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Christianity Concentrate

detergent.jpg The label says it’s strong, overpowering, straight, and sometimes even dangerous.

These words describe a concentrated substance. We buy products like detergent in concentrated form because we need all the help we can get to clean our clothes, mop the kitchen floor or tackle other tough jobs. When we dilute cleansing agents, even though they look, feel or smell the same, they won’t do the job. We need the “industrial strength” stuff.

Concentrated products require careful use. They may sting, burn or eat away more than we intended. We have to pay close attention during application. Containers often carry frightening warning labels. Why? Because they actually work! They don’t mess around. The active ingredients in them attack the unwanted grime and destroy it.

Jesus Christ practiced a concentrated form of Christianity. He warned His disciples in Luke 12:49-50, “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” James and John begged Jesus to give them places of glory in the coming kingdom, but He rebuked them sharply. In my paraphrase, Jesus said, “Sure, you want the results, but you don’t want the pain.” He talked of division, deprivation and death. He predicted hatred, rejection and persecution for them. He told them to read the warning label on what they were about to do. Jesus was no cheerleader, facilitator, or consultant. He didn’t present himself as just another choice on the shelf.

Jesus did demand total commitment from his disciples. Today, we might call it taking the plunge, leaping into the unknown, driving off the cliff. He wanted to fill up their lives. He passionately called listeners to surrender unconditionally to the will of God. He beckoned converts to abandon their lifestyles and follow Him.

What was behind this extreme, demanding discipleship? Jesus wasn’t trying to look good. He wasn’t merely offering the world an alternative religion. He was the Mighty God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself! His mission possessed Him in total. His road took Him to Bethany of ascension, but only by way of Gethsemane and Calvary . For Jesus, it was gore before glory, cross before crown, thorns before the throne, agony before ecstasy.

Beware of “lesser forms” of faith. They may look, taste, feel and smell similar, but they have been watered down. Paul wrote, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—-having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)

Practicing Apostolic Christianity will sting. It requires careful attention to details. It cuts into convenience and pleasure. It may sometimes seem too much, too strong or too powerful. But no one can honestly read the Bible and legitimately come away with a playful, casual or a “don’t worry” attitude. We do indeed have some things to concern us. “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” 1 Peter 4:18-19.

Many years ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned the church about “cheap grace.” He said, “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. We are fighting today for a costly grace.”  The warning has largely gone unheeded.  As the end time approaches and the battle for our faith heats up, the surest road to victory continues to be concentrated, not diluted Christianity. Forget the flashy colors on the bottle. Read the label. It’s not the packaging on the outside, but the bona fide stuff on the inside that counts.

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