Are you comfortable? Just in general. If you are, that’s good. One point some Christians really like to focus on is how we need to live sacrificially for Christ, and I don’t dispute that. But what I’ve found to be true is that even if you sacrifice for Christ, that doesn’t necessarily equal discomfort.
I guess comfort means different things to different people. God gave us this beautiful Earth as our temporary home. It’s here for us to take care of and to enjoy. The trouble comes when we start to value our comfort more than His commands.
Today’s verses are Philippians 3:7-9.
I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.
I grew up with comfortable faith, and that’s not necessarily bad. We all should be comfortable with what we believe. But I do think it is possible to get too comfortable.
Religious ideas and concepts–the rituals and traditions that identify us as one denomination or another–are comforting, especially if we’ve grown up with them. Whether it’s the Eucharist, practicing confession, reciting liturgy, or skipping the third verse of a hymn, our traditions in the church sometimes give us a false sense of security–that because we choose to live in such-and-such a way or because we choose to hold to such-and-such tradition, we don’t need to ask the hard questions about faith and relationship with God.
It’s difficult to ask hard questions when you’re too comfortable.
I’m not saying that any of our religious traditions are bad or even wrong. Most of the time there is a symbol behind them that means something or should mean something (except skipping the third verse of the hymn, that one I’ve never been able to figure out). But when we rely on those traditions to define our faith, when those religious rituals become more important to us than growing and building our relationship with Christ, something’s wrong.
Or did you think once you meet Christ, that’s all there is to it?
How many relationships have you had where you just meet someone and you never get to know them better? Can you even call that a relationship? Sure, if you want to meet Christ and never speak to Him again, I guess that’s okay. But is that what you really want? If that’s the case, why meet Him at all?
I love this passage today because it always makes me stop and think about how much emphasis I put on living “a good Christian life.” Yes, obedience is important and expected. Yes, God has given us certain standards we are to live by in order to keep us under His umbrella of blessing. But you know what?
There’s nothing l can do, no lifestyle I can live, no language I can speak, no accomplishment I can achieve that will make me worthy of the awesome gift God has given me through His grace. That’s what grace is, people.
It’s overwhelming, completely and entirely unmerited favor. We don’t deserve it. We can never deserve it. And I love what Paul says in this passage. Yes, living a “good Christian life” is important, but those things we think make us such good Christians are meaningless.
Read this same passage again in the Message:
The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.
Talking like this makes me uncomfortable. Talking about these sorts of things–throwing away the symbols and traditions and rituals–is uncomfortable because I’m a creature of habit. I don’t particularly like change. I like security and certainty and repeatability.
Again, all those things aren’t bad. But compared to knowing Christ, they’re garbage. Actually, they’re worse than garbage. If my research is correct, what Paul calls them is a word that is offensive in nearly any culture (the word usage is something I’m probably going to post on later this week).
The point is, what do you value more? Your comfort? Your security? The certainty and the repeatability of “that’s the way we’ve always done it”?
Or are you willing to get uncomfortable? Are you willing to get your hands dirty? Are you willing to step away from the lists of rules and the stained-glass rituals that make you think you can do something to earn righteousness? Are you willing to offend people with the truth? Are you willing to change your mind about what following Christ actually looks like and sounds like?
If you are, hold on for the ride. Because much like sacrificing for Christ doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, being willing to get uncomfortable isn’t uncomfortable. It’s the most exciting choice you’ll ever make.