Note: Several years ago I was heavily involved with running a bulletin board and BBS networks. As a sysop and user, I often found myself bringing up Christian concerns. That was probably what prompted one person to ask me to write a column for his electronic magazine. These are some of the pieces that were published in it.
When Frank first asked me to do a Christian column, my first response
After that I began to ponder, "Does he know what he's asking?" I asked and he simply said I'd be the one to accept the criticism for anything that I said, that all flames from non-Christians would be directed toward me. Now, I'm not the controversial type, <grin> but that gave me the idea for this first one.
When Jesus described some of the things one must do to be a disciple (or Christian), he used a business illustration and asked, "Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build, and was not able to finish.'" Luke 14:28
This verse is surrounded by other illustrations that make the point that being a Christian is not the easy way out. In order to be a Christian and to endure the hardships that go along with being a disciple, one must be committed to the task. Of course, we can't foresee all the possible problems in the process no more than a tower-builder can know the weather from day to day. "Planning" for our Christian life was not the reason Jesus gave us this warning. His warning was that disciples must forsake everything and that we need to realize this "cost" before making the decision.
Unfortunately, this is not the kind of Christianity that we see in the world today, and as a result this is not the perception that many have of being a Christian. The concept of Christianity and the image of becoming a Christian that we see in most churches is something that supports the organized church. In most cases, the image of becoming a Christian involves "walking down an aisle, to the front of a church and professing Christ". In other words, if you are willing to "say" you're a Christian and do that in front of a lot of people; people sympathetic with the church nonetheless, then you are a disciple. That's not the biblical concept.
In the New Testament, decisions and baptisms were public, in the midst of a world mostly antagonistic toward Jesus. When you made a decision, everyone knew. They weren't in relatively hidden comfort of the local church. Following the decision, 1st century Christians had to endure the criticism of others in the organized religious establishment, the ridicule of the self-seeking sinners and the persecution of the government. Today, they are persecuted by the self-righteous for ministering to the unloved, and the unrighteous for their faith in something beside the world.
This aisle-walking Christian and the cost-counting Christian have some resemblances, but the basic difference is in the enduring nature of the disciple. To the aisle-walker, the most difficult part of the trip is over when you reach the front of the church and make your profession. To the cost-counter the journey has just begun. The journey isn't over until you have endured to the end, having fought the fight and kept the faith.
The aisle-walking Christian also has his identification minimized by moving the focus from Christ to the church. Their function is not to tell others about Christ, but to invite them to church so the preacher can preach. Even yard-signs display this attitude ("I Love My Church") where their focus is placed on the church rather than Jesus Christ. These are not Christians, disciples of Christ. These are Churchians.
I wore one of my radical Christian T-shirts yesterday that has "I'm Narrow minded" in big bright orange letters and to many I AM considered narrow minded. It's not that I like criticism. There is no grace in just being dis-liked. Instead, I believe all Christians need to keep in mind Jesus saying, "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
Our focus as Christians must be to acknowledge Jesus as Lord in everything and make Him Lord in our lives. We can only do that when we are constantly seeking to know His will for our lives and what it means to be one of Jesus' disciples. Jesus said, "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven."