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The Price of Neglect

January 2015
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neglectedThe alarm goes off . . . you roll over and hit the snooze button for five more minutes of precious sleep. It goes off again, and this time you jump out of bed and rush headlong into another busy day with too many things to do and not enough time to get them all done, and that doesn’t even include any family responsibilities that get squeezed in unless the kids or your spouse woke you up before the alarm did. At least single folks don’t have that last challenge listed. Life in the frenetic zone is well entrenched in the American culture and nobody seems to have enough time to get done what is truly needed.

It’s the tyranny of the urgent” (a phrase coined by Charles Hummel in his 1967 booklet with the same title–click link to read) that takes control. And the things that are truly important often get pushed aside for another day that, again, never seems to have enough hours in it to get everything done. And for those of us who call ourselves Christian, taking care of our spiritual life can end up at the bottom of a bottomless list of things to do. Unfortunately, that affects everything else that we do.

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), widely regarded as one of the deepest theological thinkers of the 20th Century, wrote a book titled, The Price of Neglect,” and the first chapter of the book is titled by the same name. Here is what he had to say in that chapter:

Plato has somewhere said that in a democratic society the price wise men pay for neglecting politics is to be ruled by unwise men.

This observation is so patently true that no one who values his reputation for clear thinking is likely to contest it.

In America, for instance, there are millions of plain men and women, decent, honest and peace loving, who take their blessings for granted and make no effort to assure the continuance of our free society. These persons are without doubt far in the majority. They constitute the main body of our population, but for all their numbers they are not going to determine the direction our country will go in the next few years. Their weakness lies in their passivity. They sit back and allow radicals and those in the minority but who shout the loudest to set the course for the future. If this continues much longer we have no assurance that we can retain that liberty which was once purchased for us at such appalling cost.

The price good and sober Christians pay for doing nothing is to be led by those highly vocal minorities whose only qualifications for leadership are an overweening ambition and a loud voice. And there have always been and always will be such persons in the congregations of the saints. They know least and talk most, while sane and godly men too often give up leadership to them rather than to resist them. Later these same docile souls may shake their heads and lament their captivity. But by that time it is too late.

Within the circles of evangelical Christianity itself there has arisen in the last few years dangerous and dismaying trends away from true Bible Christianity. A spirit has been introduced which is surely not the Spirit of Christ, methods employed which are wholly carnal, objectives adopted which have not one line of Scripture to support them, a level of conduct accepted which is practically identical with that of the world-and yet scarcely one voice has been raised in opposition. And this in spite of the fact that the Bible-honoring followers of Christ lament among themselves the dangerous, wobbly course things are taking.

So radically is the essential spirit and content of orthodox Christianity changing these days under the vigorous leadership of undiscerning religionists that, if the trend is not stopped, what is called Christianity will soon be something altogether other than the faith of our fathers. We’ll have only Bible words left. Bible religion will have perished from wounds received in the house of her friends.

The times call for a Spirit-baptized and articulate orthodoxy. They whose souls have been illuminated by the Holy Ghost must arise and under God assume leadership. There are those among us whose hearts can discern between the true and the false, whose spiritual sense of smell enables them to detect the spurious afar off, who have the blessed gift of knowing. Let such as these arise and be heard. Who knows but the Lord may return and leave a blessing behind Him? (Quote source here.)

Tozer penned those words decades ago, yet the reality of what he stated back then has taken hold of the Church exactly as he stated. It was a clarion call to get back to the basics of authentic Christianity that was fast disappearing in his day and as he stated, “if the trend is not stopped, what is called Christianity will soon be something altogether other than the faith of our fathers. We’ll have only Bible words left. Bible religion will have perished from wounds received in the house of her friends.”

Because we live in a fast-paced society, we often leave any spiritual emphasis for our lives up to our pastors to give us in a quick and easy 30-minute sermon on Sunday morning (and if we can catch it online, all the better). But don’t ask us on Wednesday what the message was about because we will have long since forgotten it in our rushing around to get everything else done. We now live in a cultural climate where many, many folks who call themselves “Christian” haven’t got a clue what it really means (see this link for an excellent definition). It reminds me of an article I read two or three years ago about the parents who brought their teenage son to their pastor so that the pastor could answer the son’s question. And the son’s question, after seeing a painting of Christ hanging on the cross, asked his parents, “Who’s the guy hanging on the plus sign?” That the parents could not answer the question and, instead, brought their son to the pastor for an answer speaks volumes about the biblical illiteracy that has spread like a cancer across our landscape in America. It is far too easy to say we are Christian without having a clue what it really means and how, if truly practiced, it can radically change our lives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt goes without saying that much of what Tozer stated regarding how “radically is the essential spirit and content of orthodox Christianity changing these days under the vigorous leadership of undiscerning religionists” that it has infiltrated many of today’s pulpits across the land, and add to that mix the harried and hurried masses that do attend Sunday services but have made little to no time available for cultivating their own personal relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer and studying the Bible, and we end up with the blind leading the blind in many cases. We end up with parents who bring their children to the pastor to answer elementary questions about Christianity; answers that the parents should have already known from personal experience.

