If we say that Hell is unjust or extreme, then we prove that we care far too little about sin. If we care far too little about sin, then we care far too little about the cross. If we care far too little about the cross, we care far too little about God Himself.
(Based on Romans 6:1-7)
You fool! You fool! Your tongue’s not right
And change your thoughts from base to bright
This grace that’s precious did appear
And ought to teach the heart to fear
It does not license wickedness
But shadowed hearts are missing this:
When Christ had died upon the tree
Resided there both you and me
We’ve died to sin, our souls expunged
Of awful, wicked tendency
If you were numbered on that morn’
In water and in coffin sworn
Allegiance to a Master new
Who raised us up into virtue
The splinters of the cross are shared
‘Twix everyone who ever dared
To raise the flag of Him who hung
Upon a tree. And then has sung
For joy at resurrection bright
By death, this new life has begun
Though taken off a cross and laid
Fast in a tomb, (but not to stay)
A form remains upon the wood
Where in my place condemned He stood
The body ripe with sin and death
Has yielded up its final breath
Gone are the whips of thorns and cords
The slaver’s tools broke by two boards
And freedom’s paradox is right:
The living dead know true reward.
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
But he who hates reproof is stupid.
It’s so easy to spiritualize the cutting words of Solomon, sucking the passion from the words. “Loves” becomes “tolerates.” It says to love discipline. Our society has so cheapened the word “love” that we can easily assign one of the lesser states of love to discipline. I love discipline like I love buttered toast. Really, I can take it or leave it.
No. No, Scripture isn’t saying to tolerate discipline as an ugly necessity of sanctification. It says to love it in the way that a drowning man loves a life preserver. To love it in the way that a wounded soldier loves the medic who risks his own life to save him. You seek what you love. The wounded cry “medic” with all their dwindling strength. The drowning will cling to anything that provides buoyancy. They are not passive men, but are driven to action by their realization of extreme need. God make us Christians who see our need for discipline and instruction, and are stirred by our desperate need to seek it with all our strength.
The children of God are not marked by camouflage. Rather, we have been called out to stand out. That is our duty. That is our joy. Accepting the call to lose your life than you may save it (Mk 8:35) means accepting a life devoid of comfortable respectability. The world does not crucify those it respects. And life itself for us is Christ. That is our identity: Christ.
Today is the Super Bowl. Larry Fitzgerald will don his uniform with its large, red cardinal painted on his helmet. The whole world will see that Larry Fitzgerald is a member of the Arizona Cardinals. His job is to run in between member of the opposing team whose sole goal is to stop him—using any means possible—from catching the ball. In many situations, Larry will be the only red dot in a sea of yellow and gold, called upon by his quarterback to leap into the air and catch a pass while surrounded by a number of angry yellow-and-black clad men. Choosing to make an attempt to catch the ball will mean exposing his back, kidneys, and knees to punishing hits—hits that will most likely leave him bruised and sore for several days or weeks. Despite these consequences, he never ducks.
Larry Fitzgerald is making upwards of $10 million dollars, may win a Super Bowl, and is doing what he loves. For him, those rewards make the bruises and the sprains worth it. Perhaps the point is clear. Only when we come to understand what we gain in God will the cost of following the Lord Jesus Christ seem worth it. We zealously and rightly denounce the health-and-wealth gospel. But the gospel of neutrality is just as false. There’s nothing “normal” about the Christian life. Our entire identity has been changed.
It has become rather easy for Christians to look different from the world. All that is required is to not do drugs, avoid the wild parties, and remain sexually pure. The darkness has become so dark that anything short of pitch-black stands out. While this should make the brilliant, radiant white light of the cross absolutely dazzling, we seem content to display a rather drab shade of grey. Rather than running to the Scriptures to see what our identity being Christ looks like, we look and see what the church as a whole is doing and base our lives off of that standard.
It’s really easy to point the finger at the mainstream Christian church and it’s infatuation with seeker-sensitive, “Gospel-Lite,” Arminian-infused methodology. It’s really hard to admit that our conservative, Calvinistic doctrine hasn’t quite informed our lives as much as it should.
“I’d sing louder in church if everyone else did. I don’t want to stand out.”
“I’d be more open in small groups if everyone else was into the whole confession of sin thing too.”
“I’d reach out to others in church if they reached out to me more.”
“No one else is willing to go confront that guy on my wing, so why should I?”
“No one else is living a wartime lifestyle with their money. They’ll think I’m strange.”
“I’d minister more if there was more opportunity.”
Christian chameleonism. That’s all this is. “I’d do x if everyone else was willing to do it too.” The Bible has another word for this: hypocrisy. If you care about something, you’ll do it. Regardless of other people. Whenever a sick person meets Christ in the Bible, they lose every shred of dignity. People dug through a roof. Others would come and grovel in the dust before him. High-ranking Roman army officials would come and beg a Jewish Rabbi to heal daughters or servants. Why the casting away of the dignity which they would ordinarily so highly prize? Because of the reward!
Campbell Morgan has said “If you encounter no opposition where you’re serving, you’re probably serving in the wrong place.” I could concur and say “If you encounter no opposition to your righteousness, you’re probably not righteous enough!” Oh, that we would be people who understand that having a high view of God means having a high view of our reward! Though it would be easier for Larry Fitzgerald to camouflage himself by donning a Steelers uniform and forget about taking the punishment from the safeties, he won’t. He can’t. There’s no other way for him to play the game.
Likewise, we as Christians have no other way to play the game. Our lives are to be lived with gusto. The psalmist says, “Zeal for your house has consumed me” (69:9). Consumes. Not influences, but consumes. The goal of our lives is not to blend in with Christians around us. The goal is to glorify God. To do this all of our beliefs must be drawn straight from the text of Scripture. Those who understand doctrine are willing to charge the hill with no one behind them, while Christian Chameleons idle in the trenches, condemning everyone else for not risking what they themselves are not willing to risk.