It can be easy to chicken out as a Christian. Or at least to chicken out from the difficult bits or the bits we do not like. Such as when God says “go therefore and make disciples” and we say “send someone else for that is not my gift.” Or the Lord says “you will be my witnesses” and we say “I love witnessing your goodness, but for goodness sake, don’t ask me to take the witness stand.” Or the Lord says “keep in step with the Spirit,” and we wince when we realize this will put us out of step with the people around us. It is easy to chicken out of the difficult bits of Christianity, which in our society means we tend to be chickens when it comes to evangelism and sticking to Biblical ethics. We would rather be chickens than those kinds of Christians.
We have good news, there is an entire book of the Bible written for people who would potentially chicken out. God’s people had been rescued from Egypt but had spent the last forty years wandering in the desert. They were not yet in the land promised to their forefathers by God, but they were close. All that needed to happen now was to go in an take the land, but therein lies the problem. What if they encountered resistance? What if there were giants in the land? They had faced this situation before, and had chickened out. So here they are again. Will they chicken out this time? Perhaps they might have been wondering “Wouldn’t it be easier if we go into the land but just blend in, adding our Lord to their gods?” History would reveal that despite a good start such blending in fact later happened. The temptation to blend-in is not peculiar to us today.
This time around Moses takes the time to preach a series of sermons for their encouragement. This series has come down to us as the Book of Deuteronomy which begins with a bit of a history lesson and a call to Covenant. But in chapter four verse thirty-two there is a shift in tone, and a question, actually a series of questions:
32 For ask now about former ages, long before your own, ever since the day that God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of heaven to the other:has anything so great as this ever happened or has its like ever been heard of? 33 Has any people ever heard the voice of a god speaking out of a fire, as you have heard, and lived? 34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by terrifying displays of power, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? (Deuteronomy 4:32-34 NRSV)
There are three questions here which can be summed up under one question: “Do you really understand just how awesome this really is?” Standing beside the promised land they know how scary a thing it is. But they need a reminder how amazing a thing it is. Notice that they are to think back as far as possible, back to the creation of humanity, and to think as widely as possible, to all lands and peoples: “Has anything so great as this ever happened or has its like ever been heard of?” The answer was of course “no.” So don’t be scared, be thrilled!
35 To you it was shown so that you would acknowledge that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. 36 From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, while you heard his words coming out of the fire. 37 And because he loved your ancestors, he chose their descendants after them. He brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, 38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, giving you their land for a possession, as it is still today. 39 So acknowledge today and take to heart that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. (Deuteronomy 4:35-39 NRSV)
Moses encourages the people to not chicken out but be thrilled by the opportunity to serve the living God, the only Creator God who has revealed Himself to them, and Who will work out His purposes through them.
Moses asks the people “Do you really get it, do you understand just how awesome this really is?” We can ask the same question when we are tempted to chicken out as Jesus followers. Sometimes we need to stop and remember just how awesome it really is to know Jesus. Sometimes our failure to be thrilled as Christians comes from a failure to grasp the enormity of:
- the greatness of God
- the incredible joy of eternity spent with God
- the dire horribleness of eternity spent without God
- the gravity of our sin
- the depth of God’s love in Jesus
- the incredible fantastic opportunity before us in Jesus to repent from our sin and turn to God and experience grace.
- the wonders and delights of God’s Kingdom marked by justice and love.
Sometimes we fail to have any passion over such things and instead demurely mention something like “I go to church because religion can be good for you.” Actually religion can be bad for you, particularly when it keeps you from the truth. And here is one area where we tend to chicken out. When the topic of different religions comes up we take the easy road of comparing them all to Christianity as if we are comparing apples to oranges, or worse, McIntosh apples to Granny Smith apples. We tend to want to make them all the same somehow. The problem with comparing religions as if we are comparing apples to apples or apples to oranges is that it comes down to personal taste or where you were brought up. It needs instead to be about the truth. If what the Bible teaches is true – if the central affirmation of Christianity, that Jesus is Lord is fact – if God’s salvation of sinners through grace is real – then comparing other religions to such truth is not comparing apples to oranges, but rather comparing dust to the sun. Do we really get that? Do we really understand just how awesome the truth of God’s love really is? When we get it we are more likely to step up to the plate in following Jesus than to chicken out. We will think more about Jesus. We will talk more about Jesus. We will think more of Jesus. We will walk more with Jesus. We will live more for Jesus. Martyrs throughout history and throughout the world today have and are showing us how to follow Jesus with courage. Those who give their lives for Jesus know just how awesome He really is. Do you?
photo credit: “As a matter of fact, I do mind if you take my picture.” via photopin (license)