Today we’ll be talking about comfortable christianity. Wait, is there such a thing?!
I definitely used to think so. Or maybe I didn’t actually think about it…but I definitely lived like it. You know what I’m talking about- going to church and reading the bible, praying, claiming certain parts of the bible, but avoiding certain parts of the bible and not actually letting the uncomfortable parts of the gospel penetrate into my life.
In my time with God in the last weeks- even months actually- there has been a theme in my personal journey. No matter where I’m reading, what I’m learning or listening to or praying about, I’ve found a consistent challenge impressed on my heart: The challenge to get out of my comfort zone. The challenge to get uncomfortable. I’ve been figuring out that comfortable christianity is an oxymoron. It can’t exist in true discipleship.
I know it’s tempting to justify comfort over discipline. It often happens in seasons where we get too busy, struggle with insecurity or insufficiency, feel self pity, or start letting the message of “you time” penetrate in from our culture. I totally get it. Like I said, I’ve been there myself.
But comfort can become an idol. We can start to love comfort more than we love God.
There’s a few things I’ve been reflecting on that can effect our spiritual life. Some signs that we might be stuck in “comfort zone christianity” and in need of some renewing. The points coming up in this post aren’t meant to be discouraging…in fact, I’d love for the opposite! I hope to challenge you to pray over this list and ask God to search you. Guilt and shame shouldn’t burden us down and cause defeat. He brings truth and life with grace and love. So allow Him to work in your heart like I’ve been asking him to work in mine, and let it bring life back into your walk with Christ!
Five Signs That I Might Be A “Comfort-Zone” Christian:
1. I don’t like change. I don’t like being challenged in my faith.
I once heard this quote about change: “Some things shouldn’t change, other things must change, and others will inevitably change.”
What was meant by that? Well, long story short, we’re called as Christ’s disciples to be consistent, constant, and steadfast. Persevering in faith and truth through both good times and bad times. In other words, we shouldn’t change “with the shifting shadows” and let anything and everything sway us. On the other hand, we’re supposed to grow and mature…in other words change more into the image of Christ each day. When the Holy Spirit begins his work in us, we transform (change!) more into the image of Christ as he works to make our attitudes and dreams and desires and everything else about us more like Jesus. That’s change that must happen. Then there’s also things in life that just change naturally as a result of many factors, not always in our control. Jobs change, babies “happen”, sickness and trials come, the culture around us shifts, and even relationships can change. These types of changes will inevitably happen.
What’s my point with all of this?? Well, I wanted to clarify that while some changes shouldn’t happen or will just inevitably happen, there are also changes that we need to be an active part of making, simply because God calls us to make them.
There’s absolutely no getting around the fact that God wants to change us from inside out. It’s not always comfortable, in fact, it rarely is. Being refined and renewed can be a painful process. It’s often even referred to as pruning in the Bible. In John 15 we read, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Like I wrote in a previous post, God’s grace isn’t just a spiritual hug that says “I’m sorry you’re struggling and tripping through your spiritual walk.” No, His grace is so much more. It’s a hug that picks us up and lifts us out of our rut and says “I love you too much to leave you there. Let’s change some things and get you back on the track.” His grace is His perfect provision that is sufficient for every situation in life, including the difficult changes that need to be made.
If you’re constantly resisting change, changes that are for your good or for the good of God’s Church, it might be a good time to reflect on this. If you’re having a tough time remembering the last time you felt challenged in your faith or convicted to make a change, now is the perfect time to bring this before your Heavenly Father and ask Him to start pruning.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new (changed!) in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created into the image of God in true righteousness and holiness” Ephesians 4:22-24
2. I’m content being a hearer…not so much a doer.
I think there’s nothing Satan loves more than tricking people into believing that they’re Christians because they go to Church every week. But is it possible to be simply a benchwarmer? Absolutely. Being at Church doesn’t make you a christian any more than being at a gym makes you fit…you have to actually use your muscles to get in shape. The same goes for christianity. If you’re not using your “spiritual muscles”, how will you actually grow?
James 1:22-25 says, “Don’t merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it- not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it- they will be blessed in what they do.”
There’s a whole lot of commands in the Bible- it can be overwhelming at times! But the hard reality is that we aren’t given an option to pick and choose what we want to do. It’s not a buffet of options to select what we like and avoid what we dislike. And please hear me once again when I say that I’m not saying this from a pedestal…I was so guilty of this myself. God totally called me out on it.
It’s not an instant change that happens, it’s a process of surrendering and allowing God to take over comfortable areas in my life and make them uncomfortable. I was too comfortable with finding security in money. He put his finger on that and I was forced to start relying on him. I was too comfortable with only sharing my faith with people who I determined to be “ready” to hear it. He put his finger on that and I was forced to start taking his lead even when I felt totally awkward. I was too comfortable with being a Sunday Christian and having the rest of my week look not that much different than any other person. He put his finger on that and I was forced to radically change my habits and desires in a way that lined up with Scripture. I could go on and on, but I hope you get the point I’m trying to make: It’s not enough to go to Church and listen and say, “wow, great message.” It’s not enough to go to Church simply to be “encouraged”. It’s not enough to read the Bible but walk away unchanged. We can’t assume that we’re “exercising” and growing just because we hear truth, know the bible, and have good doctrine. We’re called to radical discipleship, and that means walking away from comfortable christianity.
3. I’ll let someone else do the heavy lifting, I don’t want to sweat.
This one sort of expands the vision to include the greater body of Christ…not just you or I individually. The question to ask here is, “Am I willing to roll up my sleeves to do the real kingdom work and break a sweat in the process?”
A sermon I listened to a few weeks ago by Pastor Eric Ludy touched on this very thought. He gave the analogy of a big Church moving event, and the five types of responses people have. I had to think about this for myself too, but as you’re reading through, which one are you?
