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There is something dreadfully wrong with our Christianity when it is hardly more than a program affiliation. In a day when Kroger Plus™ cards and Speedway's Speedy Rewards™ (for example) loosely tie us in to various brand name or corporate loyalties, I should not wonder that churches might also be on the verge of issuing such membership cards with "perks" or "rewards" each time a "member" condescends to make an appearance at a worship service.
I will concede that this is exactly what society demands of religion in general. It requires and promotes a nice, quiet civil religion that picks up the slack of helping to clean up the mess that society makes, as well as placating its participants with an overall sense of well-being. But it only tolerates even these contributions as long as religion essentially stays out of the way of culture's pandemonious pursuit of temporal priorities.
Inasmuch as Christians buy into such ideology (or at the very least tolerate it), powerlessness and fruitlessness continually plague the Church (overall and individually). It should not surprise us then to encounter emerging adults who get "fed up" with the games that their elders have played with religion. Seeing that "membership" and participation in church do little to actually influence practical living, many conclude that religion is not satisfying and, worse yet, that God cannot satisfy. They then "bail out", determining to invest their devotion, energies, and time on things that promise to be more rewarding.
Only there isn't anything more rewarding or fulfilling. At least not in any real sense. Not in any way that proves to sufficiently anchor the soul when calamity strikes, when health fails, when our economic means are taken away, when loved ones abandon or reject or abuse, or when our eyes dim as death comes and we slip – ready or not – into eternity.
For religion to truly "work" for those who profess to belong to it, we must meet God. For us to "meet God" – in the here and now – we must seek Him. For our search to be successful, we must come to God on His terms.
"For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You sill seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the LORD…" (Jeremiah 29:11-14a NIV, emphases mine).
Therefore, membership in a church, although appropriate, is not enough. Attendance and participation in church (and presumably Biblically sound) events, although essential, is not enough. Going through the motions of spiritual activity is not enough. Giving all that we have and doing all that we can to appease or impress God is not enough (and please don't insult Him by trying).
We must simply come to Him as we are, or better yet, as little children, sick of playing games of pretense that we've learned as adults. We must hunger and thirst for more than mediocrity and truly seek Him. We must be willing to lose all that we have and all that we are in order to possess the "one thing" without which we are utterly lost.
If you have read much of the New Testament, you may have noticed that Jesus had a way of losing followers (see the Gospel of John chapter six, verse sixty-six as an example). Our Lord had a way of thinning out the crowd, so to speak, so that those who wanted "things", might not get in the way of those who wanted God.
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses His life for Me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26 NIV).
So what will it be for you? Will you be a mere member of a church or a true follower of Jesus? Will you seek Him when you have the time or seek Him with all your heart? What will your children see in you? What will they say of you? Most importantly, what does God see in you? What will He say to you when you finally stand before Him when this life is over?
Copyright © Thom Mollohan.
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