In one church I know, a medical doctor, formerly a missionary, was appointed to the board of elders. Some time later he had an affair, divorced his wife, abandoned his children, and separated himself from any form of biblical Christianity. Countless attempts were made to rehabilitate him; doubtless some of these attempts were wise, and some were unwise.
But the most thoughtful assessment of the mess came three years later, from one of the leaders in the church. He suggested that this doctor, who came from a Christian home and had done all the "right" things, had never had to make a decision that cost him anything. Everything was too easy; at every point he had been supported and praised. Even his missionary career was bound up with his own specialty interests in medicine. Then, when some troubles opened up in his marriage (as they open up in most marriages at one time or another), and an attractive alternative presented herself, this doctor had no moral center on which to depend. He had never, for the sake of Christ, made a decision that cost him something; and he wasn't about to start now. In hindsight, it is not even clear that his profession of faith was real, for real professions of faith manifest themselves in a principal death to self-interest, in a principal commitment to the cause of Christ and his gospel.
I am far from suggesting that every divorce proves a person is a non-Christian. Christians sin; those who claim they do not are self-deceived, and make God out to be a liar (1 John 1:4ff.). But in this case (and it is not unique), it is hard to find even one area of this man's life, one major incident in his life (so far as his life is known), where professed allegiance cost him anything.
That is not normal. It may be common (as spurious believers are regrettably common); but it is not normal. What is normal is taking up one's cross and following Jesus; it is recognizing that in this fallen world, "everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." That is inevitable; decisions are made; the cost is cheerfully borne; and iron is bred into the soul.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Has it cost you to follow Christ?
From D.A. Carson: