Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
One of the most important, yet seldom considered, issues today, is whether or not the Bible is to be taken seriously. Couched in theological terms, the issue is called biblical authority. The fact is that most people say the Bible should be taken seriously yet deny it when it comes to how they live. "Sure, I believe the Bible!" people say, but the story of their lives is unconvincing.
This is not simply an issue which confronts busy people who want to know how to get ahead in life. It is one which has been all but ignored by vast segments of Christian leadership as well.
And why is this issue really important? Simply put, giving intellectual assent to the issue but denying its application to our lives renders Christianity weak and anemic. It reduces it to a creed which doesn't really have meaning or any significant place in the world of the twenty-first century. Ignoring its mandates, we become like the person who goes to the doctor because he has a headache yet won't take his medicine. Going through the motions, we play church and deceive ourselves, thinking that we are disciples when in reality we are mimics, and not very good ones at that.
Simply put, the greatest danger to Christianity today is not from liberalism or atheism. Nor is it the secular world or new age teaching. The greatest threat rises from those who patently say they believe that what the Bible teaches should be binding on our lives yet all but ignore its constraints and guidance.
The contrast between what people say they believe and how their lives are affected has perhaps never been more glaring and obvious than it is at the present. If you doubt what I am saying take time to look at three contemporary issues: (1) The actual state of morality today; (2) Ethics and integrity in our personal and private lives; and (3) Marriage and family life. Notice that all three issues are addressed very clearly in Scripture. There is no ambiguity, no uncertainty, no confusion as to what God expects of His children. Now, compare the lives of those who say they believe what the Bible says is important with those who all but ignore it.
Frankly, comparing those who fill the pews of churches with those who spend their Sundays shopping or sleeping, reveals very little if any difference. The number of broken homes is not significantly different for Christians than for non-Christians. The majority of people who believe that honesty is important as a Christian virtue rarely make it a standard for their lives. When it comes to drug and alcohol abuse, the statistics are much the same for Christians as for non-Christians. The chiding rebuke of Jesus to His disciples is an indictment of our generation: "Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46).
All of us can feel the prickling finger of conscience at times. Who among us couldn't do better? But is this the real issue? Commitment to the teaching of God's Word has to override our personal desires and wishes, our lusts and likes; and that kind of commitment comes only when we respond to the voice of Him who said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). That commitment comes not of duty but of love. This is the only way that what we say we believe and what we really believe can ever come together. Think about it. It's what the world is looking for.
Resource reading: Luke 9:18-27.