I scribbled notes like a madwoman this past Sunday in church. The topic was "Marathon Christianity" and it was from Acts (22:22-23:11 for those interested), just as the sermons have been for the past two years or so. I don't even know why the sermon was so good but I ate up every minute of it.
Point "A" on the outline was: Paul was a marathon Christian because he was morally clean.
- no guilt, totally clear conscience before God and before man.
different bad kinds of consciences:
- "whitewashed wall"... outwardly clean but still dirty underneath that "Christian-y" coat of paint.
- calloused conscience... not sensitive to the things that are sinful because of repeated sin... they just don't even notice it anymore (I always think of coarse language when I think of this one... it's become so common)
- seared conscience... totally confused, twisted conscience, condones evil and views good as bad (like when people get upset at those who speak against gay rights and things because of their "intolerance"... the good... those are viewed as the bad standing up for the truth)
All of this led me to think about how our culture has spiraled from a God-fearing nation to one that totally spurns the things of God and gives a big ol' bear hug to the things He's definitely against. I always considered myself to view things as black and white, good and bad but it's really hard to discern because our culture is so crazy and tricky. It's become perfectly normal to just sort of float along with the culture while not sticking our heads in the "really bad" stuff. Those things I used to say, "Oh no!" to, I now question, "Is that okay?" And it kind of freaks me out that I'm getting desensitized to the things that aren't good. It scares me that I wonder and debate about things. I don't like gray areas. I like things to be black and white. There is so much gray now. It's hard to be bold and stand up for the truth - that's why it's so important to know it!
"B" on the outline was: "Paul was a marathon Christian because he was theologically clear."
In modern culture it saddens me, because there are so many lost people without a clue. So many people just following something they think is right because they don't know the truth and their sense of reason and logic isn't based in the Truth. But with Christians, how are these gray areas to be taken? Why, oh why are we getting caught up in this madness? Why do we say, "Oh that movie is okay... it just has a LITTLE bit of x,y and z"? Why aren't we standing up for the Truth? More personally, why do I do that? Why do I allow myself to be caught up in the lies that have entangled so many before me? It doesn't make sense. Is it because I don't know the truth? Is it because I don't study the Word of God diligently as I should? Is it because my priorities are messed up? What do I believe? Obviously if I'm asking the question I'm saying that I don't know it as well as I ought.
Last point: "Paul was a marathon Christian because he was spiritually close."
Paul got thrown into prison because he had stood up for the truth, making a lot of people mad, a rather discouraging thing for someone who had intended to preach the gospel, not create controversy. But the thing is, he did what he was supposed to do... and God himself came to Paul and encouraged him.
I have this feeling that I won't ever get thrown into prison or persecuted a lot for my faith. I may someday and I'm not afraid of it, but I really don't expect it to happen. But my question was, do I even give myself the opportunity to come under opposition for what I believe? Do I preach the Truth or do I only pray for those that do, thinking that's my part? It's great to pray but if I'm not actually getting my hands dirty, it profits me nothing. Paul was faithful; he stood up for what he KNEW to be right. And his reward was not only a prison cell, but also confirmation that cannot be rocked. He was absolutely assured that what he was doing was right.
When I get to the end of my life I want to say without a shadow of a doubt, as Paul wrote before, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." We can't expect to be able to say that if we aren't willing to be people that will run the race with endurance.