Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cheap Christianity

Although I endeavour not to dwell on certain things too long, it is a slight concern the way Christianity can come across as either an easy route to an easy life where all your wants and wishes are supplied or where God is our servant to do what we will in making the world a better place to live in. There’s this marketing of Christianity as a desirable commodity that people can buy into relatively easily ‘just believe’ as if that step is the easiest thing in the world to do. Something’s not quite right with this picture of a Way of life that was marked out by it’s Founder who endured a reputation as a suffering servant rejected by men with no place to lay His head. Something doesn’t quite make sense holding this easy marketing approach to a faith that Christ states can only be accessed through a narrow gate that only a few find.

Despite everything God is still speaking and saying some amazing things. Earlier today I was reading
J.C. Ryle’s Holiness and it was touching a pertinent topic for me as I consider the issue of discipleship. Chapter five of this brilliant book looks at the cost of being holy.

Ryle explores the issue in three parts, first checking what the cost it, then why it’s important to count the cost and ending with how people can count the cost properly. Whether it’s with people starting the journey in earnest or with apparent seasoned veterans in this Christian walk, it’s good to re-evaluate whether or not we really have counted the cost of holiness, whether we calculate what it is to take on following Jesus as a serious life-consuming enterprise.

There’s a stunning quote he says at the end of the section on what the cost is, but before I get there it’s worth noting what Ryle considers to be the cost of holiness, they are – 1) Self-righteousness – we depend only on Christ for righteousness, not bible reading, church attendance, prayer, knowledge, etc. 2) Sins – must be willing to give up everything that opposes God and godliness especially those that we’ve been wrapped up in for so long. 3) Love of Ease – comfort is not part of the Christian goal in the journey; it comes with pain and so requires diligence in ‘tongue, temper and thoughts’. 4) Favour with the World – we’re got to be prepared for rejection and ridicule, pressure and persecution accused of being fanatical, extreme and foolish as that’s what the Master endured so it’s part of the deal.

Of course I’d recommend you
get the book if you want to find out what more he says about counting the cost and holiness in general, it does come highly recommended. What’s really cool about the way he outlines the costs is how he states the difficulty we have with all these as they affect parts of our lives in which we’re most comfortable and used to living. Yet these are the necessities of true discipleship, this is part of what the whole taking up the cross involves.

Indeed it is the issue of the cross that brings up the priceless quote – ‘A cheap Christianity without a cross, will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown.’ (Ryle 1879, 2007 page 70) We just had our Lord’s Supper on Friday night and reflecting on the great price paid at Calvary and how it pleased the Lord to crush His only Son for the sins of humanity makes this whole carrying the cross issue al the more serious and leads me to want to express this even more in my life. Never mind the state of Christendom in the Western World, UK, England, Stoke-on-Trent, my church or even my home, I’m all the more concerned to know my Christianity is not on the cheap side.

For His Name’s Sake
da man cd

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