Have you ever wondered why it is that Christianity is so hard to live out in our lives? I have, and I have also wondered if anybody would become a Christ follower if they knew just how hard life would be for those that actually chose to become His disciples. Think about it, we all talk about being blessed and getting peace, joy and eternal salvation and things like that, but we forget this:
Phil 3:10 – That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings; being conformed to His death. NASU
Did you notice that bit in the middle “Fellowship of His Sufferings”? And how about this one?
Matt 18:9 – If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell. NASU
Pluck my eyes out? I don’t remember signing up for eye-plucking Bible study classes!
The Christian life is decidedly hard; but to some extent so is the secular life. But so often, people living a secular or even a carnal Christian life seem to be having a better time of it than those of us who try to put Christian principles to work in our daily lives. Is it any surprise to us when some Christians backslide to seek a more comfortable daily life?
What is going on that so many individuals reject Christ and His message of eternal life or having first accepted Him, then turn away? One of the reasons is that being a Christian is hard. When we become Christ following Christians we discover that this statement is very real:
Matt 16:24 – Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. NASU
Sometimes we as Christians relate to this verse as a command, that we are to take on suffering, become members of the “Fellowship of Suffering”, and if we have an attitude like that is it any wonder that some will fall away? Jesus was giving us a warning here; telling us we are going to have to give up the easy life, and take on a more difficult one.
Why the warning? Well, I’ve come to some inferences about why living the “Gospel-centered life” is so hard. These are my core conclusions:
- We don’t believe God.
- We think of ourselves as our own god.
- We won’t give up our sins.
- We are lazy.
- We are irresponsible.
I hope that when you read this list you are as challenged as I am to take a deep introspective look at my own values, beliefs and attitudes. Let’s look at these five in a small amount of detail.
We don’t believe God. How we act tells us a lot about what we actually believe. For example, do we snap at people who irritate us? Do we really treat people well? Are we actually following the golden rule?
Matt 7:12 – In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. NASU
Notice that last part? This rule “is the law and the prophets”; meaning that it is a simple way of saying follow it and you’ll be obeying God, thereby demonstrating you believe him. Food for thought!
We think of ourselves as our own god. This is very common amongst Christians in North America. We, that is all Americans, are taught individualism, the sense that we can do all things under our own power, from the cradle to the grave. This is, of course, the opposite of what scripture says; here are some words from Jesus on this:
Matt 19:26 – And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” NASU
Non-dependency on God, results in us coming at some level to the erroneous belief that we have control over all of our life, in other words, we think we are our own god.
We won’t give up our sins. Don’t so many of us do things that we know violate God’s instructions, and more importantly, hurt us in some way? How many of us overspend, or look at pornography, or eat too much, or gossip? You get the picture; we do these things for our own pleasure, always a temporary fix for our any difficult emotional condition we may be in. This is called self-medication by the counseling community. Basically, we choose to not do things God’s way, and think we know better, but in the end the result is always that our emotional pains are still with us.
We are lazy. For whatever reason, many of us simply won’t do the work that is necessary to move into what Christ called an abundant life. (Jn 10:10(b))
How many of us would rather watch TV or a movie than spend an hour in a spiritual discipline such as study, prayer or solitude? All of us are guilty at some level of not putting in the work necessary to know Him more. God speaks eloquently on this issue here:
Prov 6:6 – Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise. NASU
We are irresponsible. So often we paint ourselves as victims. For some people, including Christians, everything that goes wrong is someone else’s fault. How many times have we heard these words or something like them, “He made me do it”, or “She made me angry”? These are statements of irresponsibility and dishonesty. No one can make us do something we don’t choose to do, and no one can make us feel something. Our choices and our emotional reactions belong to us, and yet we blame others for them. This personal dishonesty, which I have called irresponsibility, is a barrier to moving into Christ’s blessings.
Each of these five are major reasons that we find the Christian life so hard. Notice though that all five are under our own control!
The bottom line to all this discussion is this. Yes there are real problems that we don’t cause that make living like Christ difficult, but they are few in our culture. Most often, we are the reason that the Christian life seems so hard, as we let unbelief, a god-complex, sin, laziness and irresponsibility rule in our hearts.
I want to be the first to volunteer that all five of these have been and still are in my life, and then pray that God helps me to clean these things up, so that I can start to receive the promised blessings. Will you follow my lead?