“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” John 4:23
When I listen to much that passes for Gospel preaching these days I get the very clear impression that the Gospel is all about me, my happiness, my comfort, my freedom, and my being delivered from the effects of sin that would send me to Hell. Certainly there is an aspect of the Gospel that is about our being delivered from the punishment due us because of sin. But that is a far cry from the common message that makes being a Christian all about my happiness. I wonder if the American ideal that we are to be free to pursue, “life, liberty, and happiness” has not crept into our understanding of the Gospel. Preachers call people to accept Jesus into their hearts so that they can be forgiven and be assured a place in heaven and so they can experience all the wonderful happiness that life can offer.
The problem is, this is so incredibly short sighted. At best it leaves people thinking that since they have punched their ticket to Heaven and are saved from Hell, then it is just a matter of waiting for that day. At worst it progresses into a theology that says God wants you healthy, wealthy, and full of happiness and if you are not then something is wrong with you. What this completely misses are two major points; it is not about accepting Jesus into your heart. It is about giving Him complete control of your life. And it is not only about what you are saved from. It is about being saved to a life that follows Christ and lives for Him, no matter what.
When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well he made it clear that God was calling people to Him for a purpose. That purpose was to be people who worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth. That is an active thing. It is about giving your life to Jesus and seeking to glorify Him everywhere, everyday. In that sense it is fulfilling our original created purpose. We were made to be stewards of creation and to life in a relationship with God that honored Him. The redemption that we experience in Christ is intended to get us back to that relationship. We are to be people who exercise dominion over the earth and our lives so that God is honored.
Often times that honoring comes most, not in the times of our lives that are sweet and easy and pleasurable, but in the times of hardship and struggle. When the Apostle Paul was in prison in Rome, he wrote a letter to the Philippians. In it he commends them because his imprisonment, rather than making them fearful, has actually encouraged them all the more to share Christ with others. He even commends them for their willingness to endure hardship for the sake of Christ. In that suffering they share in the fellowship of Christ. They count it a sign of their faith and a privilege to suffer for Jesus. How different is that from the so called Gospel preached today that says if you suffer it is because you don’t have enough faith.
We have been saved for a purpose, a life lived in honor of Christ. We are to worship Him with our lives everyday. We are to honor Him with our service. We are to rejoice in all things, even, especially in the midst of hardship. We are to count it all joy when we suffer for His name sake and for the advancement of the Kingdom. That is Provocative Christian Living. It is living out the Gospel in a way that causes people to ask, how can you do that? It causes people to long for a faith like that in their own lives. It rings far more true and is far more powerful than the weak, distorted Gospel they have heard and tried and found wanting.