His children learn that the blessings of walking with Him and
serving far surpass the fancies of this passing world. Christians’
sacrifices can also encourage others toward responsibility.
I reside and pastor in eastern North Carolina. It’s a beautiful
state known for the Outer Banks and its stretches of beach.
Multitudes travel there from the onset of summer to well into
fall. In North Carolina, October temperatures can average
well into the 80s. I am struck each year at the amount of time
Christians spend away from home and their churches to vacation at the beach. Having grown up not far from New Jersey
beaches, I’ve experienced that phenomenon before. I’m not
against vacations or time away. We all need rest, even as Christ
taught the disciples, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted
place and rest a while” (Mark 6: 31). However, as a pastor, I see
that many believers who would reject the entitlement thinking and political philosophies of our day seem willing to apply
those basic premises for their own Christian walk. While
the church is to show compassion, it should never encourage
dependence or irresponsibility.
As believers, we can begin to evaluate our responsibility
by examining how we spend our time and where we invest
our money. It’s cliché but true. Examination helps us evaluate whether our beliefs translate into living (Matt. 16: 24) or
whether our practical philosophy is mere selfishness. The latter
devastates our ability to influence our world for Christ. It’s
more difficult than at first imagined to be honest about evaluating our responsibleness, because our selfish nature ignores
or excuses lax areas. However, if we can think Biblically, we
can advocate and encourage responsibility, not only for good
stewardship but as an evangelistic tool. Through responsible
Christian living and prayer, we will have the opportunity to
share Christ because others have seen us faithful in our duties.
The American mentality—across state lines and economic
classes—is to serve ourselves first. Thomas Jefferson placed in
the Declaration of Independence the phrase, “the pursuit of
happiness,” and Americans have wholeheartedly bought into
that pursuit. In fact, it seems to be an ideal that Americans are
taking to hedonistic extremes.
Why do you attend church? Because of its doctrine and
because you have found a place to serve? Or do you go for
what the church provides you?
Ideally, Christians should be faithful in attendance (Heb.
10: 25), consistent in service (2 Thess. 3: 13), leading quiet and
honorable lives (1 Tim 2:2), honoring God with their offerings
(1 Cor. 16:2, 6, 7), and witnessing (1 Thess. 1: 8). However, it
is difficult to do all this if we skip extended periods of church
life. Scheduling family outings or events that cause us to skip
Sunday services presents a confusing message. First Corinthians 12 reminds believers that the church is a body and that all
members of the body are important. It also teaches us that we
influence the other members of the body. We need to realize
that when we are absent or neglect our ministry, our actions
can hurt the body.
How many times do you skip responsibilities or even refuse
to accept them so you can enjoy life? How many weekends are
you absent from church?
One way to counter that kind of scheduling is to invite visiting family members to church services, rather than planning
to skip church. The choices adults make teach powerful lessons
to children. We should little wonder why some grow to reject
their parents’ Christianity or demonstrate no commitment to
the Lord. Parents, we must consider the lessons taught when
worship becomes a convenience rather than a priority—lessons
such as seeing God not as One to be feared and served (Deut.
6:2; 8: 6), but as a cosmic Santa Claus, there only for the distribution of blessings. Victoria Osteen (co-pastor of Lakewood
Church, Houston, Texas) received criticism for promoting this
“me-centered” religion when she said, “When you come to
church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God
really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes
God happy.” Besides her statement being flat-out heresy, it
is quintessentially the hedonistic view of our age. The reality
is that many Christians think first of their own pleasures or
wants. Rather than being transformed by God’s Word (Rom.
12:1, 2), they are being conformed to this world.
The entitlement mentality, which counters responsibility,
has a pervasive reach, and churches buy into it too. Think of
how many churches cater to people by seeking to offer benefit
after benefit or by marketing free gifts to attract people. Have
we forgotten why the saints gather? Rarely do we hear that
the church is the meeting place of the saints. I know of a
church in Michigan whose sign actually says, “Meeting place
of the Church of. . . .” While believers certainly desire to see
People truly are going to Hell. As Christians, we can’t
simply ignore that reality so we can enjoy our own
lives. Others may pretend there is no God, but we
who know the truth cannot pretend there is no Hell.