Christianity by force
Old Nebby and Christianity by Force
Daniel is one of my favorite books in all of the Bible. I love the stories of faithful Hebrews in the midst of incredible circumstances. We have much to learn from the book about loyalty to God, and remaining faithful to Him.
Remember the story of Nebuchadnezzar and his giant chocolate bunny, or I mean the graven image made of gold? Old Nebby forced everyone into the worship of this idol. Three Hebrew boys were the heroines of the story, who stood strong for the beliefs and refused to worship the image of gold, even with the threat of death by fiery furnace. We know these three Hebrew boys, most popularly as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. A long story short, the boys stay faithful, get thrown into the furnace, and God protects them. They don’t die. Nebby is convinced their God is the true God. It’s a miraculous turn of events!
I’ve never made this association before, so it might be out of left field. So forgive me if you disagree. But think about this:
How often as Christians do we use the same message as Nebby to get adherents to Christianity as Nebby did to get adherent to his religion?
What I mean is, much of what we hear today and have heard for a long time is a forceful sort of worship of God. Much of the way we think about Christianity is that of the type of belief that Nebuchadnezzar proposes to the Hebrew boys was force. “Worship this image, or else, suffer flames.”
Instead of an invitation to new life in Jesus Christ, we make it more about the consequences of not living a life devoted to God. WE invite people under threat: “Worship God, or else!”
What are we communicating about the God we love?
That certainly isn’t the way the boys think about the Lord Almighty, God of Israel.
They see their God worth going into a furnace for, and if he saves them (which they believe him to have the power to do) then great, and if not, they will die faithful.
I suppose that I wouldn’t mind having that type of faith. Instead of viewing God as some sort of fire-insurance, my hope is that I would instead view Him as worth going into the fire for.
We need to help people see what they are missing, and that is a God worth dying for, worthy of our whole devotion.
We spoke in my Sunday School class yesterday about sharing the hope of salvation with others. The hard question came up, “How do we share with people who know all that we stand for, even to the point of agreeing, but they don’t want to change?” I still don’t know that I have an answer to that question. But as I reflect further on this I can’t help but think the effectiveness of the three Hebrew boys by remaining faithful, despite incredible circumstances. Perhaps, that’s all we really have going for us: faithfulness in all circumstances.
Is our faith a matter of fire-insurance, or the hope that even in the midst of the flames, our God is with us?
Let’s consider how we think about our relationship with God. Spiritual development for us must move us from viewing Christianity as fire-insurance, a get out of hell card, to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of Christianity as an initiation to enjoy the new Kingdom life today, made possible in Jesus Christ our King.
In the news cycle today you are going to hear about a guy who posed as a bishop trying to get in with the Cardinals for their meeting about the Pope. I'm not entirely sure as to what he was trying to accomplish. I suppose it was, "Let's see how far I can get until they notice that I don't belong."
There are all kinds of applications for a preacher here. I suppose it's going to hit a sermon-near-you in this weeks sermon.
What gave the guy away was his fedora. I don't know why he wanted to wear one, but he would have gotten a lot further had he not.
I have a point, and here it is: Don't be an imposter. We ought to study Jesus and strive to be like him, not just look the part of being a Christian.
Colossians 3:12 "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."
Paul reminds us of our holy place as a dearly loved and chosen people. We are loved by God and called to wear compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Take time to study Jesus and become like him.
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.