The past few weeks have been quite busy. This week I will have been out of town for a total of four days. Last week I preached a three night revival in Mocksville, NC. I thought the revival was a fruitful, Spirit-filled time with the wonderful folks at Liberty United Methodist Church. One person described it as a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience. Wow! That certainly couldn’t be because there were so many people to show up because there weren’t. But God did show up in a powerful way; certainly not because I’m so good, but because He is.
When I do a three day revival the first night I share a little about my personal testimony. The second night, in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 13:5, I invite people into a time of self-examination as we look into the moral law, which is restated in the New Testament in the clear light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The third night, among other things, I talk about a couple of questions as they relate to the Christian faith. One is the question: Is it relevant to my life?
That’s an important, but potentially very misleading and dangerous question. I’m not talking about the importance of making the gospel as understandable as possible, which is an essential and difficult task for any teacher and preacher. What I am talking about is the question in the heart of someone who wonders how the Christian faith may be relevant to his or her life in a helpful sort of a way. In other words, can it help me have a better life? The question of whether it’s relevant or not easily lends itself to the idea that Christianity may be relevant in a helpful sort of a way for some, but not necessarily for others. In other words, it may be helpful in the proverbial crutch sort of a way, but only for those who need it to feel better about themselves and their lives. Others may see Christianity as helpful in the way some may see a rabbit’s foot as helpful. The relevance mentality also seems to lend itself to a cafeteria style Christianity where we pick only the parts that seem to be helpful or tasty to us, but without the whole thing we really don’t have the real thing. With all it’s potential pitfalls, however, the relevance question is still an important question, but there is an even better question before we go there which puts it in a better perspective.
In the Alpha Course, Rev. Nikki Gumble, gets to the heart of the matter; the better question is whether it is true or not? C.S. Lewis put it this way: “Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance.” And the truth of Christianity rises or falls with whether Jesus of Nazareth was in fact raised from the dead. The apostle Paul states quite emphatically in 1 Corinthians 15:12-34 that if Christ was not really raised from the dead then their preaching and faith were both in vain and they might as well call the whole thing off, but, he insists, “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead … (v. 20) and because of that fact Christian faith is full of meaning, purpose, and hope, a real living hope. So the most important question is: is it true?
More than likely if I told you the capital of Togo is Lome it probably wouldn’t mean to much to you. “So what?” you might wonder. But if I also told you that it’s a great place to vacation, a place with wonderful beaches and resorts, it might pique your interest a little more, but maybe not. But what if I told you that at some time in the near future Togo would be the only safe place left on earth? Now you may be much more eager to find out where exactly Togo is and how you can get there; but only IF you believe me.
Jesus came preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus and the early apostles did not advertise what might be a nice vacation spot to some; they called people everywhere to repent, a term meaning to turn away from sin and return back to God. The gospel, which means good news, also implies a strong warning. The book of Daniel paints the picture of the kingdoms of the world built on “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:15-16) coming under the condemnation of the righteous wrath of God with only the kingdom of God left standing forever and ever (Daniel 2 & 7). As Revelation 11:15 puts it, “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever” (NRSV).
In Jesus Christ the kingdom has come and one day will come in all its fullness. As 1 John puts it “the world is passing away along with it’s desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (ESV). According to the Bible, according to Jesus himself, there is a day coming when there will be only one safe place left, the kingdom of God and there those who find themselves in Christ will abide forever.
Is this helpful and relevant? Well if it is true of course it is! The question then is do we believe it is true? Do we believe the good news that Jesus proclaimed? And if we believe that it is true how could it only be kind-of-sort-of important to us? How could it not be at the top of our priority list? If someone really doesn’t believe that it’s true then it may be to him or her a good back-up plan just in case, but the God of the Bible has never taken too kindly to being treated as a backup plan for he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and last. In reality He is plan A through Z and everything in between “for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36). Do you believe it is true? Now that’s the better question.
Lee Stroble was an ardent atheist, a Yale law school graduate, a journalist and legal editor for the Chicago Tribune, who was appalled when his wife became a Christian. He thought she had lost her mind; she had, but she found the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11). Her husband thought she needed help. He set out on a journey to accumulate evidence to prove to his wife just how silly Christianity really is. He was an expert in research, but through his efforts to disprove Christianity to his wife he actually became a Christian himself. Why? Because he came to believe that it is true, that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be and that He really was raised from the dead. (Learn more about Lee and checkout his resources here).
Do you believe that Christianity might be helpful or do you believe it is true?
“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans 10:9-10 ESV