First Things -- 3635 East Paces Circle, Unit 1414, Atlanta, GA 30326
What is a continuum? Most of us are familiar. In case you are not, I have illustrated it in the graphic and in the title above. For our purposes here, the color red is used for doubt and the color green is used for faith. The area in between represents different levels of faith. If someone were to ask you, “On a scale of one to ten, how certain are you that the God of the Bible exists?” your answer could be illustrated on the continuum graphic. If you said you are a ten, then you would be placed at the darkest green end. If you said you are a five or six, you would be placed close to the middle of the line. If you said you are a one at best, you would be at the darkest red end of the line.
As you are thinking about grading your faith level on the continuum, the key question is, “At what point on the continuum should you be “all in” to pay attention to what is in the Bible and to live as though you are one hundred percent convinced the Bible is telling the truth? Would that be when you are ninety percent convinced? Would it be if you are sixty percent convinced? What if you are fifty-fifty? That doesn’t feel like an “all in” position, does it?
In reality, anything less than total doubt – you feel one hundred percent certain that the God of the Bible is a myth – should you be anything less than “all in” in your dedication to the Bible. Really? Yes, really!
The fact is that we are talking about eternity. That is as serious as it can get. Let me give you an illustration to consider:
The story is told of some construction workers who were digging a ditch when the found an electrical cable that looked dangerous. The foreman stopped the work and called the electric company to send an engineer who could determine whether the cable was live or not. When the engineer arrived, he studied the cable and assured the foreman that the cable was not live so it could be cut and moved out of the way. The foreman asked if he was sure. He replied that he was. The foreman handed the engineer the cable cutters and said, “Then you cut the cable.” A grin slowly came over the engineer’s face as he said, “I’m not that sure.”
How do you feel when you get close to a power substation? Are you at all intimidated? Would you be willing to go inside the fence and right up to the power equipment? Have you ever considered what it would be like to have a job where you climbed power poles and connected power lines? Would you want to do that?
Most of us are very cautious when we are dealing with electricity. Anyone working with electrical wiring is told to turn the power off at the panel. One time I was replacing a light fixture in the kitchen. I decided I could just turn the power off at the light switch. While I was working on the wiring, my wife came into the room and absentmindedly flipped the switch to lighten the room. Instantly I received a jolt. I was reminded of why instructions warn us to turn the power off at the panel.
A jolt of electricity is one thing. A downed power line could kill you. Power companies warn us to stay well away from downed power lines and most of us heed that warning. Is it safe to walk up to a downed power line as long as we don’t touch it? Maybe. But most of us are like the engineer who was “not that sure.” We not taking any chances.
Jesus had some pretty powerful things to say about the degree of commitment required to be his disciple (see Luke 14:25-33). He was not speaking of the requirements to be one of the twelve apostles. He was talking about anyone who wanted to be a follower.
What does “all in” mean for a Christian today? It means making decisions based on our understanding of Jesus’ teachings. It means somewhere there has to be sacrifice and everywhere there has to be a willingness to sacrifice (take up our cross). It means Jesus must come first in all things. It means people should see a difference in how we live our lives. It means we will not let public opinion influence us in order to “fit in” with society when that public opinion is in opposition to what Jesus taught. It means sometimes we will be ridiculed, that we recognize it, and that we are willing to accept it.
The apostle Paul, coming to what he expected to be the end of his life, wrote: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (II Timothy 4:7-8) Paul talked about the “fight” in his letter to the Ephesians:
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints — 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-21)
The Christian life is a battle. It is a battle that we will be certain to win if our attitude is right and we put Jesus first in all things. It is a battle for the greatest prize of all time – the ultimate “fountain of youth” that we call “heaven.”