Point of Reference
by Fred Price
I believe in the supposition, up to a point, that people value religion on the basis of cost. I know that contradicts the easy-believism many espouse today and arouses the protests of faith-only believers – which I am not in disagreement. My point being that after salvation, which we can’t earn and is granted to us exclusively through grace, many people need to be challenged to be better and do more, and will do neither if that challenge never happens. I further believe this challenge is received best by people who are seeking a belief-system that does more than just ring true but gives a lasting sense of peace, purpose and the assurance of an after-life.
One reason I believe this to be true is because it is so apparent in other aspects of our lives. People respond to a challenge – many do anyway – whether it be in business, education, sports, etc. We expect to have to expend energy, to apply ourselves, to pay a price, to invest something of ourselves in most everything we become involved in; for some so they can boast, for many others because they genuinely want to do well. So why not religion? (And yes I know there’s a difference between a belief-system, faith, and the work aspects of our lives, but the question still applies.)
Ok then, how’s this for challenging: Jesus infers that we should be willing to cut off a hand or gouge out an eye if they get in the way of our serving him and our going to heaven (Matthew 5:29,30), and exhorts us to be willing to abandon (or rather maybe exchange) wives, sisters and brothers, friends and jobs for the sake of the gospel while putting our lives on the line for Him. (Matthew 16:24,25 & Mark 10:29,30) Which merely reinforces what Jesus called the most important or greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. There is no commandment greater than these.” Matthew 22:37-40 & Mk. 12:30-31Simply put, Jesus wants nothing less than all of us; every thought, every interest, every action – all of our energy, all of our passion, all of our love.
Is that even possible? Not if we’re depending on our own abilities or willpower. (Which removes any possibility of boasting on our part.) “…but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (See also Mark 9:23) Besides which, this doesn’t mean we can do nothing but read the Bible and pray continually while going to church every day of the week, although we should undoubtedly pray and meditate on God’s word more than we do now and attend church faithfully to gain more insight in our purpose as a people and to worship Him together. What it does mean is that Christ should be at the center of all we do, He not wanting to manipulate our lives to the smallest degree but for us to live a full life (John 10:10) that is based on Him and His will.
That sounds pretty demanding. But Jesus’ commands are more than about re-making us into someone who is holy, although they will help us achieve holiness; nor are they necessarily about making us better, even though they will do that as well. More than that, His expectations are centered on love; an intimacy requiring self-sacrifice, time, the setting of priorities and, sometimes – inconvenience. And yes, it requires a steady does of patience and grace on God’s part and our own.
But we must be careful not to confuse patience with indifference, for God is anything but indifferent to our situation or to our response to His solution. Scripture repeatedly referring to Him as jealous for our affection and attention. (Exodus 20:5 & 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24 & Hebrews 12:20 – see also Paul’s jealous desire to “keep” people in Christ found in 2 Corinthians 11:2) At other times we confuse mercy and grace with resignation – and again – God is anything but resigned to our predicament, having done everything possible to rescue and redeem us from the condition we’re in to a higher calling in Him. Creating in us, when we allow Him to, new desires and aspirations; a new and vibrant life dedicated to Him and lived for His glory and the betterment of others. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Nor is He particularly tolerant, as Hebrews 10:26 - 32 & Matthew 7:21 make abundantly clear. He expects us to be different as a result of our calling to Him in faith, He deserves faithfulness; as there is a price to be paid – not for salvation – but in redemption. (As John 14:15 & 15:10 alludes to – obedience is central to faith and faithfulness.) Today’s brand of tolerance accepting anything and everything as of equal value and purpose while real tolerance allows for the reality of differences of opinion, but places a premium on the ideals of right and wrong defined by the Judeo/Christian principles our faith and country are built on.
His demands are indeed based in love, expressed with patience; a patience that does have an end-point however (Romans 2:4-8) – most instances of which are expressed with a backdrop of judgment. His patience having a purpose, even a destination. His love indeed being infinite (Psalm 103:8), but not to be used as a cover for sin either willfully or ignorantly indulged in.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 As, “In the past God overlooked…ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world – by the man he has appointed.” Jesus Christ! Acts 17:30,31
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Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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