Hindrances to Discipleship: The World - page 7


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From the Fall 2012 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Hindrances to Discipleship: The World

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
Director of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute

 

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   Such wholehearted commitment to God is precisely where most believers in the American church fail—including the evangelical church. We have had it too easy for too long and have become soft and self-indulgent. As Jerry Bridges observed more than thirty years ago, “Quite possibly there is no greater conformity to the world among evangelical Christians today than the way in which we, instead of presenting our bodies as holy sacrifices, pamper and indulge them in defiance of our better judgment and our Christian purpose in life.”22
   One reason we do this is because wholehearted commitment is costly (and often excused as optional, if not ignored altogether). As Chesterton once said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and not tried.”23 Recent research confirms this:

Only about 3% of all self-identified Christians in America have come to the final stops on the transformational journey—the place where they have surrendered control of their life to God, submitted to His will for their life, and devoted themselves to loving and serving God and other people.24

  We consider ourselves right with God even as lack of commitment and worldliness continue to encumber our lives. We have a religion of convenience like that which Anglican Bishop J.C. Ryle confronted in his time: “There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have, and think they have enough—a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and requires no sacrifice—which costs nothing, and is worth nothing.”25 Until we make a total surrender and commitment to God, consecrating all we know of ourselves to all we know of God at the time, we are only deceiving ourselves. We are harboring an enemy in our hearts, an enemy that will quietly erode our love for the Father and Jesus and quench the work of the Holy Spirit and leave us in the grip of worldliness. And unless we renew our commitment again and again over the years as we mature, we are also deceiving ourselves. Eventually, like the seed sown among the thorns, we will discover that the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, the pleasures of life and other things have smothered out the word of God, leaving our souls barren and our lives fruitless.
  Once we have made that surrender to God, the Holy Spirit will be able to enlighten, teach and guide us in the way of holiness. Among other things, He will open our eyes to our worldliness. If we are in a good church, where the Bible is clearly and faithfully taught, if we read our Bibles regularly and have fellowship with mature believers, if we ask the Spirit to search our hearts and reveal it, some forms of worldliness should begin to come clear. Honest self-examination is essential in this process. We should ask ourselves questions: What do we love? What does our mind dwell on when it is free? How do we spend our time and money? (This often reveals what our hearts are attached to.) Do our answers point more to this world or the next? This is just the beginning; we will need to examine ourselves periodically throughout our lives. For not only do we need to be freed from existing unrecognized worldliness, we must remain alert to new forms of seduction day by day.
   As we seek to eradicate worldliness from our lives, we must guard against the perennial temptation of excessive asceticism. This is actually another form of worldliness, which denigrates the good world God has made. It fails to appreciate that the good things God has provided for us to enjoy, such as food, sex, material possessions, and pleasures, are not evil; they become a problem only when our own fallen hearts misuse and idolize them.

The Importance of the Church

  Paul addressed Romans 12:1–2 not to an isolated individual but to an entire church. Obviously, it was not a perfect church, but it was a good church. This underscores at least two important points. First, even good churches have deficiencies, and their members will have varying degrees of worldliness. More important, we cannot mature in Christ and overcome worldliness unless we are part of a healthy congregation. For it is chiefly in His church that the Lord has provided the medicine our souls so desperately need. And we receive it through faithful preaching and teaching of God’s word, sharing life with likeminded believers, prayer, worship, and communion (Acts 2:42). In a good church the glory of God and of Jesus Christ will be the dominant concern of leadership and will influence worship, preaching, teaching, discipling, counseling, outreach, and missions. In such a church we will be taught to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” and to “set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1–2). We will be challenged with “the expulsive power of a new affection,”26 in which our love for Jesus dislodges love of the world in its varied forms. We will learn of a world more glorious and desirable than the one we are called to forsake. We will be reminded that we are passing through this world as strangers and aliens who brought nothing into it and will take nothing out. And we will hear God’s call to be stewards not owners of the blessings of this life—achievements, possessions, power, fame, influence, opportunities—and use them to glorify Him and fulfill His purposes in the world.

 

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