Thursday, January 11, 2007

Can You Handle the Noise, Part 2

The story about Fred at the World Series also illustrates a lot of truths about the true nature of Christianity and what it really means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I want to take this opportunity to dispel some popular misconceptions about being a follower of Christ. I hope it is welcoming for those of you who are not Christians and challenging for those of you who are. If you remember, Fred was a die hard Cardinals fan who got a once in a lifetime opportunity to go to the clinching game of the World Series. You can read the full story in Part 1. However, we push came to shove, he left the game because it was just too loud. Let’s explore some myths about Christianity and what effect they have had on people throughout history.

MYTH 1: To be a Christian, you have to wear the right outfit.

This is one of the more common beliefs that non-Christians have about the church. For many Christians, the norm on Sunday is to get dressed up in your finest clothes for church, your “Sunday best.” This belief started in a good-hearted way, that when we go to worship God we present ourselves to him at our very best. Unfortunately, I think this practice has gotten out of hand to the point that some Christian groups feel that if a person isn’t wearing their best that God doesn’t accept that individual. Nothing could be farther from the truth!! God always accepts us exactly where we are when we sincerely come before him; that is the greatest truth about Jesus and his reaction to the world. We come to Jesus just as we are, and he is the one who “cleans us up” and presents us as pure and spotless before God. Look in 1 Samuel 16:7, it says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." God is much more concerned about the condition of our hearts than he is about our appearance. At Higher Calling, we encourage casual dress and I support it by wearing jeans, sandals, t-shirts, jerseys, and other casual apparel while on stage. We feel it makes people more comfortable and it encourages the casual and authentic atmosphere we love to have. Church is about much more than suits and dresses; it is really all about connecting your heart with the heart of the one true God and living your life with his purpose in mind. My friend Fred wore all the right clothes; he had the uniforms, the jerseys, and the autographs to prove he was a Cardinals fan, but he didn’t stick around when it mattered most. When it got too loud, he chose to leave. I encourage you to value the important things in life, and look at people the way God looks at them; I urge you to look at the heart of people, and I challenge you to stay in the game, no matter how loud it gets.

MYTH 2: Christianity is all about knowing the right people.

Fred knew all the right people to be a Cardinals fan. Remember, he was rubbing elbows with some big names in Cardinals history, and they knew him by name. Many people looked at him and judged how great of a fan he was by his contacts, and by all of the autographed photos he had with personalized messages. “Wow, Fred is the biggest Cardinal fan I know!! He has pictures of Bob Gibson and Curt Flood and he sees them every summer at fantasy camps!” Ultimately though, what truly matters in judging how big a fan we are or how successful we are in life is not the acquaintances we accumulate; it is about how we react to adversity. Fred knew the right people, but it could too loud for him in the stadium. Being a Christian is not an easy thing to do; God does not promise total security in our lives and certainly we are not exempt from suffering in this life, but God does promise us that if we give our lives totally to him he will use us greatly to accomplish his purposes in the world. He promises that our lives will not be wasted! We can all give ourselves to something that will make a difference in eternity. It is not about the people you know, but it is about what you decide to do with the person of Jesus Christ. If you refuse his love, your life will not amount to anything, and it will be wasted. That is the greatest tragedy of all. If you accept him and follow him completely, he will take you on an adventure that will change the way you view the world and that will impact this life and the next.

MYTH 3: Christians don’t have answers for the really tough questions in life.

This isn’t the case, although there is some truth in this opinion. You see, many Christians have fought for a long time to make the movement of Jesus Christ into a religion, and when that happens the power is sucked out of the message. When any belief becomes a religion it becomes more about rules and regulations than about people or relationships. This has effectively neutered Christianity, and has made any common sense thoughts about reaching a postmodern and post-Christian world for God almost revolutionary.

The religion of Christianity will cause you to have more questions than answers.

A relationship with Jesus and with authentic followers of Christ will change your life for the better; no matter who you are or what you have done. Life is tough, and things can happen that break our will and our spirit. But God does not want us to stay that way; in fact, he longs for you to come to him so he can forgive you and accept you.

I can be insufficient in answering your toughest questions, but God is never insufficient.

Ask him for guidance and he will meet you in your darkest hour. But do not think that becoming a Christian exempts you from pain or suffering. In fact, sometimes God calls us into dangerous places so we can do great things for him. It is in those times we want to run and hide. When you are doing the work of God in hostile places, situations get hot, difficult, and LOUD!! My question for you is very simple…..Can you handle the noise? If you say yes, God will use you to do great things. We would love to be of help to you on your journey. Come and check us out at Higher Calling or leave a comment here. I can’t wait to hear from you!

-Pastor Zac

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