The story is told of a man who walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope and back again, while pushing a wheelbarrow. Upon his successful return the crowd cheered his amazing death-defying act. The daredevil then asked the spectators if they believed he could do it again. With one voice they bellowed their confidence in his ability. He then asked, “Who will get in the wheelbarrow?” The group of onlookers fell silent.
I do not know if this story is true or is merely told for effect, but its point is clear. It is easy to say we believe in something, but it is a very much different thing from acting upon what we say we believe. We have all heard the age old adage “well done is better than well said,” but this link between words and deeds, belief and practice, is a recurring theme in the Bible.
In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus addresses this disconnect between what is said and what is done. “Many will say to me on that day [of Judgment], Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles (Matthew 7:22)?” Jesus replies, “I never knew you, depart from Me,…” The casual reader may ask how Jesus can declare He never knew these who did such wonderful things, but a closer look clarifies the point. They have not done these things; they merely “say” they have done these things. Many on that day who are confronted with the consequences of their actions will try to lie their way into heaven.
You may think it is inconceivable that someone would attempt to lie to God, but people do that very thing every day when they pretend to be something they are not. Surveys claim forty percent of Americans regularly attend religious services. This is because most of those surveyed have a very high opinion of themselves. No one wants to admit to being irreligious, especially in a phone survey when it is so easy to “say” you attend regularly.
The current population of the United States is over 300 million and forty percent of this number is a 120 million. I do not think the churches of America could accommodate 120 million attendees this Sunday, if this Sunday was the one they chose to be “regular.” Of course there are the CEOs (i.e., Christmas and Easter only) who think regular attendance is twice a year. Our church cannot handle the whole 120 million, but we do have some room for more.
Then there are those who will say you do not need to attend church to be a Christian. This raises another issue; the appalling lack of biblical literacy among those who “say” they are Christians. Just yesterday I spoke with a woman who claimed to have read through the Bible “ten times” and she made some of the most outrageous claims about what the Bible teaches that I have ever heard. I know because I read through my Bible every year and knew her claims to be false. Many who claim to be Christians only know what they are spoon fed from the pulpit each Sunday.
You may be asking yourself where is this article going and what is the point? Poor church attendance, biblical illiteracy, and the accompanying hypocrisy are not the problems; they are symptoms. I am not here to whine; I’m here to warn. Don’t lie to yourself and don’t lie to God.
In his book Not a Fan, Kyle Idleman addresses the difference between a fan of Christ and a follower of Christ. There is a difference in cheering from the sideline and being in the game on the playing field. Christianity is more than a religion; it is a relationship with the God of the universe made possible by the sacrifice of His Son. And like any relationship each one in the relationship bears a responsibility in maintaining the relationship.
A mature Christian does not go to church to see what the church can do for him, but to contribute to the cause of Christ and get involved. He does not read the Scriptures to become more knowledgeable, but to be transformed by its truths. He does not pray for his own wants, but prays for the needs of others. He knows a Christian leads by serving.
Are you a fan or a follower? Are you fooling yourself by saying you are something you are not? Are you content with sitting in the grandstand or do you yearn to be on the playing field? Do you merely admire Christ or do you wish to serve Christ? Are you only an observer, a spectator? Because, Christianity is not a spectator sport.