Thursday, July 21

All in or all out, there is no middle

“The LORD says: ‘These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by men.” Isaiah 29:13

Through the first three chapters of Francis Chan’s book “Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God,” I was in a love-struggle relationship with this pastor. I loved the things he said that affirmed my opinions and thoughts about Christ, God, Christianity and the Church and struggled with some of the challenges he laid out in his videos and chapters of truly seeking to understand that God.

Then I hit the fourth chapter of the book and immediately I wanted to dislike or even be mad at Chan because it wasn’t simply a challenge nor a idea, he threatened my faith and dared me to jump off the cliff to grow deeper. “The American Church is a difficult place to fit in if you want to live out New Testament Christianity.” Francis Chan writes in the chapter entitled “Profile of the Lukewarm”, “The goals of American Christianity are often a nice marriage, children who don’t swear, and good church attendance.”

This I agreed on and Chan sucked me into the deep without my realization.

I didn’t even get off that page when Chan dares me….”Would you describe yourself as totally in love with Jesus Christ? Or do the words halfhearted, lukewarm, and partially committed fit better?”

It is interesting, as I grow more and more in my understanding (which is by no means ever going to be complete) of God’s identity…..which is the same as it was in the beginning of time, the more it seems I have to spend my time in dialogue with those who believe in the false religious systems of this world and man’s making correcting not the theology of following Christ but the incorrect usage of language, dialogue and logic.

Too often, what Chan says is the commonplace default of any Christian church, “worldly tolerance.” As I stall in the chapter 4 of Chan’s book, Crazy Love, I wonder if the church has become a breeding ground of ‘lukewarm Christians.’

And if I am in serious danger of becoming one myself with the season I’m experiencing.

It is interesting that God, being everything I know Him to be, is in no danger of being overwhelmed by the mystical religious systems that humanity has created throughout the ages; Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and so on… many, even those who hide underneath the guise of ‘Christian’ faith but break the connection between God, His Word, His Spirit and His Mission….like the end-time professors who mislead many or the hate-filled protestors of the country’s heroic military at their funerals.

But He calls us to be ready to speak what we believe, to defend it, with kindness and love and the authority that we have as His children and Christ’s co-heirs. Often, we do it with an agenda of our own, to fill our pews and to prove we can handle the work. But, is that truly what it means and looks like to be engaged in the work of the great I AM?

It is easy to deflect from ourselves the attention of the verse above……but are we also ‘far from God’ in our hearts? And what does that look like?
I won’t break down what Francis Chan wrote in Chapter Four; the characteristics of the lukewarms, but they all point to a simple point.

You are either all in or all out.

There is no other religious system that creates such demand in such a way as Christianity does or readily exposes such middle ground straddling. You can separate most of the other human made and defined religious movements by the differences in the same theology that is exposed, but the universal (catholic…not to be confused with the Roman Catholic) church has foundational doctrines that cannot be ignored or altered but must be believed.

Dogmatic differences might exists but these are often on topics that go beyond the text that we know. I can walk into any biblically based and believing Church and find those foundations even if the worship and style of preaching is radically different from what I am used to. I can go to a different city and state, or even country and find the welcoming arms of family (extended eternal version) even though I have never met them.

Because we are all in, all pressing forward with a intensity and drive passion to pursue Christ and make Him known to those who engage in those false systems. With loving intensity and pure passion.

Not relying on our own opinions and agendas, but presenting the Gospel without alteration or abbreviation and then baptizing those who believe and training them in the faith. It’s not a hit and run, believe what you wish when you wish, but a mentorship that is for a lifetime. As we are grown, we turn and help others to grow.

There are some who this is a natural or God-given ability of discernment for finding those to disciple and those who are discipling them. For others, it is not. Do we leave those whom the natural ability to step into this discipling role has never been developed or do we arrange situations or point to people for them to engage and become invested in?

Are those who are weak in the discernment of disciples to mentor somehow lukewarm in their passions and love for the Messiah and God?

If I’m wandering from topic to topic and it doesn’t seem to make any sense or be connected in any way, I’m sorry. The last month has been a blend of all these various things and it seems to be culminating in Chan’s descriptive of ‘lukewarms.’ Which is why I’m stalled here.

I am challenged to things I am not feeling God’s demands on, but is it because of my own lukewarm desires or because I am passionately engaged in where God is leading. I am being questioned about the authority of my beliefs, as based on an authority beyond my own, and my willingness to speak them but am I doing it out of a sense of superior righteousness or resounding love? Am I truly following with everything I am or reserving the best for the lean times?

These are things that have me stalled and have me burning the campfire late into the night.

Even Francis Chan admits his characterizations aren’t all-inclusive or even a litmus test of whether or not we are truly Christians or simply ‘lukewarm water.’ As he points out, the bible tells us to examine our faith and test it. Pastor Chan says “We are all messed up human beings and no one is totally immune to the behaviors [of lukewarms or any other characterization in other chapters].”

“However,” he continues, “there is a difference between a life that is characterized by these sorts of mentalities and habits and a life that is in the process of being radically transformed.”

After all, Jesus didn’t follow His Father’s will in a lukewarm way and He doesn’t offer us that option.

He tells us to “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

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