Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Slippery Slope to Slumber

Ted Dekker in chapter 5 of The Slumber of Christianity makes the case that what is missing in our lives and makes life so disappointing is hope. As one reads the New Testament he/she can’t help but notice the amount of hope that shows up. Hope is what made the difference for those early Christians. The early Christian’s hope was made living by his faith, but it was still hope (p. 66). Is hope still present in your life?

The premise Dekker offers in this chapter is that we have been robbed of our hope and the robber is none other than Christianity:
“Nothing could stop you, because you were a joint heir with Christ, a bride awaiting the great unveiling of that heavenly wedding with eager anticipation. Christianity had delivered you into bliss.

“Nothing could stop you...Nothing except Christianity itself.” (p. 68)

What follows is a description of how the religion of Christianity takes away the hope of salvation and heaven and replaces it with a hope of a good life now. Let me add that I don’t think this is done intentionally. I think preachers and teachers have good intentions. They want to help people with where they are at and so the speak about having better marriages, having a more successful career, and talk about the wonderful blesses of a life lived for God. Being a preacher I can tell you that is what we are told to preach about. “Be relevant,” we are told. In the process we rob people of the hope that comes with salvation and replace it with a lesser hope of a good life today. Let’s remember that the apostle Paul endured many terrible things as he took the gospel to the nations. Why did he endure? Paul was able to endure because he had the hope of heaven to look forward to.

Describing the slow descent into slumber of a new Christian Dekker writes:
“As the months rolled by and became years, your own enthusiasm began to fade. And you noticed something else. For all their talk of success, the Christians around your were generally no more successful than the non-Christians you knew. In fact, perhaps less.

“The most active office in the church was the counseling office. Divorce was as common among Christians as those from other faiths. Financial hardship was rampant, despite the endless promises of reciprocation if you tithed.

“Worse still, most Christians talked nonstop about their struggles and characterized them as attacks from the enemy, but they never seemed to gain victory, At least not a victory that lasted longer than a week or so.

“The more these Christians struggled to be happy, the more they failed to do so, and the more energy they poured into finding the key to happiness. So many sermons preached from the pulpit followed a predictable template that looked something like this: Yes, yes, I know you’re not there yet, but if you’ll just follow these five points that all start with an R, your marriage and your job and your relationships and everything else in your life will improve. Rejuvenate, Restore, Remotivate, Reanimate, and Regurgitate.” (pp. 69-70)

I don’t know about you, but I have been there. When I was on the brink of walking away from Jesus it was doubts about God that had done me it, but it was a lack of hope. A lack of hope that resulted from playing the game with nothing changing. People will walk away from Christianity when they discover that it fails to deliver what we promise it will deliver.
“This is a path familiar to most modern Christians. But the path doesn’t end there. At this point, you followed one of two paths that often became the same path. One, the path followed by those who settled into a never-ending pursuit of God’s blessings for this life, or two, the path of those who saw the obvious disconnect and began to lose faith in Christianity altogether.” (p. 71)

We cannot afford to believe or preach a Christianity the is centered on finding happiness now. Jesus didn’t die so we could have the American dream, but so we can enjoy an eternal relationship with God. That is the hope that will make life really come alive.
“Worldly Christianity is simply heavenless Christianity.

“It’s a form of godliness, stripped of the power of hope. In so many teachings and books designed to prod us unto successful Christian living, there’s a preoccupation with life on earth rather than the life to come. In many ways, we have become our own greatest enemy.” (p. 75)

Here is good news for us who have allowed ourselves to fall asleep to the salvation Jesus has won for us:
“What falls asleep can be awakened. This is the hope held out to all who have lost that first love.” (p. 78)

It is time to wake up and live in the hope God has given us through Jesus Christ.

Find the other chapters:
Chapter 1: The Death of our Dreams
Chapter 2: The Search for Pleasure
Chapter 3: Foundations
Chapter 4: Give Me Pleasure or Give Me Death
Chapter 6: In Living We Die; In Dying We Live
Chapter 7: Created to Obsess
Chapter 8: The Eyes of the Heart part 1
Chapter 8: The Eyes of the Heart part 2

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