Convenient Christianity

How comfortable is your walk with God? Could it be TOO comfortable??

Transcript

INTRODUCTION

Morning.  David Sorn.  Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church. 

One of the things I’ve been noticing lately is when businesses, restaurants, you name it, ask people for suggestions, people will take the inch…and go a mile. 

It’s just kind of the self-absorbed, anonymous-commenting culture we live in 

And then, I came across this article recently documenting some actual comments submitted at a Wilderness Area in Wyoming, and it expressed perfectly what I’ve been feeling. 

Here are some actual, real-life comments submitted as suggestions/comments for the Wilderness area: 

Trails need to be wider so people can walk while holding hands.

Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill. 

Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the areas of these pests. 

Please pave the trails so they can be snow-plowed during the winter. 

Chair lifts need to be in some places so that we can get to the wonderful views without having to hike to them. 

The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying animals. 

A small deer came into my camp and stole my jar of pickles. Is there a way I can get reimbursed? Please call…

Reflectors need to be placed on trees every 50 feet so people can hike at night with flashlights. 

The places where trails do not exist are not well marked. 

These hikers are what you could call “convenience hikers,” right?  They want all the beauty of joy of being out in nature…as long as it doesn’t come w/ any cost or inconvenience. 

And in a freaky similar way, it’s often how we approach God. 

We want all the beauty and joy of following God and having a relationship with Him, but goodness, it better not come at any cost, inconvenience, or make me feel uncomfortable. 

 

 

THE PASSAGE

We’re looking at a Passage in Acts today where this type of thinking is displayed

We are going verse-by-verse through the Book of Acts…which is the 5th book of the New Testament and is the story of how the early church got started after Jesus ascended back into heaven. 

We’ve been following our hero the Apostle Paul, who has been wrongly arrested in Jerusalem, and now transported to Caesarea, a city on the Mediterranean, for trial under Governor Felix. 

We’ll join the story there. 

You can follow along on PAGE 906

(Acts 24:1-9) – NIV

Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named TerTULLus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. 2 When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. 3 Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. 4 But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly. 5 “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect (explain) 6 and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.” 9 The other Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.

Okay, so even the high priest himself makes the 60 mile journey northwest to Caesarea to help bring the case against Paul. 

They make all sorts of false accusations against Paul, and now it’s going to be Paul’s turn to defend himself. 

(Acts 24:10-23) – NIV

 10 When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense. 11 You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city.13 And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. 14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. 17 “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. 18 I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance. 19 But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me. 20 Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin— 21 unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: ‘It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’” 22 Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case.” 23 He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.

Our good friend Paul, brilliantly defends himself.  He says: 

You can go and verify when I came to Jerusalem

I wasn’t causing any trouble.  Look into it. 

You have ZERO proof of this stuff

Yes, I am a Christian, but my beliefs are very similar to these Jews here (basically, in Roman law, you couldn’t be a leader of a religious sect w/o Roman approval…so he’s just saying…we’re just a branch…albeit the true one…of Judaism…just like these Pharisees and sadducees here

He says, I WAS ceremonially clean when I was in the temple, so they can’t prosecute me for that

AND…if this is about stirring riots (like what happpend in Ephesus in Acts 19), then why aren’t the Jews from Ephesus here to accuse me…oh that’s right…cuz it wasn’t my fault

AND…AND…by the way, they just tried me in front of the Sanhedrin, and even they couldn’t agree on a suitable and real charge to bring against, SO WHY IN THE WORLD AM I HERE??

And then, I imagine Paul sitting down and going, “I rest my case.  P.S.  I just owned you”

Except, Paul’s a lot better man than me, so he didn’t actually say that part.    

Then, after the trial, something curious happens in our final four verses for today

(Acts 24:24-27) – NIV

24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. 27 When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.

So Paul was stuck in prison for TWO years. 

 

 

THE AMERICAN IDOL OF COMFORT  

I think the interaction of Paul and Felix in the last few verses is one of the most fascinating exchanges in the last couple chapters of Acts. 

You have Felix, who is spiritually interested in God…so he calls Paul in to tell him about Jesus. 

But when Paul starts talking about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment of God…Felix says, “That’s enough for now!  You may leave.  When I find it CONVENIENT…I will send for you”

And that sentence right there…is often a good summary of the average American’s spirituality:  When we find it CONVENIENT…we will send for God

It’s the story of both Christians and non-Christians. 

90% of people believe in God in this country, even though far less than the majority have a personal relationship with JC

And when, it’s convenient for them, they call on God, or use a church for a wedding

Although, no one ever wants to use our church for a wedding, and I don't know why J

Actually, that’s not completely true, last year we got TWO phone calls of people who were cold calling churches asking if they could get married there. 

