We really like being comfortable. Each of us defines comfort differently, but the vast majority of the time we will gravitate towards something that puts us in our personal comfort level no matter where we go. For some, comfort means seeking out that American restaurant when traveling abroad. Maybe comfort is only listening to our favorite music or reading a particular genre of book. Whenever I travel, I always want to know where the closest Caribou Coffee (1.5 miles from my current location) and Chick-fil-A (12 miles from my current location) are. By the way, did you know Chick-fil-A didn’t invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich? What a wonderful thing, that Chick-fil-A sandwich…
Being comfortable makes us feel good, but can also become a distraction. There is a reason your office chair has a cushion but isn’t a La-Z-Boy – when we become focused on comfort, we cease being productive. Something Mark Driscoll said during a workshop at the Gospel Coalition national conference inChicagoreally got me thinking; “Some of you have developed a theology that justifies fruitlessness.” I love Mark Driscoll; I think he has a great balance of a firm foundation in biblical truth and authority with an insightful cultural awareness. However, my first reaction to this was that this was not a very fair statement. The gospel isn’t about measurable results; it’s about faith, right? However, as I thought about what Driscoll said, a couple of thoughts came to mind. First was the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control (Gal5:22-23). These are fruit that grow in our lives from the Holy Spirit – and we can see fruit grow! This fruit is not measurable with a ruler, but if we take time to honestly self-evaluate, we should be able to see the effects of God’s hands on our heart and in our lives.
This lead to my second thought: “…faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (Jas 2:17,ESV) There is certainly no intent by James to minimize the importance of faith here, but I believe he is emphasizing the importance of faith by weeding out the fakers – if there are no works, if there is no fruit to accompany professed faith, their faith is dead. Martin Luther said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” There must be something that changes in our lives, fruit that grows, signs of the changes that God is making in and through us – these are not works that earn salvation, but they are signs of that salvation that we have received in Christ.
We like being comfortable and more often than not that pesky Holy Spirit wants to push us into places where we are not comfortable, and we resist. Then we stop seeing that fruit grow. But we are too smart for our own good, so we try to justify the lack of fruit in our lives, emphasizing the evil world in which we live and the depravity of humanity and the decline of our country. We will spend hours talking about the struggles all around us, of the poor who are in need and the ministries that need support in helping them. We will add them to our prayer chains and tell the ministry workers, in effect, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” (Ja2:16) because to do anything more would require too much effort and sacrifice on our parts.
By random chance (by the way, I don’t believe in random chance), this week I was reading the chapter titled, “Serving leftovers to a holy God” in Francis Chan’s Crazy Love in preparation for Sunday School with a group of the youth at my church. In the chapter, Chan decides to just tell it like he sees it (I like it when people do that). This is what he says;
Churchgoers who are ‘lukewarm’ are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven…Jesus’ call to commitment is clear: He wants all or nothing. The thought of a person calling himself a ‘Christian’ without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd.
In speaking of the church in Laodicea referenced in Revelation 3:14-22 Chan writes, “They were comfortable and proud. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?” I think reading that should make us pretty uncomfortable. Not bearing fruit, living lives that lack any actual growth, is not an option for a Christian. Jesus did not command us to “go therefore and try to make disciples…” Check out Matthew 28:19-20 and see if you feel as convicted as I do.