Somewhere in the past couple of decades we’ve acquired this “rah rah” mentality regarding Christianity–a sort of Pollyanna syrupy sweetness to all things Christian hyped up with cheering squad antics. “Rah, rah, rah . . . Yea, Jesus!” And it goes right along with the inch-deep spirituality that is so prevalent across our land. Our Christianity becomes just one more thing we “do” in life instead of becoming “the very essence of life itself.” And what we end up with is just what Tozer stated when he wrote, “What is called Christianity will soon be something altogether other than the faith of our fathers.” And it is, too.

And that kind of Christianity will evaporate quickly when the really tough times comes because there is no solid foundation at it’s core. If we believe in this mild-mannered Jesus we’ve been sold on who is here to grant us our heart’s desire and give us our every wish without any cost on our part (and who preaches on counting the cost anymore? See Luke 14) then when the bottom falls out of our lives there is no foundation to support us. None. And that’s because we’ve been led to believe in a “genie” type of God who does not exist. Read and study the Bible and you’ll find out that is very, very true.

God never winks at sin, although the concept makes for a great best selling book that makes a lot of money for the author, and for pastors who preach that we now have a “free pass” when it comes to sin and can keep on doing whatever we want. Again, read the Bible and don’t just take someone else’s word for it. We wouldn’t think about getting a college degree by riding on someone else’s coattails and not doing any serious studying on our own, so why do we not take seriously our own need to develop a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ instead of depending on a 30-minute sermon from last Sunday that may or may not even be Biblical?

This is one area of every Christian’s life that cannot be ignored, no matter how full one’s schedule is in life. If you don’t know how to make time, pray and ask God to show you how to do it, and believe that He will show you, too, if you are honest with Him and sincerely want to get to know Him better. Take Him at His word and not just what someone has passed along to you. Trust Him, and He will show you.

We need to stop making excuses for our complacency (and I’m writing to myself as much as I’m stressing this point to you). Life will ALWAYS get in the way of our relationship with Jesus Christ if we let it. And there are a million distractions to grab our attention and we have to stop giving in to most of them. We are talking about eternity here, folks, and not just what we can get in this life to make it better. And it’s not about what we can get in this life anyway. The ideal of the American Dream didn’t come from God. And those Christians suffering under horrible conditions in other parts of our world are just like us, and their faith is being sorely tested, but it is in the testing that we (Christians) gain perseverence (see James 1). If all we have is a “Rah, rah, yea, Jesus!” mentality behind our Christianity it won’t get us through even the slightest of rough spots when they come our way.

The price of neglect is a price we can’t afford to pay. If you don’t know where to start then pray, right now, for God to show you what to do and how to do it. When I started down this very long road of unemployment almost six years ago, I had no clue what was going to happen in the beginning other then I knew I needed a job as soon as possible. And it got me on my knees faster than anything else could have done. And all that “rah, rah” stuff fell away pretty fast, too. It’s amazing how the “rose colored glasses” that Christians here in America have a big tendency to wear fall off pretty fast when the bottom falls out of their lives. It’s at that point they either run the other way or depend totally upon the only Savior there is instead of everything else they have been depending on in His place.

So far, in these past six years, He has not given me one thing I have asked for (well, the big things, I mean) that I thought was definitely an immediate need (and who doesn’t need a job in our society, and now I’m looking for a more permanent and affordable home, too), and yet He has shown me some of the most incredible and amazing things through this hardship that I never would have known had I not experienced them first hand–things people don’t get to see or understand when everything is going along well in their lives and they tend to depend upon the paycheck and everything else instead of God.

If you’ve been reading my blog posts you know much of what I have experienced and what I have been learning from it. And after all of this time I’m still unemployment, too. However, despite what my circumstances and my life might look like on the outside to others, what God has put on the inside of me and how He has provided for my every need all along the way is something I wouldn’t trade for a million dollars or a palace on the French Riviera.

So, don’t depend on others when it comes to your relationship with Jesus Christ. Do it yourself–there is no other way. Make time for Him. He is not some painting hanging on a wall or sculpture in a church. He is the living, breathing Lord and Savior of everyone who personally knows and believes in Him (see John 3:16-18).

Make time and get to really know Him . . .

And do it now . . . .

YouTube Video: “Don’t Get Comfortable” by Brandon Heath:

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Photo #2credit here

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