political issues that will surely be coming.
Yet many roll on living as though nothing can or will change. Gas will always be available, food plentiful and affordable, resources easy to obtain, and that the lights come on when I flip a switch. The Church is not actively preparing to be a light in the darkness, a physical or spiritual source of food and answers when things get bad.
While certainly saved and set apart, there has been no unified,horrified outcry when laws are passed that make it legal to murder over 50 million of our babies, remove prayer from our schools, the 10 Commandments from our court houses and the constant bombardment of our generations with undisguised demonic influences in video games, internet and television. We must begin as the Bride of Christ, the Church, to value our faith at such a level that we can immediately connect these dots and see the connection between a drowning, deceived, dying society and a complacent Church that has lost its fire and is satisfied to look away rather than rise up like a roaring lion defending his territory.
Bible history tells us that the Hebrew people began to have similar issues with complacent beliefs. Prosperity abounded and they were trouble free for generations. They began to do their own thing and began to be more and more casual about keeping the statutes that God had told them to keep. They began to ignore the Shemitah, the resting of the land every 7 years and the Jubilee every 50th year. They began to forsake the keeping of the Feasts of the Lord and the first fruit offerings; all beautiful pictures of Jesus’ first and second coming.
They began to drift off and follow the idolatrous gods of their neighbors that God had especially forbidden. They even began to offer their children as sacrifices to Mollech. In doing so, over time, they lost their ability to hear the Word of the Lord. They killed the prophets of warning that the Lord sent to warn them to repent and to turn back…and eventually He sent them the leadership that their country deserved, followed by judgment , invasion and bondage in a foreign lands. A cautionary tale for our nation and our people.
It is extremely concerning to me that our congregations today have begun to bear a frightening resemblance to the secular world. Sadly, divorce rates of Church folks rival that of secular world statistics, According to a recent interview I saw on TV, Author and Christian PhD., Doug Weiss quoted statistics from his book about sexual addictions which estimated that over 50% of church-going men have pornography addictions.. over 20% of pastors are estimated to have an issue with this bondage. A Barna Group survey published in 2006 revealed that Christian women received as many abortions as their secular neighbors. This sickening survey designated Catholic, Protestant and “born again” evangelical denominations. Rather than being a city on the hill, a lighthouse in the darkness, as the folks with the answers we have lost our lantern oil and have begun to take on the same dark characteristics of the world we proposed to enlighten.
Just this week, I can’t tell you how many Christian articles, emails and blogs and FaceBook posts that I read admonishing Believers not to go to see the recently released movie, 50 Shades of Grey. While I don’t disagree, this makes my point about the tepid temperature of the Church these days:
Should it really be necessary to put forth such warnings on this type of movie? Shouldn’t we as Christian men and women, Ambassadors of the King of Kings, have the basic, ground floor discernment to know to be careful about what sort of things we see, hear and ingest. We are, after all, the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 3:16, 1 Cor. 6:19)
I have written, lately, that Christians are not perfect but only Amazingly forgiven sinners. Jesus met each of us right where he found us, dazed and confused, in the mud pit of life. However, there is a calling in scripture for each of us to change, run out of that mud pit and climb to higher ground. We are definitely not to blend in, indistinguishable from the rest of the world. We are called in Romans 12 to grow and transform and become more and more like the One who paid the price in full for us.
The Lord considered the price for us to be so necessary, so vital, that he laid His life down on the altar willingly, for me and for you. We were considered such a precious treasure, that He came especially to save us; to bridge that huge yawning gap between our pitiful sinful nature and the awesome, unattainable Righteousness of God. It had to be the Perfect Lamb for that Passover sacrifice. It had to be Jesus.
In past weeks I have written about Pastors imprisoned in Iran, the little Kurdish Christian children who were murdered when they refused to say that they didn’t love Jesus, the believing Pakistani couple who were immolated in a kiln and now, this latest horror of the 21 Christian men on the beach. Each of these folks suddenly had to count the cost. How much is my faith in Jesus worth? Do I recant if threatened? Do I beg or barter for my life, is my “Christianity” something easy to sell or trade? They were forced to decide in that moment: What is more valuable. Is this relationship true? Is my Jesus real or just a Sunday School story? Is it something I cherish? In our western society where relational vows are easy and cheap,”feelings” preeminent, and ethics are situational, will you hang on to Jesus no matter what comes? Under intense pressure would you trade it for a job, or an education for your children. Should I say what I need to say so that I can stay here for my family or to have the ability to purchase food? Is my little existence on earth more important than an eternity with Jesus? Think about it. If it is happening somewhere else in 2015… it can happen here. Weigh the cost, consider the price.
Here in America we haven’t been exposed to persecution. We were, however, founded by folks who were driven out of their European homelands for their religious beliefs. I recommend, as required reading for everyone, Fox’s Book of Martyrs. I downloaded it for free on my Kindle. Once you get beyond the antiquated verbiage you will gain a dawning appreciation for what it has cost our predecessors to love and share their testimony in Jesus.
With the current news headlines I think it a useful exercise for each of us to consider how precious and deep our faith is now and how deep it needs to be to be an overcomer and endure to the end!(Matthew 24:13) Have you truly counted what the cost may be?