- Hearers and talkers: These individuals hear about the move and talk about it all week long. They chat with others about how great it is that we’re doing it…but then they don’t show up.
- Hearers but not doers: These are the people who show up on moving day but then watch everyone else do the work. You’ll find them grabbing a coffee and chatting with others. They find every possible way to avoid the actual work because they’re afraid of breaking a sweat. They think that because they showed up they’re “moving”, but they’re not actually exercising what they’ve been taught.
- Doing with excuses: These individuals show up on moving day but spend the whole time feeling like they should be praised for coming. They’re busy with kids, jobs, victims of something in the past, crazy busy….Long story short, Jesus doesn’t want our excuses. He has the power to give us the strength we need to work at the highest possible power needed for this spiritual work.
- Doers but light lifters: These people are helping, but they seem to shy away and want someone else to cast the vision for the big stuff. They’re never “the right person” for the job. There’s always someone better to do the heavy lifting.
- The heavy lifting crew: These are the ones who recognize that they have the authority and power of Jesus Christ in them and can say, “let’s do this. Give me what you’ve got, I can handle it.” What if each of us showed up like this? I think the body of Christ as a whole would be changing the world.
I think in a lot of ways this point is about priorities. Doing Kingdom work doesn’t mean that family or marriage or work or friends or rest are ignored. Rather, it means that the highest priority is the work that God calls us to. It totally means sometimes sacrificing “me time” or hobbies or TV or sleep for the sake of The Kingdom. If that’s not the opposite of comfortable christianity then I don’t know what is!!
Matthew 16:24-26 Jesus tells his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself and pick up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to keep his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What will it benefit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul?”
4. I think living according to all scripture is extreme.
This point makes me cringe because, once again, I used to be that person. One of the big areas I could specifically mention is sanctification. It was a super misunderstood area of christianity for me, and because it was such a radical concept I’d almost say I rejected it. I would get into arguments with others about how it was “impossible” and just totally didn’t make sense on a practical level. I’m not going to get into that specifically here because you could refer back to my post on sanctification, but my point is that it’s easy for Satan to convince us that totally sold-out discipleship is too extreme.
Have you ever read about or heard stories about historical heroes of the faith? People like Jim and Elizabeth Elliot, Gladys Aylward, Corrie Ten Boom, Catherine Booth, John Wesley, William Wilberforce, George Mueller. Not to mention heroes of faith in the Bible… Are all of these people just exceptions? Are they the “special few” who are able to live out their faith in a radical way?
I don’t think these people were perfect. In fact, they’d probably be the first to admit that they weren’t. So what made them so special? What drove them to live their lives totally sold out for Christ? I believe it was a fully surrendered heart. The willingness to submit. There are things that seem totally impossible in our human understanding. Having joy during heartache, peace in the midst of trial, strength to keep going when there’s no energy left, hope in something that you can’t see or touch, the drive to advocate and seek justice for others when the world doesn’t seem to agree…These are things that only God can supply.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and used for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God can be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16+17
So I guess the question once again becomes, do I put limits on which scripture I’ll live according to? Do I choose to focus and highlight certain areas of scripture but avoid others? That brings me to the next point…
5. I keeps certain truths at bay- in case they completely change the way I live.
You can probably think of examples for this. What about seeking justice for the vulnerable. Outreach to the oppressed. Evangelism. Accountability and admonishment. Biblical discipleship. Generosity. Humility. Sanctity of life. Sanctification… aren’t these all truths or commands that we can tend to have trouble facing? Maybe even avoid altogether?
There’s different reasons that we avoid things. Sometimes it’s apathy or denial, but I think more often it’s fear. Fear of not doing good enough. Fear of trying and failing. Fear of the unknown. Fear of discomfort. Fear of change.
These are valid reasons to be afraid. I’ve struggled (and still struggle!) with some of these and I’m sure you have too. But is fear a valid excuse to keep these truths at an arms length?
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18
I would say that based on what we can read about fear in the Bible, God doesn’t think so. He wants to remind our hearts to trust in Him, step out of our comfort zone, and have courage to face the uncomfortable.
Five challenging thoughts, hey?
I think that when we make the choice to step out of comfortable christianity, we’re choosing to say, “I give up the rights to my life.” Instead of giving God our “10%” and holding onto the other 90%, we give Him our 100% and say “do what you will.”
Wait…full submission to someone else?? Relinquishing full control?? Sounds crazy, I know. I think our culture has taught us that comfort is an inalienable right. Maybe we’ve even bought into the lie that comfort and physical flourishing is part of the gospel. But the truth is, it’s not. Instead, we’re called to an uncomfortable life where we’re supplied the grace to still have joy without the “comforts” we’ve given up our rights to.
In Colossians 3 we read, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honour at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your life is now hidden in Christ.”
Christ literally gave His all for us. Christ also calls us to give up our all to him in return. The Greek word huperkanta (sorry I probably spelled it wrong) in the Bible directly translated means “wealth, goods, fortune, inheritance”. But these “goods” don’t just include worldly possessions as Christians. It includes anything transferable: time, energy, talents, gifts, strength, money, possessions…all of it. When I enter into Christ and HIS all, I’m also asked to bring my all to be used at his disposal.
My prayer for both of us is that we walk into tomorrow with a fresh outlook. A new conviction to step out of comfort and into an uncomfortable, but beautiful life with Christ. May our hearts and minds and prayers be bent to the things of God’s Kingdom as a result! “Father, bruise me with what bruises you. Burden me with what burdens you. Break my heart with what breaks yours. Bend my ear to what yours hear. Turn my eyes to what yours see. Give me love for the things you love. Commission me with your purpose.”
Have a blessed week, friends!
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