I responded, our church is in an elementary school gym.    They said, “Oh.  Nevermind”

“So I guess you don’t want to hear more about our church?!?”

We just love being comfortable so much in our lives that we never want to inconvenience ourselves. 

One of my big pet peeves, and it’s a stupid one, is when I’ve had a long day, and I just sit down on the couch…I’m finally gonna sit down, relax, and reward myself w/ a huge bowl of ice cream, and Lindsey says, “Hey, could you go get me…. (it could be anything) a glass of water, orange juice, a koala for a pet…

It doesn’t matter…when I just sat down…I’m not getting up, even if there’s a $500 bill on the other side of the room

Which I just learned used to exist until 1969.

But, it’s like, how stupid is that? 

I can’t get up to serve someone?!?

It’s dumb.  But we do the same thing w/ God. 

We don’t really want to SERVE…SERVE.  We just want to “worship” him here…and be COMFORTABLE!

Part of it is our culture. 

We’ve been given so much, that we don’t really understand “sacrifice” because we’ve never really had to “sacrifice” anything

So we take the same type of thinking, and we apply it to our spiritual lives. 

We think, “Well, if I have to sacrifice something, then I would feel uncomfortable, and if I feel uncomfortable, that’s bad”

Here’s the unfortunately reality:  Like Governor Felix, we Worship the False Idol of Comfort

With our lips we say, “I give you my all!  I live for you my God!  You are my master!  My king!”

But then when he says things to us like, “Change your life, go share the Gospel with this person, start serving these people, stop doing this so much!” We go…yeah, but that would take a lot of work. 

“Can’t you just love me, and make me feel good and stuff?!?”

See, that’s just “Convenient Christianity” not “REAL Christianity”

Maybe this is even playing out for you right now with the Haiti Trip. 

You really want to go.  Go change the world w/ us on an amazing experience. 

But, well, it’s gonna cost some money, you’d have to take time off of work, and you’d be away from the people you love for a week

You’d like to go, but really, it’s just kind of “INCONVENIENT”

And again, we make our decisions…not based on “Does the world need us, could this be a great opportunity to grow in my faith, is God challenging me to go?”  but…is this going to cause me inconvenience or not? 

But here’s the reality.  Something like a missions trip is pretty inconvenient. 

You’re going to feel stretched, challenged and out of your “comfort zone,” it’s time away, and on and on

But I want you to think about all the people who’ve really changed this world for Christ. 

See, the biggest world-changers.  They LIVE in the uncomfortable all the time, while the rest of the world sits at home and watches the bachelorette

You can’t change the world with Jesus Christ…if you’re only interested in serving Him when it’s CONVENIENT for you. 

Don’t be like Felix in Acts today. 

We LOVE comfort…but it’s just a false idol AND a false illusion.  Let me work it out for you. 

This is good philosophy tactic.  Take things to their natural end, and you’ll see them more clearly. 

What if you lived in total comfort all the time.  What would that look like? 

Well, it first of all means you would never exercise or work out. 

Because that’s uncomfortable.  Who said running on a treadmill is comfortable?  And if people say that, they should see somebody. 

But the inconvenient sacrifice brings you results

If you lived in comfort all the time, that would mean that you would never eat healthy foods you don’t like. 

I mean, who enjoys eating healthy foods that taste like garbage but are somehow good for you (not this guy)? 

But the inconvenient sacrifice, has results. 

If you lived in comfort all the time, you’d never talk to people who bothered you, sinned against you, or were caught in sin themselves (which would be very MN of you…very passive aggressive)

But your pursuit of comfort would never grow you as a person.

You’d never fix relationships, you’d never ask your boss for a raise, you’d never tell someone the way they treat you hurts (you’d just keep taking it and gossiping about it to others), and you’d watch your family member ruin their life because you wouldn’t want to experience the discomfort of having a tough conversation.   

Ironically, the pursuit of comfort, is just a short-term illusion that often leads to long term pain. 

Let me tell you something that’s weird for us to hear: 

Growing in Christ, is a just a series of everyday going “Oh, I’m wrong on that.  I’ll adjust.  Oh, my thinking is wrong…that’s what the Bible says…I’ll adjust.  Oh, I’m in sin.  I’m WRONG.  I’ll adjust” 

But I fear we have a whole generation of INFANTS in Christ because nobody wants to admit they’re wrong, and nobody wants to confront their sin.  They just want to be comfortable!” 

But that’s convenient Christianity, not Christianity.   

When I was in seminary, I used to say, that every day I had to go to class and find out I was wrong. 

I used to joke, that I can’t wait to get out and finally just be right for a few years. 

But that’s a dumb thing to say….because then we never grow. 

But the people who grow, are the ones that let God challenge them even when it’s uncomfortable…

They orient their lives around Him, even when it feels inconvenient

Where are you choosing convenience over Jesus??

