“Just Enough” Christianity

This blog is driven by a convergence of ideas that produce a specific line of thought which demands expression. It’s why there aren’t regular posts; inspiration isn’t a continuous process for me.

This time the trigger came on the heels of preparing for Sunday morning Bible class (the topic of study was Acts 20, the riot in Ephesus). I read an article by Wes McAdams, who has a blog called Radically Christian.com. The specific post can be found here. It touches on something I’ve had rolling around in my mind for some time.

In Acts 20, Paul has spent a couple of years or so in the city of Ephesus, and the Gospel has had a major impact not only in the city proper but in the surrounding region as well. In the ancient world, Ephesus was a famous town, primarily for one reason. It was the home to the temple of Artemis of the Ephesians, a deity whose statue was reported to have fallen from the sky. The temple itself was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The Gospel’s success didn’t make everyone happy. The Bible introduces us to Demetrius, a silversmith whose livelihood depends on people worshipping Artemis and buying his silver statues. He’s upset over Paul’s preaching. The reason: it’s cutting into his business. In fact, he’s afraid it will kill his business completely. He only seems to care about the goddess because she provides him with a livelihood. In response, he and his craftsman start a riot in town that eventually has the whole city in an uproar.

Demetrius didn’t object to Paul’s preaching until it began to adversely affect the economy. It’s apparent he no more believed in a false god than he did the true one. The false one just put bread on the table. His was a religion of convenience. It didn’t make radical demands on his lifestyle, but it made him a rich man.

The same attitude can be seen in some who call themselves believers in Christ. It can be summed up in a quote I first saw in J.B. Phillips’ book Your God Is Too Small:

10 cents of God Please”…

I’ll have ten cents worth of God, please.

I want enough to get a taste, to actually have Him, but not so much that it costs me much.

I don’t want to get distracted from the things that I really want.

I don’t want to be consumed by a huge dose of God.

I want the warmth of a womb, not a new birth.

I want enough to feel pretty good about myself, enough to make my life respectable and manageable–enough to get me through the pearly gates. ~ I’ll have ten cents worth of God, please….

When we have a “just enough” faith, we search the Scriptures for rules and loopholes. If “Is this wrong?” is the only question we ever ask about particular behaviors or activities, it’s a sign of a “ten cents worth of God” faith. We want the security and the blessings but not the restrictions that keep us from living our lives the way we want. It comes from limiting our view of God to Love without Justice and Blessing without Responsibility. It is God made in our own image.

What we need is a Biblical view of God. The Bible is God’s portrait of Himself to mankind. It shows us God as loving Creator, God as Holy Judge, God as Almighty Savior. Our view of God has been diminished because we have been deceived into believing two lies: we are all basically good moral people, and; God doesn’t care how we choose to seek Him, just that we do. God just wants to love us and make us happy.

When we read, and I mean really read, digest, meditate upon, and pray over what Scripture says about God and man, we develop a very different attitude. When we realize how holy God is, and how hopelessly sinful and lost we are, we begin to understand the magnitude of what He has done for us through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ. He chose to provide the one avenue that can bring us back into a relationship with Him. Unless we know God, not just know about Him, we will never get beyond a “just enough” faith. We will never enjoy an intimate relationship with God or Christ.

When you move from “is it wrong?” rules and regulations religion to an intimate relationship with the Creator, it is no longer about me and what I can do and can’t do. It is about what God has done for me, and how do I respond to that. When you’re in love  you literally do anything for that person. Nothing is too much because of your love for them. You don’t think in terms of “just enough”; love makes you extravagant.

But that’s the way we treat God; we give Him “just enough” and then expect Him to forgive us and keep the blessings flowing. God doesn’t care as much about our happiness as He does our holiness. We overlook, ignore, or rationalize away God telling us to be Holy because He’s Holy. Christ can’t really expect us to surrender our lives to Him, empty ourselves, take up our Cross, and follow Him. God tells us to be holy because it is the only way we can approach Him. Jesus makes His conditions for discipleship because He already traveled the road He wants us to walk. It’s the only way home. We surrender out of love for what Jesus did for us, then empty ourselves and let God make us Holy.

The apostle Paul gets a lot of criticism these days because he is so politically incorrect.But he was a man who knew about the love of God and Jesus Christ, and he considered himself the slave (bondservant) of Christ- one who had no rights to himself whatsoever. But he was a man who was captured by the love of God. “Just enough” never cut it with him; this is what he wrote in I Corinthians 6:19, 20.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.