The apostle Paul told the Romans, “And that, knowing the times, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11). Just a casual observation of people in general living in our current society here in America will reveal a people that at best just dabble in religion. Few really take their religion serious. Certainly, the word “fanatic” would fit those that would strap bombs on and blow themselves up, along with multitudes of innocent people, all in the name of their religion. Though they may be ignorant of the truth of God’s will, it would be hard to argue that they fail to take their religion seriously. Just how many of us would be willing to give our lives in order to faithfully serve God? It really is time for us to do as Paul said, and “awake out of sleep” and start taking our eternal salvation seriously.
The truth is, the single most important thing in one’s entire life should be successfully pleasing God the Father. It is not pleasing one’s spouse. It is not one’s children. It is not earning a living. It is not even one’s health. It is pleasing God! Now before anyone gets upset at these last words, please note that there is no argument that one should do all these things and that they are important. God’s word commands that we do so. Husbands and wives are commanded to love and care for each other (Eph. 5:25; Titus 2:4), putting their needs even before themselves (I Cor. 7:3-5). God’s word commands that we love our children, teach our children and provide for their needs (Eph. 6:4). Paul even wrote, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (I Tim. 5:8). And when it comes to working for a living the word of God commands, “…that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (I Thess. 4:11-12). He also wrote, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread” (II Thess. 4:10-12).
Though it be true that all the above things and more are not only authorized by God, but commanded, neither of them is the single most important thing in your entire life; it is successfully pleasing God. Jesus said, “…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matt. 22:37-38). The sagacious Solomon said, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Again, the words of Jesus, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:35-37).
A concept that needs to be fixed firmly in our minds, if we are to be able to properly put the seriousness into our life for Christ that we should, is the idea of “giving up self”. Just prior to the statement of Jesus quoted above, He said, “…Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Notice He said one must “deny self”. What “I” want, like or think I need has to be set aside for what God’s will actually is, what He has commanded in His word and what ultimately will guide us to eternal life. Those who have truly become the children of God by way of believing the word of God and obeying the commands of that word have already made a covenant with God to deny self. In writing to Christians, the apostle Paul said, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:19-20). To the Romans Paul wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2).
Let’s face it. For many, Christianity is a side-line. It’s something one does when he has nothing else that interferes. The term “playing church” has rightfully been used for many because they just dabble in it, without serious effort. Sometimes it’s playing church by use of some other institution than the one church Jesus built. Either way, the one who is just “playing church” will also have to “play heaven”, for they will miss out on the real heaven. They will not have to “play hell” though, for that will be their eternal home. Think about it and get serious about it!
Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: [email protected]