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Monday, May 19, 2014

Couch Christians

Luke 9:23-24, genuine Christianity, carrying our cross and following Christ
Like me, most of you reading this devotion have never been persecuted for your faith, arrested for owning a Bible, or beaten for attending church. 

Things we call necessities like regular meals, a warm bath, and a comfortable pair of shoes are luxuries to the majority of the world. 

You and I live with such high standards that we begin to think we deserve comfort and wealth. And we think we're denying ourselves if we miss a movie night to go to a Bible study.

It's easy for us to misunderstand the meaning of passages like Luke 9:23-26 that tell us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily.

We've become what I call "Couch Christians"-- willing to do the easy things for Christ, but convinced that nothing more is required of us.
  • Few Christians are denying themselves in the area of charitable giving: "Christians are only giving at 2.5 percent per capita, while during the Great Depression they gave at a 3.3 percent rate."  (Relevant Magazine)
  • Most Christians aren't denying themselves in the area of mission awareness: Only 23% of evangelicals have taken a short-term mission trip even though a Barna study "shows that most of the people who embark on service adventures describe the trips as life-changing." 
  • Nor are Most Christians willing to give up anything to better understand God's will for their lives: According to a Life Way study, while 90% of Christians say they want to please God, only 19% read their Bible daily. "Almost all churchgoers want to honor God, but more than a third indicate obedience is not something they have done when it is costly to them." 
Denying ourselves must cost us something. Today let's pray about being better cross-carriers.

This is "part 2" of the study "Christ's All-Volunteer Army." Below are the insights for that study. 

Bible Study
Original study in smaller text below. Insights in blue text.
1. Ponder the meaning in these verses. When is it hardest to deny yourself? Ask God to help you in those areas.

Luke 9:23-26: Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

I hope you were able to compile a list of things to pray through last week. One of the big things on my list that prevents me from taking up my cross is my desire for comfort. At my age (62), I often do things that are the most comfortable. 

There's nothing wrong with being comfortable unless we make life easier at the expense of doing God's will. 

My husband and I used to do Christian work full-time in Budapest, Hungary, and we still go back each year for several months. Life for us in Budapest isn't hard, but it's harder than life here--no car, no family nearby, a language barrier--but we know it's good for us to give up these few conveniences for the sake of ministry. 

Are there things you do to prevent a selfish lifestyle?

2. What do the words "living sacrifice" mean to you?
Romans 12:1-2: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

In the Old Testament, God's people offered dead sacrifices to God. The sacrifices were a foreshadowing of Christ's final sacrifice and of our "living sacrifice"--offering ourselves as men and women saved from certain death and fully alive in Christ, ready to serve. See Hebrews 10  for more on Christ's fulfillment of Old Testament sacrificial laws.

3. What "civilian affairs" distract you from devotion to Christ? Ask God to help you overcome those distractions.
2 Timothy 2:3-4: Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

My list of distractions includes worries (i.e. lack of trust in God), wasting time on empty entertainment, and one that may be less obvious than others: I something let ministry get in the way of God's real purposes for my life. By that I mean that I sometimes get so busy writing devotions that I fail to be alert to other things God wants me to do. Or, I fail to spend enough time in God's Word and prayer. 

What are some of your distractions?

copyright, Gail Burton Purath, BiteSizeBibleStudy.com
All Scripture NIV unless otherwise noted 

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