Christian “Spectators” Strange as it may seem many people treat the Christian life as though it were a spectator sport. For some it’s just fun to be in a congregation where you can feel the excitement produced by a fun message with lots of jokes by the preacher, or a noisy band accompanying songs consisting of seven words repeated eleven times. There may even be a skit or an interpretive dance with a good moral message. The churchgoers can then leave feeling good, remembering the third joke the preacher told, but not much else.
Programs vary from church to church and the “spectator Christian” goes from one place to another looking for something that fits in with what he or she wants to hear or experience. Some attendees like the rituals or maybe the organ music that stirs the feelings. Others are looking for something seemingly more “spiritual” where “acting pastors” stage manage “healings” or some other radical show – promising lots of money or answers to prayer for material things if you “give, give, give.” They like it when the pastor smiles as he says, “So glad you came this morning.” To which they reply, “I really enjoyed the message,” while thinking “What was it about?” These spectator Christians really didn’t hear what was said because they were thinking about that project which had to be finished for work on Monday or the game the family needed to hurry home to watch. But they did give a good impression, which was the main reason for “doing” church.
Many of these church programs do not challenge the members to get out of their comfort zone, to repent of slothfulness as Christians and to take up their cross and truly follow the Lord. They simply provide a setting for the attendees to feel good about themselves without giving any meaningful consideration of God.
What is happening that is taking the real spiritual life and participation out of Christian living? I believe we have come to accept as normal the secular society in which we live. Unfortunately the church has also become more and more secularized and is accepting the current trends of a lost world system. This in turn has infiltrated and now dominates our thinking, the way we act and the way we live. While modern technology is helpful in so many different ways, we have allowed the internet, television and other media to educate us into accepting the secular world system as normal. It then re-arranges our thinking and acting as it numbs our minds and cauterizes (sears) our consciences to God’s plan for life and living. Entertainment and self-satisfaction in every part of our lives, including church life, then becomes the norm.
When we follow this secularized mind-set, we end up like Lot who first chose the easier terrain, the well watered valley of Jordan that seemed like the “garden of the Lord … Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom” (Gen. 13:10,12 NASB). He got closer and closer to Sodom and it wasn’t long before Lot was drawn right into the city. We read: “Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)” (2 Pet. 2:7-8). He lost his fellowship with God, his testimony, and no one believed him when he warned them that judgment was about to fall. His family was so contaminated with the life-styles of Sodom that even his two daughters made Lot drunk and had a sinful relationship with him.
It is so easy to get caught up in the society in which we live, with its degrading values. Things we read, see, and hear no longer shock us. We need to separate ourselves like Abram who preferred to live in a tent. He left Lot and moved to Hebron (meaning “fellowship”), faithfully worshipping God. Genesis 13:18 says, “Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD.”
Throughout the pages of Scripture we see that God has been looking for men and women who will step out in faith and follow Him. The Lord Jesus came with the purpose of saving us through His death on the cross, which was a perfect work that made it possible for us not only to be saved, but also to bring us into a relationship with Himself and God our Father. God is still looking for men and women who will follow the Lord Jesus as a way of life and not just as a Sunday religion. The Lord Jesus called men and set a high standard for His disciples to live. “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Lk. 14:26-27). He called His disciples from different walks of life with a diversity of gifts and abilities which He would use as He commissioned them to carry on the work He had begun.
Some Biblical “Players”
There are many examples of the Lord Jesus’ calling men to follow Him because He had a plan and purpose for their lives. Two of John the Baptist’s followers heard John say, “ ‘Behold, the Lamb of God! …’ And Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What do you seek?’ They said to Him, ‘Rabbi, where are You staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see’ ” (Jn. 1:36-39 NASB). They followed the Lord Jesus, stayed with Him that day and then Andrew “found first his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’ He brought him to Jesus” (Jn. 1: 41-42).
In Mark 1:16-18 we read: “[Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men. Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” The Lord called and gave them a better work and a new focus for their lives. They would become “fishers of men.” They were no longer “observers” but “players” in the real game of life.
A tax collector, Matthew, was busy at work when the Lord passed by. “As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ And he got up and followed Him” (Mt. 9:9). The Lord then went to Matthew’s house where he was able to speak to many tax collectors. “Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples” (Mt. 9:10). Matthew opened up the way for the Lord to speak to all these tax collectors and other sinners. Later Matthew wrote the Gospel that bears his name.
The apostle Paul was called in a very unusual way when the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus. “As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And Saul (whose name was later changed to Paul) said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do’” (Acts 9:3-6). Paul was commissioned as a chosen instrument of the Lord to take the Gospel message to Gentiles, kings and the sons of Israel. This was not going to be an easy task as it would be a pathway of suffering, persecution and martyrdom. He was told that the Lord would “Show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). Paul became one of the greatest of the apostles and was used, through his suffering, to pen a large portion of the New Testament. His life shows what God can do with those who are prepared to follow the Lord with all their heart!
The Lord told a parable in Luke 14:16-20 illustrating some of the excuses people make for not coming to Him. They are typical and still in vogue today. One man had bought some land and wanted to look at it. Many times our possessions become more important to us than being involved in serving the Lord. Wealth and possessions become obstacles to living “the life that is truly life.” “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Tim. 6:17-19NIV).
Another man bought five oxen and needed to “test drive” them. He was a farmer and oxen were an important part of his work. But this excuse reminds us that we shouldn’t be so occupied making money that we don’t have time to be fully committed to the Lord. Too often business occupies so much of our time and thinking that we not only neglect our families, but we also become spectators rather than serving the Lord.
The third example was of a man who had just married and for that reason couldn’t come. When we get married both the husband and wife should be of one mind, giving the Lord Jesus the first place in their lives. The harmony the couple has will be reflected by the harmony they each have with the Lord. Being married should never be an excuse for not walking daily with the Lord and serving Him together.
There are real blessings for those who take up their cross to follow the Lord. “Peter said, ‘Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.’ And He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.’” (Lk. 18:28-30 NASB).
We too, today, are called to follow the Lord and to be obedient to Him as He equips and prepares us to serve. He will not call everyone to be overseas missionaries or to be well-known evangelists, but He has a place for each one, using us to carry the gospel to the world. He gives spiritual gifts to every believer and as we work together God will use the diversity of our gifts and abilities, even sometimes using our weaknesses, to manifest His greatness and power.
Don’t be a spectator! Offer yourself to the Lord, then be prepared to do whatever He has for you, wherever He can use you best.
By Ian Taylor
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org