Why would anyone looking from the outside want to be a Christian? And why choose Christianity over the many other religions out there? In this ever-growing, post-Christian America, I’ve heard commentaries on all sorts of threats to Christianity: Secular Humanism, Islam, New Age Spiritism, Wiccan Paganism, etc. To be sure, these are all different world views, competing in each of us as well as the culture at large for our habits of thinking. But in reality, the greatest threat to Christianity in America is Christians. One of the most critical statements I heard about Christianity in America came shortly after the tragedy of September 11th. I read: “We went back to church after 9/11 only to remember why we left in the first place.” Ouch. Going along with this line of thought, I had read something years ago attributed to Mahatma Ghandi: “If it weren't for Christians, I'd be a Christian.” Or as C.S. Lewis put it: “Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst.”
The church is meant to be a safe place; Christians are meant to be kind, sincere and caring ambassadors of Christ’s Kingdom. But the church has not always been safe and Christians often fall far short of their calling. It’s especially hurtful when a wound comes from someone who is meant to be trustworthy: a friend, a spouse, a parent, a pastor… We aren’t surprised when the world tries to exploit us. Companies try to get every last bit of sweat from their employees, and there are con-artist-types that we learn to be wary of. But when we extend trust and offer transparency to someone who betrays that trust it really hurts. Some people learn the wrong lesson from that experience and come to believe that you can’t trust anyone. The more discerning realize: “I can’t trust that person right now.” And the really courageous determine to learn who and how to trust while striving to be trust-worthy themselves.
But the root problem with Christianity in America is that Christians have forgotten who they are and how they’re supposed to live. We are called to die to ourselves. We are not called to plan a great retirement or to map out a life of comfort. We are at war, not with others, but with the old man inside us who seeks to draw us into a self-seeking life. We are called to a life of crisis, as Blackaby puts it, a crisis of belief where our relationship with God is strengthened each time we chose to respond in obedience to Him regardless of the apparent consequence. And as we respond in sometimes fearful obedience, the world around us observes the unlikely results… or at the very least admires our conviction.
I have believed for over a decade that the first pains of suffering for End Times Christians will be our rejection of things that are otherwise considered “good” out of an obedience to God. The world will laugh at us as it enjoys greater and increasing pleasures and prosperity while we refuse to take part in the party. Who wants to be a Christian in that kind of environment? Who can be faithful? But the believer willing to die to their own desires is the one that will find the Hope of their salvation! No one ever died for a lie knowing that it was a lie. At the heart of Christianity is repentance, turning away from our self-seeking ways and accepting God’s ways in hope and faith that He is both Sovereign and Caring. We repent in word and action, interceding for the world around us, including our family, the church, and our nation.
The greatest threat to Christianity is the professing Christian who refuses to yield to the truth of God’s Word in both trial and triumph. I don’t want to be that kind of “Christian”, especially when I read Paul’s warning to the End Times Church:
For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree?
For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.
I believe that a partial hardening will come into the Church so that some natural branches will be grafted back on. Perhaps that hardening is already occurring. From the reports I’ve heard, we are starting to see a growth in Messianic Judaism, which both excites me and causes me to reflect on the importance of being a full-time Christian regardless of what the “Church” or other “Christians” around me are doing.
And I plan to write about the basic values that I think should be foundational to every believer… stay tuned!
copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)