1 Timothy 1:18, 19 Timothy, my child, I entrust you with this command in keeping with the previous prophecies about you, so that by them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and thereby shipwrecked their faith.
We had a heartfelt discussion at CRF recently. It was in regard to the large number of students which have left the faith.
Before I go very far in this blog, allow me to state, that most of the students we are speaking of would still claim to be Christians. They like Jesus. They just don’t trust him in areas where they have opinions disagreeing with Him. The people who leave the faith do so in stages of disobedience: one disagreement after another. These steps to rebellion are the same for teenagers as they have always been: popularity, relationships, acceptance, independence or a sense of adulting without my need of my parents' religion. The problem may be that we have a generation of young persons, not searching for answers to the biggest questions. They instead, are looking for an answer which suits them today.
Kids who made professions of faith at a VBS in a desire to live in heaven or to get the free prize, have begun to search for life through personal idols. Sex. Greed. Personal recognition. Rightness. Comfort. Convenience. Entitlement. Their faith is idolatry. Their god is their wants in this moment.
Get ready. I'm about to become offensive.
The students leaving the faith of their parents, have learned from a generation, that faith is somehow about happiness, popularity, worship styles and right versus left. In the meantime, the fastest growing underground church movement is in Iran. Faith there doesn’t mean being able to attend church occasionally to get a little Jesus. It is not confused with the belief that sex with my girlfriend is okay, or that I can take whatever I feel uncomfortable about in faith and toss it out as an option.
I have witnessed as people who are believers on two sides of an issue contend against each other as if the other side is the enemy. Please hear this. The enemy wants for us to vilify anyone who does not completely agree with us. That is not from God. It is from our one truest enemy. When we create adversaries from within the body of Christ, we self-determine sin from righteousness. We become our own gods. We have destroyed the fabric of the body in our desperate need to be well thought of.
The cost of this form of faith is calculated in church splits, pastoral exodus, religious elitism and the highest percentage ever of departing youths from faith. In Iran, faith is defined by suffering, boldness and death. In our culture it is marked by prayerlessness, opinion, and dissension. What’s not to love?
If “believers” cannot pray their way to agreement, if we cannot demonstrate grace for our brothers and sisters with whom we disagree, if we are unable to put aside our sense of entitlement long enough to pray toward a resolve or course of action, I fear we have taught our children the most memorable lesson: God cannot heal, restore or redeem our differences. We have demonstrated to our kids a faith that ultimately names us as god. No wonder they believe that christianity is whatever they want it to be.
A faith which endures comes at the hand of passion created by pain, tension and suffering. The underground Iranian church members have one exit option. It is death. I wonder what we can learn from them. Would we give to the Lord something which cost us nothing? When it comes to disagreement, we do. We do not sacrifice for the sake of the body. We seldom consider other’s ideas as more valuable than our own. We do not need God’s grace when we claim we are always right. God’s Word says this.
Philippians 2:1-3 Therefore if you have any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being united in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
God help us to avoid demonstrating a faith which points, argues and vilifies other believers. Send us a Clement who is willing to contend with the factoring parts toward their getting along. Agreement is found in Christ. Sacrifice is found in Christ. Students who have seen a real Christ will offer their utmost for His highest.