A few months ago, I did myself one of the biggest favors of my life, by retiring from the stormy and wind-tossed world of “apologetics.” I had long gotten sick and tired of all the bickering and strife indulged in by apologists, and had marked James 3: 13-18 as a text worthy of deeper study. But I had made a commitment to “expose” some foolish heresy, and so I stuck it out. After a time, when I had done all I could to establish an absolute position in regard to Biblical eschatology, and found I was merely beating a dead horse, I determined to put away the gloves and call it quits. Since then I haven’t done a great deal of writing. Instead, I’ve been absorbed in quiet devotional study, which includes making notes of observations as they come to me, for future commitment to paper; and continuing my ongoing studies of the pre-Nicene fathers, who had a better grasp of Christian doctrine than any of your typical armchair theologians of today, for the simple fact that they were doing what every soldier of Christ must needs be prepared to do — die for their faith.
This last observation got me thinking of the wide difference there is between what we fondly call “real Christianity” and that which exists only in name and profession. After all, the distinction between “Christianity” and “religion” is not often seen in black and white. The latter is only the shell which may or may not contain the kernel of true devotion. And it is the chasing after this kernel that has proven a quest (not for myself only, but for many others) more fabulous than that of the fabled Don Quixote himself. God knows how many windmill warriors the regenerate Christian must battle in his mission to be the “real deal;” to go out into the world with not merely a name on his lips, but a purpose in his heart — a purpose that is unselfish as Christ’s was when He walked the earth, and which matches the heavenly blueprint laid down for our example in the Scriptures of truth.
I got to wondering whether the bulk of formalized Christianity as we know it in the West is, after all, nothing more than a thin veneer, a satin curtain which one can easily pull aside to disclose a leering skeleton without any flesh or vestments. Is what passes for today’s faith nothing more than a rehashed Phariseeism after all, and something which Christ will reject as odious to His heart when He calls the wise virgins into the wedding chamber? (Matthew 25: 1-13). What mean those deep-grained pulpits, those comfortless pews, those cold granite edifices with spires pointing heavenward in hope or reverence or mockery as the case may be? Might not true Christianity best flourish in the hothouse of persecution and dire want? And if so, how many of your Sunday religionists would dare to cross the thresshold to get a bit of the real thing?
Should the verdict come back in this life, the answer is bound to be one that most professing Christians will not accept. We want our faith to be something that we can enjoy in freedom, without being harassed and persecuted for it. Nevertheless, is such a condition “normal” as the rules of our faith go? And if it is not, what commentary does that offer on the religious trends of our time? Is religious hobbyism to be commended or condemned? Might not those who think themselves most secure in a spiritual sense be the ones who are farthest away from the kingdom of heaven? It is questions like these that may help cure any spiritual nearsightedness we may possess. For they bring us face to face with the possibility that we may ourselves have invested in a lie. And if we have Christ in our hearts, however obscured His image may be, our reflex reaction will be a snap-back towards truth and light.
Whatever anybody says (and there are a lot of people talking), we must keep in mind that there is only one pathway into the kingdom, and that is through the strait and narrow gate (Matthew 7: 13-14). Methinks that gate involves willingness to suffer for Christ, even unto death, that we may reign with Him in the future kingdom (see Romans 8: 17; 2 Tim. 2: 12). With these prospects before us, our wish should be not to create a world after our own heart’s desire, which will prove a failure in the end, but to bring our hearts into alignment with the pure faith inculcated by Christ and His apostles. Only then will we have the right perspective; and our actions will really count for something. Of course, this entails taking the focus off of ourselves and engaging in the spirit of servanthood and humility. It also means that when social conditions on earth favor stagnation of the new man, the disciple must strive all the harder to keep his renewed nature busy and active, lest the old man get the upper hand, and Christianity become no better than Judaism was when Christ came to His own and “His own received Him not” (John 1: 11).