The Christian and His Enemies

Monday: Costly Discipleship

Romans 12:14-16 In this week’s studies we see that the Bible speaks of suffering and persecution as an expected part of the Christian life.
Costly Discipleship

My good friend Michael Scott Horton has written a book called Made in America, in which he examines the impact of American culture on Christianity, especially evangelical Christianity. The impact comes from a variety of cultural sources, he says, but one of these is our consumerism. In America everything is sold, from toothpaste to politicians. And the way it is sold is by appealing to the dreams and desires of the people. Nothing bad is ever faced. Disappointments are ruled out.

This has its effect on Christianity. In order to sell Christianity— and selling it is big business today— anything unpleasant or demanding is suppressed, and the Gospel is commended rather as a cure for failure and low self-esteem, and the path to power. Horton writes, “In consumer religion, Christianity becomes trivialized. Its great mysteries become cheap slogans. Its majestic hymns are traded in for shallow jingles…. And its parishioners, now unashamedly called audiences, have come to expect dazzling testimonies, happy anecdotes, and fail-proof schemes for successful living that will satiate spiritual consumption.”1

How different is biblical Christianity! In the gospels Jesus spoke often of the cost of following after Him in faithful discipleship, without which there is no salvation and no Christianity. What is more—and here the situation becomes even more impossible for today’s marketers of religion—He warned that those who identify with Him would be hated. Instead of being popular and successful, Christians would be hated and rejected, as He was. 

What a way to “sell” Christianity! 

But we must be truthful as God is truthful. Therefore, we must not pretend that the followers of Jesus will always have a smooth path in which to walk or be carried to the skies on “flowery beds of ease.”

“To tell the truth” explains what Paul is doing at the point to which we have come now in Romans 12. He is discussing the application of theology to daily life, and he has said that the underlying principle for this is that Christians are to cease thinking as the world thinks and begin to think as Christians. This has to do with their opinion of themselves, first of all. Instead of having an inflated opinion of ourselves, we are to think of ourselves with sober judgment. It also has to do with others within the fellowship of the church. Instead of thinking of them as inferiors made for our service or as mere objects to be used, we are to see them as members of Christ’s body to whom gifts necessary for the well-being and edification of the church have been dispensed. This is radical thinking, of course, for none of us would respond this way naturally or of ourselves. But the kingdom of God is a radical kingdom, and we who make up the body of believers must bring our worldview in line with that of Scripture. 

1Michael Scott Horton, Made in America: The Shaping of Modern American Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991), 70.

Study Questions
  1. How does American culture influence evangelical Christianity in America?
  2. How does American evangelicalism contrast with Scripture?

Reflection: Have you fallen prey to the world’s way of thinking? Has consumerism influenced your presentation of the Gospel to non-Christians? Can you think of times when you’ve soft-sold Christianity to make it seem more popular? Have you observed churches bringing entertaining elements into their worship, or being less theologically thoughtful in their preaching and teaching in order to appeal to more people?

For Further Study: Download for free and read James Boice’s booklet, “The Cost of Discipleship.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

For Further Study: Developing a Christian mind transforms how we think, and also how we act—including toward those who mistreat us.  Order your copy of James Boice’s study of Romans 12:1-2, Renewing Your Mind in a Mindless World, and receive 20% off the regular price.

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