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Faith vs. Convenience

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

Americans are confusing faith with convenience. Many have already turned their backs on religion because it makes them uncomfortable, and those that remain are doing everything they can to make believing as effortless as possible. We hear about plush pews, innovative worship services, and drive-thru communion services. Church is no longer looking like, well, church. The growing sentiment is illustrated by a line that appeared in the Washington Post regarding its search for a new religion editor: “The ideal candidate is not necessarily religious nor an expert in religion.”

We are not the first to confuse faith and convenience. When Jesus was speaking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, he told her he could give her “living water.” He continued saying, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:10-14).

We know the Lord was speaking about the gospel. When the gospel is believed and obeyed, it reaps eternal life. But you can understand this principle only if you are searching for spiritual answers. Unfortunately, the Samaritan woman was not thinking on a spiritual plane when Jesus first encountered her. Notice what she said: “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water” (Jn. 4:15). She wasn’t looking for eternal life at the moment; she wanted Jesus to give her convenience, not faith.

Jesus was able to teach the Samaritan woman that there was more to life than convenience (see Jn. 4:16-30). If he could break through to a woman who had been through five broken marriages and who was about to enter into her sixth, we can make breakthroughs with people today. Don’t be discouraged if at first someone seems to be looking only for convenience. Deep down the soul knows what it needs.

At the same time, the Lord’s church cannot get caught up in the trend of exchanging convenience for faith. There is a vast difference between the two. One seeks comfort here on earth, only to find unrest in the world to come; the other may experience “inconveniences” now, but in the afterlife it rests for eternity. “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Heb. 4:9). Let’s not cheapen it in the name of convenience.

When Convenience Becomes God

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

One thing you can say about Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, is that it has created a dialogue. Since its release last year, America has been buzzing about Global Warming and “going green.” Gore proposes that Americans should spend millions of dollars to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that, according to his science, lead to earth-threatening climate change. (Some of us have trouble accepting these words, since they come from a guy with a $30,000 utility bill.) A host of reputable scientists have surfaced who say Gore is wrong and that the pricetag of his proposals will destroy our nation’s economic security.

Al Gore’s movie may be full of holes, but he was right about one thing: truth is often inconvenient. This is the characteristic of truth that makes so many people run away from it.

Christians felt the pinch truth’s discomfort early on. Consider what was written in The Didache, an ancient Christian document written early in the second century.

Now concerning baptism, baptize as follows: after you have reviewed all these things, baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” in running water. But if you have no running water, then baptize in some other water; and if you are not able to baptize in cold water, then do so in warm. But if you have neither, then pour water on the head three times “in the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit” (emphasis added).

The design of this instruction was to summarize the apostles’ teaching. However, when the writer allowed pouring as a substitute for immersion he departed from the inspired record (Acts 8:38-39; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12).

Why did some of the early Christian leaders alter the truth? It was inconvenient. They predated indoor heated baptisteries, and in certain areas it was difficult, maybe even dangerous, to find enough water for baptism. So they allowed for pouring in extreme cases. But look where this led. Pouring is now the norm in many denominations.

When it comes to the alterations we have made to the New Testament for convenience, the list is long. No aspect of church life has been untouched; worship, morality, organization, and the plan of salvation have all been targeted in the name of convenience.

To be honest, convenience has become a god. Tune your television set to a typical worship program on Sunday morning. Look at what people are wearing. Watch them sip coffee during the lesson. Observe the plush setting. See them swipe a credit card for the offering. Listen to the preacher in his button-down and khaki pants. Americans still want religion, but not if it’s going to make them uncomfortable.

The problem is that, somewhere along the way, truth is going to make us uncomfortable. Too many people have come to the fork in road where convenience diverges from faith and have chosen the path of least resistance. What they haven’t stopped to consider is that resistance inevitably waits at the end of the road of convenience, a resistance that no man can bear (Mt. 7:21-23).