I had the privilege of speaking to a group of high school students yesterday and after taking the stage, I began with a simple series of questions. I felt as though the Lord had laid them on my heart to ask myself, then those students. And now I’m asking you the same questions (addressing Christians):
Have you been introduced to Jesus or just to church and church activities?
Are you in love with Jesus or are you in love with Jesus-y kinds of things?
Do you love Jesus or do you love singing worship songs about Him?
Is it Jesus that has made the difference in your life, or just your Christian friends?
I believe that Christians can be guilty of confusing these things. We use Jesus and Jesus-ish activities interchangeably. And while each of the things listed above have their place in the Christian’s life, we can receive a fair warning from the words spoken to the church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2:
2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.’
I’ve been to a firing range a few times. I’m not a great shot, but I can surely hit a paper target (not necessarily the bulls eye every time, but the paper target for sure). I’ve stood in that stall, ear protection on, with a handgun raised toward the target and squeezed the trigger. BANG. Missed. A little to the left. Squeeze again. BANG. A little more to the left. I wouldn’t retrieve the paper target, take it back to the front counter and complain that the target isn’t working. I wouldn’t even complain that my gun isn’t aiming correctly. I WOULD adjust MY aim. I squeeze another round. BANG. Bullseye.
I periodically hear statistics of Christian young people graduating high school, heading off to college, and in short order abandoning their faith in Christ. Some wild-haired philosophy professor tells them they’ve been lied to, to forget everything they’ve been taught since its all illusory, then throws some questions at them, introduces doubt mixed in with thoughts their young minds haven’t thought before, and wham-bam: “I’m an atheist now.”
Really?!? We’re losing young people to “intellectuals” at some university who say “it isn’t so”, which means it isn’t so? Not at all. We’re losing those young people because we’re not teaching them what to aim at. We’re erroneously equating activity with affection, busyness with fruitfulness, and niceness with Christ-likeness. I’m not saying attendance to worship services isn’t important, or that worship music isn’t helpful in our spiritual walk, or that being nice is overrated. I’m not an idiot. I AM saying that we need to remember where the bulls eye is or better yet: WHO the bulls eye is.
I refuse to be a pastor who doesn’t want to rock the boat by not asking the piercing questions like the ones listed above. I believe that each of those questions that were asked yesterday to those students will stick with many of them; introducing them to a wrestle with God and their own hearts that will ultimately bring them to the next step in their faith journey with Jesus. That they wouldn’t consider themselves “Christians” or “disciples” simply because they hang around with like-minded “Christian” friends, or that they are followers of Jesus because they’re followers of Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, or David Crowder, or that their salvation is secure because they show up somewhere and listen to someone talk from the Bible and about God for a little while.
That every student God allows my life the privilege of touching would find that when it all comes down, it really all comes down to their “first love” being Jesus Christ.