Generic God & Cheap Christianity

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Think about God for a second.  What images, words, emotions and sensations come to mind?  Really think about it.  Don’t rush; I’ll wait for you.

Do you have your answer?  Good!  Now ponder this question, “Do the things I think of God match up with all of what Scripture teaches?”  Please don’t miss that little word “all.”  It’s like the Spud Webb of the sentence – small but powerful.  Does your image of God contain His holiness?  His beauty?  His wrath?  His love?  His envy?  His grace?  His justice?  His majesty?  His perfection?  His might?  His creativity?  His glory?  Does He require that you offer Him all that you have and all that you are?  If not, you need to do a heart check-up.  Is your God easy to serve and follow?  Does He mainly just want you to be happy?  Is He easy to forget or dismiss?  If so, you might be suffering from Generic God Disorder.

This modern-day Plague manifests itself in many ways.  Symptoms may include posting vague “uplifting” memes on social media followed soon after by a “funny” inappropriate post, giving God your Sundays while keeping the rest of the week for yourself, a lifestyle eerily similar to the world’s, giving God lip-service with no willingness to sacrifice anything for Him, a sense of entitlement, pride, lack of contentment, and the expectation of an easy life.  This list is definitely not exhaustive and suffering from a symptom does not necessarily mean you’ve got the disease.

Generic God Disorder views God as an entity whose primary concern is your happiness.  He encourages you when you’re feeling blue and sends you warm fuzzies on a beautiful spring day.  He promotes kindness and world peace.  He requires nothing and expects very little.  He’s bummed when you mess up, but it’s not that big of a deal because He’ll forgive you.   He’s convenient.  You bring Him up when it suits you, and tuck Him neatly away when it doesn’t.

Let’s be real here, most Americans today (and tons of people around the world) hold this view even if they would never actually say it.  The Bible, though, paints a very different picture for us.  If we call ourselves Christians we must take into account ALL of God’s revelation of Himself to us in Scripture.  Make no mistake, Generic God Disorder contains many elements of truth.  The devil knows you won’t fall for a blatant trick so he employs subtlety when crafting his treacherous deceit.  This is one reason Jesus recognized Satan as the father of lies (John 8:44).  As we allow those lies to shape our view of God, we cheapen Christianity.  We highlight the free aspect of the gift of salvation, but neglect the reality that Christ called His disciples to follow Him at all costs.  This meant forsaking family, jobs, security, friendships, and eventually even their lives.

Just look at Mark 4:21-22, “And going on from there He (Jesus) saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.”  These guys were fishermen.  They encountered Jesus while at work mending their nets.  When Jesus called though, they left their boat (their livelihood) and their father (family) and followed Him.

Christ demands that same commitment and devotion from all of His followers.  He desires it and He deserves it.  He bought our redemption at an unfathomable cost.  Seriously, we cannot possibly comprehend all that He sacrificed in becoming a man, living life as a human, suffering rejection and anguish and torture, being brutally murdered, and please don’t forget that the sinless One became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).  He took on the full, unbridled wrath of God so that we can stand before the Father, justified by grace because we are covered in the righteousness of Christ.  Consider His dying words in Mark 15:34, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”  If the weight of His suffering on your behalf still isn’t sinking in, go right now and read Isaiah 52:13-53:12.  I remember the moment I understood this truth more fully.  As I sat there listening to these words and reading them, I just wept.

I never want to lose that moment or forget that reality, but so often I allow life to get in the way and cloud my vision.  I lose focus of the price He paid.  I lose focus of Him.  I begin thinking of Him as a god who serves me, which is really no god at all.  I cheapen what it means to truly be a follower of Christ.

Dustin Kensrue’s version of the song “Rock of Ages” contains the refrain “Rock of Ages, You have paid the price.  You were cleft to cover me; let me hide myself in Thee.  Rock of Ages, no one takes Your life, yet you died that I might live; costly grace You freely give.”  Salvation is free.  We can never earn it, deserve it, or pay for it.  It is also very costly.  It cost Christ infinitely more than our minds can imagine and it costs us our lives, all that we are, and all that we have.  Let’s not cheapen it with easy believism… this idea that we can pray a prayer or walk an aisle and then live however we want after that.  That’s not the call of discipleship we see in the Bible.

When we cheapen Christianity, we miss out on so much of the goodness God has in store for us.  We only experience true joy and contentment when we fully abandon ourselves to Him.  We understand real freedom when we slay our selfish desires and focus on things of eternal significance rather than temporary pleasure.  To know God more intimately and to live life more fully we must heed Christ’s words in Luke 9:23 to “deny (ourselves) take up (our) cross daily and follow (Him).”  This is not a call to a ho-hum, boring life.  It is a call to unreasonable joy.  It is a call to excitement and adventure.  There will most likely be pain, suffering, and sacrifice along the way.  If our Savior experienced these things, why should we consider ourselves deserving of any less?  Yet even in the suffering there is peace, hope, and contentment.  Jesus said that He came to give us abundant life (John 10:10).

Those who view the Lord as a kill-joy or only seek Him when it seems convenient have a puny, unbiblical view of God and are dying of Generic God Disorder.  Consider Matthew 7:21-23.  Jesus clearly states that there will be people who enter eternity convinced that they’ll be let into heaven and He will say to them, “I never knew You.  Depart from Me.”

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Salvation is not determined by whether or not you call yourself a Christian.  It’s upon belief in Christ’s redemptive work in His life, death, burial, and resurrection.  It’s in confessing His lordship in your life.  Let that word soak in… lordship.  In other words, He is in control.  A friend of mine recently told me of how she has been sharing her faith with her co-worker.  She said a major turning point came when she finally said, “I believe Jesus is Lord.  He died on the cross to pay for our sins,” rather than sticking with the typical go-to response of “I’m a Christian.”  She went on to tell me how exhilarating it was to experience the truth of Scripture played out in her life as she walks in obedience.  This young lady gets it!  We must move beyond these broad-stroke descriptions of God and really determine what we believe.  Then we must ask ourselves if what we believe matches what the Bible says.

I’ve seen this Generic God Disorder gaining more and more ground here in America and around the world. Did Christ endure God’s wrath for this kind of faith?  Did the disciples face torture and death for this kind of faith?  Are those believers who constantly risk their lives to fellowship with one another doing so for this kind of faith?  What about those believers around the world who spend hours upon hours in prayer?  I seriously doubt it.  Part of me wants to stay out of it and be quiet, but I simply cannot.  I cry out with Jeremiah, “If I say, ‘I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in,” (Jeremiah 20:9), and with Paul as he proclaims in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”  Not to mention the warning God gives in Ezekiel 33:6, “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.”  One day we will each give an account to God for what we have believed and how we have lived in light of our beliefs.  I cannot bare the thought of someone hearing, “I never knew you; depart from Me” because I failed to speak up.  And so I seek to speak truth in love, with a genuine ardor for His glory.

 

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