Christian living is neither complacent nor stagnant. God calls us into a covenant relationship with Himself. We were saved by the blood of Jesus Christ for a specific purpose – living in covenant faithfulness before God, adopted into His Kingdom, and now having Him as our all-seeing Father.
Last summer I spent much of my time translating Psalm 139. The Psalm speaks of the hand of God hemming us in, the sight of God piercing into the depths of our souls, and His all-seeing presence following us wherever we go. in other words, the Psalm preaches to us about the omnipresence of God. The omnipresence of God, however, is an interesting doctrine. At first glance, for the Christian, an application of such a doctrine should be obvious. The doctrine should speak to us as a source of great blessing and comfort in the face of tribulation, uncertainty and distress. God is there even when we are in the bottom of the pit. But, lest any of us think that the implications of this incommunicable attribute of God is straightforward, we must remember one thing: the presence of God gives a sense of comfort to those who are in Christ, but to those who are still in Adam, the omnipresence of God could be nothing else but a source of crippling fear. The guilty trembles at the rustling of a leaf. Our response to the psalm reveals the status of our hearts before God.
So the book of James speak of the demons in that light. They know that God is One – all well and good. And they tremble. But they show no sign of repentance or remorse. They continue rebelling against their very Creator.
If we are thinking about this and we are afraid, I encourage us to pray, and seek ourselves, allow the Spirit to probe into us, and to see why it is that God’s presence strikes us with fear instead of joy. Such fear could be the work of the Spirit to convict us, and we should welcome that indeed.
But the point of this post is elsewhere. Thinking about God and that thought causing us to tremble is one thing. But, thinking about God and feeling totally indifferent about it is quite another. Even the demons tremble. But I fear many of us think about God and the thought fails to have any effect upon us at all. The demons tremble, but we remain unaffected. The only thing worst than pure self-conscious rebellion is dead apathy and indifference. Argue with someone; you acknowledge his existence. Ignoring someone, however, is altogether worst.
This apathy in non-believers is frustrating, but it is even more devastating when it is found in self-professing believers. “I believe in God,” we might say. I go to church. But God isn’t interested in being Lord over two hours of our week. If He is Lord, and If he has truly purchased you by the blood of his Son, he is not satisfied with a mere acknowledgment of his existence during a day a week. No, he demands all of our lives. We are to take every thought captive to the Lordship of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Every thought. There is no room for a dual life here. Whether we are in the church or outside of it, Christ remains Lord, and he will not tolerate being relegated into your personal life alone. He demands our obedience and our loyalty, and He breathes His Spirit into us just for that very purpose (Ez. 36).
Yet we go on tipping our hats to God on sunday and going our merry way as we do to the doorman. We acknowledge his existence, we say He is good, and we admit our dependence on him, but then we go on our day without letting that knowledge at all influence our decisions. When we think about our careers or our community, who we choose to relate with, and how we plan the future, we do not let Him have a say. In fact, we willingly take Him out of the picture – letting Him in will cause us to get more headaches anyway. We pay lip service to His Lordship, and we tithe well to the church. We say “good on you” to the missionaries “out there” and the redemptive politicians “out there.” So long as that work stays “out there” we can stay comfortable in our private spheres of disobedience. We fear that our child might become called to be a missionary, or that our spouse might be called to “full-time ministry.” We pray for the corruption and shady business practices of Indonesia to be done and over with, but deep inside us we are thankful that our parents and our significant others can still have their way with a little “wise” use of money. We enjoy it when people are doing God’s work, however, only when they remain “out there.” We just want to go our merry way, pursuing our own plans and goals. God is for sunday, not for my own ambitions. The sermons are all well and good, but the moment I am actually called to obey and do all things for the glory of Christ, I say “well that’s unrealistic and inconvenient; I don’t want to change my life.” and so of course we go home unchanged. The moment I think that way, I am a christian by name alone, but in practice, I have embraced atheism. My christianity would have no concrete point of reference. If we say we believe in God, we must ask ourselves the next question: how does the existence of God and the reality of the Gospel influence my every decision today and for every day of my life? A covenant with God has its analogy on earth in a marriage between a man and a woman – and we all know that a marriage simply is not a marriage when all that occurs in the relationship is a mere tipping of the hat to the existence of the spouse. A covenantal relationship requires undying commitment no matter the cost.
Atheism is the belief that no God exists, and an implication of that belief is that I can live my life however way I want. Functionally, nominal Christianity is no different than atheism. Functional atheism is nominal christianity. Atheism that masquerades itself in the safe bubble of the church. It feeds itself, and continues to survive with a healthy dose of self-deceptive rationalization each sunday. We cannot serve God and money – one must be Lord, and Christ demands absolute obedience. No matter what task we take, what job we take, or educational field we study, the primary question we have to ask ourselves is: “Why?” and if the answer is that which is unmotivated by the Lordship of Christ, then it is time to rethink our paths.
I am thankful that Christ is Lord, and that He determines our ways. Were it up to us, we would be seeking for that which would not last.