 

 

RIGHTEOUSNESS

This is precisely what Governor Felix does.    

Often the rich & powerful of Paul’s day (and it’s the same today) are able to camouflage their insecurity by pretending to be in control of their lives. 

Felix says, “That’s enough for now Paul”  You may leave.  When I find it convenient, I’ll send for you again.”   

And don’t we just do the same.   

When we’re confronted with our own sin… 

When someone is bold enough to actually confront us about our gossip, our judgmentalism, our actions…

The vast majority of just say:  “That’s enough…I quit.  I’ll leave this church.  I’ll quit this team.  I’m not going to talk to you again.   This isn’t convenient for me.  This doesn’t make me feel comfortable.   

And when we worship the idol of comfort, WE NEVER GROW!

Paul talks to Felix about righteousness (which is like Godly living… “living right”)

But Felix doesn’t want to hear it…  “ugh, that sounds kind of intense….I don’t like it”

And in the same way, more and more, Christians pick and choose their Christian beliefs based on what makes them comfortable. 

Oh, the Bible says that….meh…that makes me uncomfortable.  I’ll choose a different belief on that view

But what is that?!?

That’s convenient Christianity

That’s not submitting to your master and trusting in His Word.

That’s bowing at the idol of comfort

 

 

 

 

SELF-CONTROL

Americans love comfort.  We love convenience.  And if you could put the two together, we will do anything to get it! 

Like, if you could start a business that delivered ice cream cones to Americans in recliners…you could be rich…

Oh, the ice cream truck is going by…oh, I really want ice cream, but that would involve getting up…  Oh, well. 

In our wealth and luxury, we’ve become so averse to discomfort, that we have almost zero capacity any more to deal with even a spiritual challenge in our lives

Fortunately, many churches over the last 25 years caught on to this concept of American’s distaste for spiritual discomfort. 

UNFORTUNATELY, we just created a bunch of churches where we made sure the seats were comfy, the donuts were fresh, and the people never felt challenged too intensely, because we all know, if they get uncomfortable, they’ll leave. 

They’ll be like Felix, “That’s enough Paul!  I’ll think about this Jesus stuff again when I feel like it!”

If you’re new here, let me tell you something about Renovation. 

You’re going to feel uncomfortable here once in a while. 

If I don’t make you feel uncomfortable once in a while about how you’re living your life, I’m not doing my job. 

My job is to teach the Word of God, and the Bible sometimes can be really convicting & challenging

But only because God knows what’s best

At the end of the day, I’m more concerned about correctly teaching God’s word than I am gathering a large crowd of comfortable people.  

This whole comfort & convenience thing is a lot more difficult for us here in suburban MN than it is for much of the world. 

Much of the world ALREADY lives in daily discomfort. 

But it’s often so hard for us to unabashedly follow Christ because we don’t want to have to give up anything on our long list of “conveniences”

But Jesus tells us that our thinking is backward.  Completely backward. 

(Mark 8:34-35) - NIV

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

But seriously, we think, whether you want to admit or not….I think it all the time…”but if I were to sacrifice more for Christ, I will lose. “

No no no, to sacrifice is to gain. 

To lose is to follow

To deny your flesh…your sin…is to win

To experience inconvenience….is to find real life. 

Comfort is a false God…. And it’s usually just in the experience of the Uncomfortable, that you really meet God

And I beg of you this morning…demolish the “god of comfort” in your life

If you aren’t letting people challenge you about the way you live your life….

If you aren’t letting people challenge your thinking and admitting your wrong…

You AREN’T GROWING. 

You’re just being like Felix.  

“um…don’t talk about me about self-control and change and judgment!  That’s enough.  I’ll talk to you when it’s convenient!” 

I want you to think through right now…where is it in the last month or so that God is pushing you to do something…but you said no…because it would have caused you inconvenience…or sacrifice? 

Maybe it was to step up for Him.  To go somewhere.  To serve somewhere.  To share w/ someone. 

Maybe it was to deal w/ your sin.  To finally confront it…and start radically living for Him…not just when it’s convenient and you feel like it

Maybe it was to give him your LIFE…

TO say Jesus, “I’m going to follow you, serve you, love you, and sacrifice for you, and I don’t care how INCONVENIENT it is”

Don’t be like Felix.  Don’t bow at the idols of convenience and comfort

This man missed out on some incredible learning from the Apostle Paul himself…and most of all, missed out on knowing Jesus…and being forgiven by Jesus…all because, it made him uncomfortable and it was “Inconvenient” 

Don’t miss out on what God has in store for you. 

Don’t miss out on what God wants to do in your life…just because it might seem inconvenient at the time!

When we get back into worship today…I want you to tell God that you’ll get uncomfortable for him. 

And ask Him to show you how. 

Let’s pray He does. 


Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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