Monday, March 17, 2014

what I'm reading: what are we holding back?

Have you been holding back?

Are you prepared to accept a lower standard of living so you can serve Jesus? Do you trust God to provide - to give you "all good things" as he promised?* Are you ready for a risky, costly life?

Those are the questions JI Packer asks in this uncomfortable quote from Knowing God:
We know what kind of life Christ calls us to ... But do we live it? Well, look at the churches. Observe the shortage of ministers and missionaries, especially men; the luxury goods in Christian homes; the fund-raising problems of Christian societies; the readiness of Christians in all walks of life to grumble about their salaries; the lack of concern for the old and lonely ...

We are unlike the Christians of New Testament times. Our approach to life is conventional and static; theirs was not. ... By being exuberant, unconventional and uninhibited in living by the gospel they turned their world upside down, but you could not accuse us twentieth-century Christians of doing anything like that.

Why are we so different? Why, compared with them, do we appear as no more than halfway Christians? Whence comes the nervous, dithery, take-no-risks mood that mars so much of our discipleship? Why are we not free enough from fear and anxiety to allow ourselves to go full stretch in following Christ?

One reason, it seems, is that in our heart of hearts we are afraid of the consequences of going the whole way into the Christian life:
  • We shrink from accepting burdens of responsibility for others because we fear we should not have strength to bear them.
  • We shrink from accepting a way of life in which we forfeit material security because we are afraid of being left stranded.
  • We shrink from being meek because we are afraid that if we do not stand up for ourselves we shall be trodden down and victimized, and end up among life's casualties and failures.
  • We shrink from breaking with social conventions in order to serve Christ because we fear that if we did, the established structure of our life would collapse all around us, leaving us without a footing anywhere.
It is these half-conscious fears, this dread of insecurity, rather than any deliberate refusal to face the cost of following Christ, which makes us hold back. We feel that the risks of out-and-out discipleship are too great for us to take ... We are not persuaded of the adequacy of God to provide ...

Let us call a spade a spade. The name of the game we are playing is unbelief, and Paul's 'He will give us all things' stands as an everlasting rebuke to us. ...

One day we shall see that nothing – literally nothing – which could have increased our eternal happiness has been denied us, and that nothing – literally nothing – that could have reduced that happiness has been left with us. What higher assurance do we want than that?  ...

Have you been holding back from a risky, costly course to which you know in your heart God has called you? Hold back no longer. Your God is faithful ... You will never need more than he can supply, and what he supplies ... will always be enough.

* in Romans 8:32.

Quote is from Knowing God 303-309.

No comments: