A few months back I read a very informative book entitled, “Not a Fan,” written by Kyle Idleman. The book got me to thinking and prayerfully reflecting on the problematic situation the contemporary church finds itself in and this essay is mostly a synopsis of that experience.
Idleman stresses the difference between what he calls a “fan” of Jesus and a “follower” of Jesus. The former may believe but does not follow. The latter believes and follows.
Many have made a decision to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow Jesus. The gospel allows for no such distinction. Biblical belief is more than mental assent or verbal acknowledgment. Many fans have repeated a prayer or raised their hand or walked forward at the end of a sermon and made a decision to believe, but there was never a commitment to follow. Jesus never offered such an option. He is looking for more than words of belief; he is looking to see how those words are lived out in your life. When we decide to believe Jesus without making a commitment to follow him, we become noting more than fans.
These works penned by Idleman cut straight to the chase if you think about it. Personally, I think that many of the problems in the church today, and certainly much of the negative image Christianity has in our culture, can be traced back to this very dichotomy – the split between those who believe in Jesus and those who actually follow his teachings. Far too many of us are fans but not followers. It really is that simple.
Jesus told us that it is wise to count the costs before setting out on the journey with him. This was indeed very wise counsel. Unfortunately, the church has done a very poor job in educating its new “believers” on what they are signing up for when they become a true Christian. They are rarely told they are enrolling in a way of life in which they will be called upon to deny themselves on a consistent basis and to more often than not, swim upstream against the tide of postmodern culture. Even more rarely are they told anything about the business of dying to self on a daily basis and flat out having to choose to not do what their flesh is screaming for them to do and their own mind may well be telling them it is permissible to do.
Instead, potential new Christians are told that all they have to do is “accept Christ as their personal savior” and/or “make a decision for Christ.” All they have to do is say the sinner’s prayer and their heavenly ticket is punched. Never mind the nasty stuff Jesus says in Matthew 7: 21-27. After all, he did say his yoke was easy. And compared to the religious legalism the Pharisees were placing on the people of his day, Jesus’ teachings were indeed a light yoke. Unfortunately, far too many Christian teachers have taken this teaching to mean that the Christian path is easy. As a result, far too many “believers” are content with a shallow, feel-good faith that risks nothing and contributes nothing to the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.
My friends, this is not what the Master had in mind.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7: 13-14 ESV)
David Platt, in his excellent book Follow Me, sums up Jesus’ point and the crisis in today’s pews when he says:
In other words, there is a broad religious road that is inviting and inclusive. This nice, comfortable, ever-so-crowded path is attractive and accommodating. The only thing that’s required of you is a one-time decision for Christ, and you don’t have to worry about his commands, his standards, or his glory after making that decision. You now have a ticket to heaven, and your sin, whether manifested in self-righteousness or self-indulgence, will be tolerated along the way.
I doubt many Christians would care to admit that Platt’s words are an accurate description of their commitment to Jesus and their walk of faith, yet my fear is that in far too many cases it is exactly that – a description of the true shallowness of where they stand spiritually. And as I said earlier, as Christians, we are not called to this wide gate and easy road. Platt continues:
But this is not the way of Jesus. He beckons us down a hard road, and the word Jesus uses for “hard” is associated in other parts of the Bible with pain, pressure, tribulation, and persecution. The way of Jesus is hard to follow, and hated by many.
To be continued…
(C) L.D. Turner 2013/All Rights Reserved