DOUBT by Keith Giles
As I've taken a hard look at Christianity in America over the last few years, one thing I find most disturbing is how easy Grace has replaced the clear teaching of Jesus to count the cost of following after Him.
Jesus is our blue-print for life in the Kingdom of God. It's a life that starts here and now, and continues each and every day that we live and breathe on this planet. It involves living today as if God were on the throne of this Earth ruling it as King. We don't have to wait until that day comes, we are invited to live under His rule and reign today. Jesus said we cannot enter the Kingdom and follow Him unless we daily die to ourselves and obey His teaching. This is the Gospel of the Kingdom which Jesus came and died to preach and communicate. There is no other Gospel in the Scripture. The Gospel of Jesus is this Gospel of the Kingdom.
Grace is certainly part of the process. Without Grace we could not hope to daily surrender our lives and submit to God's will for our lives in favor of our own desire. But Grace does not cancel out our daily surrender to Jesus as our Lord. The phrase "Jesus is Lord" is powerless unless we actually live it out in our lives every day. Without this it's simply a pointless bumper sticker slogan.
Simply put, the Gospel of the Kingdom has been drowned out by the tele-vangelical version of the Gospel that says, "Repeat this prayer after me and you can go to heaven when you die".
A by-product of this easy-believism is the cheapening of the decision to follow Jesus with your whole life. Instead the decision is treated so lightly that I've seen Christians urge total strangers they've only just met seconds earlier to pray and ask Jesus into their heart so they can go to heaven when they die. It's almost as if they believe that this magic prayer will take anyone to heaven if they say it twice and click their heels together.
Instead, I would urge us who follow Jesus to allow people around us to get to know Jesus first, and maybe then they can make an informed decision about whether or not to surrender their life to follow after Him.
There's a great story about the great evangelist Charles Finney who would regularly tell his converts that they were not truly converted to Christ. Imagine that. A famous evangelist urging his newly converted to doubt their faith in Christ.
The story goes that he would cast doubt upon their faith in Christ and send them away saying, "I don't think you really are a follower of Jesus yet". After a few weeks the person would invariably return and declare that they were now a true follower of Jesus. Finney would then find a reason to doubt them once more and send them on their way again. Eventually the person would return, declaring with fire in their eyes that they "knew" they were a follower of Jesus. When Finney could no longer dissuade them he would let them go with a nod, "You might actually be a follower of Jesus after all".
If anything, Finney employed doubt to test the faith of those who claimed too eagerly to be genuine disciples of Christ. Whether or not you agree with Finney's tactics, please don’t treat the decision to follow Jesus too lightly. These days we are far too eager to ask a total stranger to pray on the spot to receive Jesus, before they’ve even really understood who He is or what such a decision might mean to their life.
I believe the decision to follow Jesus is more like a commitment to enter into a life-long marriage and less like the decision to rent a movie. We would never counsel someone to go into a marriage quickly, and yet we are sometimes over-eager when it comes to pushing people to enter into an eternal relationship with Jesus.
Let people have a chance to get to know Jesus before you push them into praying to receive forgiveness and follow Him. They need to know who He is first.
Can you imagine a total stranger coming up to you on the street and leading the conversation in such a way that you felt compelled to marry his daughter as fast as possible? Who is this guy? What is his daughter like? Why is he so eager to get her married off? All of these questions would be flashing into your brain as this stranger tried to convince you that all you had to do was to repeat the vows after him and everything would work itself out later. If you were wise you would flee from that person as fast as possible. Yet, this is almost exactly the sort of witnessing and evangelism that many Christians practice, or at least visualize, when it comes to reaching others for Christ.
Jesus does not force Himself upon us. Do not force Jesus onto those who do not know Him yet or who are not ready to make this life-changing, eternal decision.
Better yet, try living a life that bears witness to the compassion and humility of Jesus each and every day. Maybe then people will actually ask us why we live this way and what it was that transformed us into such patient, compassionate, loving people. Then we can make sure we are prepared to give to every man an answer, a reason for the hope that lies within.
But first, let's live a life that provokes the question rather than throwing around the answers to questions that no one is really asking.