His Without Reserve
Christian Life

Convenience Christianity

          Harry, a carpenter, pulls his phone from his pocket and dials the local building supply store. “Joe, I need more nails for the Oakwood Avenue job. Eight pounds of number 8 commons and three pounds of number 6 masonry nails. I want to pick them up tomorrow morning.”

          When he returns to the job from the store the next day and opens the boxes, , he finds 11 pounds of number 8 commons and no masonry nails. “Why couldn’t they get it right?” he mutters, thinking of the time he’ll lose getting those masonry nails.

          Calming himself, he phones the store very upset. The clerk explains: “The masonry nails are out back in our other building. We don’t get a call for them very often. There’s a lot other stuff piled on top of them. They’re hard to get at. So I gave you more of your other item instead.”

          In the building business such a transaction would be unthinkable: ordering two items and getting more of one and none of the other.

          In God’s experience with His people, this happens all the time. He orders us to obey Him in specific ways, but we chose to modify the orders for the sake of convenience. Then, in order to make everything come out even, we compensate by increasing our efforts along one line of service while omitting an essential line of service altogether. We choose what is easy and convenient. It’s just that simple.

          Our motives for carrying out God’s instructions are not “pure and undefiled” (James 1:27). They are adulterated by our sin-besmirched tendencies, desires, and purposes, to say nothing of our ideas about how things should be done. We exhibit willingness to work for Him, but we know better how the service should be performed.

          In some cases the call to self-sacrifice for the good of the kingdom is muted by our social status. We so easily forget that in the kingdom of this world we may rank near the top, but in the kingdom of heaven there is no such thing as rank. All are servants. Those who accept Christ as their model will avoid using convenience as a factor in obeying or not obeying the King.

          Of course, God remembers that He gave His sons and daughters various spiritual skills to use in Christian service. Some of us are gifted in working with people; some are most effective working alone. Some are fitted for teaching; others excel in hospitality. But in employing these gifts in a congregation, as the body of Christ, we must consciously see to it that no Bible-taught service for God or mankind is being neglected for lack of self-denial.

When Two Religionists Failed a Test

          Such unreserved obedience to God was terribly lacking in Jesus’ time. Obedience, yes. Self-denying obedience, no. He found that the traditions of the scribes and Pharisees had produced a lop-sided obedience to God’s commands. In His account of a traveler on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho who was accosted by robbers, He laid bare how their rules about defilement took precedence over compassion.

          First a priest, then later a Levite, came upon the half-dead man in the roadway, considered what to do, then did nothing. Both were religious professionals (Levites were entrusted with the care and services of the temple). For both, caring for the seriously injured man presented both a personal danger from robbers and a very inconvenient duty. So they “passed by on the other side.”

          The helpless man’s life was saved by a foreigner, one despised by most of Jesus’ listeners. No doubt the Samaritan also found that tending to the man’s wounds “inconvenient,” but his compassion would not let him ignore this call of God.

          In situations like that Judean episode, the Holy Spirit activates three primary Christian virtues: love for others, compassion, and self-denial. Together these characteristics of Christ control our decisions about what action to take. When the Christian responds to the situation as Christ would, he displays “the beauty of holiness.” Holiness is devotion to God, that is, choosing His will and making a full surrender of our own will. It is the candlestick in which the believer places the candles of love for others, compassion and self-denial.

          The priest and the Levite allowed the inconvenience of the wounded man’s situation to cover their candlestick, their light (Matt. 5:14-16). For them the action prompted by love, compassion, and self-denial to minister to a person in critical need was, well, inconvenient. Their call to the Christlike virtue of self-denial faded away in order to eliminate their discomfort. They mumbled, “I don’t want to get involved.” This selfish assertion of their own wills placed them out of harmony with the will of God–the very God they claimed to worship.

          As you and I face the daunting challenge of human need, the Holy Spirit energizes our gift of self-denial. He lights our way toward acts of noble, selfless service. Our threefold light, seen by others, magnifies the kingdom and glorifies our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).