Yesterday we visited the church where my friend Andrew is the pastor. It was a lot of fun for a number of reasons, most significantly, it was my first time hearing Andrew preach (I’m usually there as a guest speaker). And boy, am I glad I was there. The message opened with a doozy:
I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please. Not too much—just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted. I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust. I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture. I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation. I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races—especially if they smell. I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged. I would like about three dollars worth of gospel, please.
Those are the opening words of D.A. Carson’s excellent book, Basics for Believers. And they cut deep, don’t they?
Few of us would openly say this is what we really want—and yet, when you survey the landscape of the North American church, when you look at the individual Christian’s lives (even the “boring” ones)… far too often, it looks like we’re asking for “three dollars worth of gospel, please, but no more.”
We go to work and we fail to live by our convictions. We bounce from event to event, looking for a spiritual high. We dull our consciences into complacency so we don’t risk upsetting the security and safety of the familiar.
But the power of the gospel—and even the power of Carson’s satire—is that the gospel’s call is to so much more than ecstasy, transcendence and “mak[ing] my family secure and my children well behaved…”
Christ’s call to follow Him means one thing:
We give up everything and we follow.
We give up politicking in our jobs and live as men and women with (and of) conviction. We give up searching for the next spiritual high and embrace the everyday discipline of communing with the Lord. We give up the idols of safety and security for the sake of obedience.
“Three dollars of gospel, please, but no more.” Surely we can do better than that, can’t we?