September 27, 2012

Faith is more than a fire-escape

In a recent conversation, a man talked about the people he works with, “They are religious, and they go to church every Sunday, even every Saturday too, but that does not match the way they live.”

Today’s devotional reading calls me to think about this again. The reading says that religion is not a fire-escape that you build in anticipation of a possible danger only to leave it outside the house until danger comes. The problem with doing this is that when a fire breaks out, that neglected escape route is not what you hoped. It is rusty and broken, weather-beaten and useless. This is a picture of those who build a surface appearance of faith for some future day they might need it, thinking that makes them safe. 

However, as the reading says, religion is not something to add on to our lives. Instead, it is the house in which we live, even the table where we sit, the fireside that warms us, the room that arches its familiar presence over us. It is our bed where we rest and think of the past, and anticipate the future, and become refreshed.

The difference between fire-escape faith and a faith that is lived in (and lived out) is hinted at in this verse used in the devotional reading…
To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
Paul is talking about genuine believers who have understood the riches of glory, a mystery that was once unclear but has been revealed to them. This mystery is this: Christ lives in those who believe. He not only gives His people hope concerning glory, but He changes our lives, giving us power to make known or broadcast or reveal to others the reality of true faith. 

That is, unless Christ lives in me, no matter how ‘religious’ I may act, the glory of God is not revealed in my life or by my life. Without Him, I can do nothing. In Him and because of Him, my life says something about the sure promises of God and the hope of glory.
Imagine the difference made in the world because the disciples of Christ followed Him, doing what He told them and letting their faith be seen in every part of their lives. Here is a very short list.

Power over evil spirits and able to heal the sick. “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. (Matthew 10:1) And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay” (Matthew 10:7–8).

Wisdom and endurance in opposition. “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16) …and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:22–23) And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household (Matthew 10:36). 

Boldness to share Christ with others. “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. (Matthew 10:27) So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven…” (Matthew 10:32).

None of these are ‘Sunday only’ activities. They are part of life, which makes faith practical, not fanatical. It means letting the Christ who lives in me be seen wherever I am and in whatever I am doing. 

Actually, His life is so powerful that hiding it is impossible. Sadly, what can happen and often does, is claiming to have ‘religion’ without having Jesus.

Oh God, the religious people of this world who have no relationship with You also have no hope of glory. This puzzles some, like that man we talked to this week. So many become disillusioned, not knowing the difference between those who claim to be Christian and those in whom You have made Your dwelling place. It would be easy to blame the ‘merely religious’ for this confusion, but Your Spirit tells me that genuine believers bear the greater responsibility. We are supposed to live like You have commanded, not making claims without backing them up. My faith is supposed to permeate all of life, starting in my heart, my home and radiating through every part, not for my sake but to reveal that great gift from You  --- the hope of glory!

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