This weekend, I was listening to NPR’s Terry Gross interviewing Bill Maher and Larry Charles on Fresh Air about their new film, Religulous. And it had me thinking about just how many pitfalls there are on the road to authentic discipleship.
The argument behind the film is reactionary and visceral rather than logical. At least from their comments in the interview, and from reports of folks who have seen this film, Bill and Larry have not made an real documentary, but have, from a seriously flawed premise, constructed an ad-hominem attack on organized religion and anyone who looks for an authority above human understanding.
It’s not that those two don’t have adequate evidence for their attack. Religious authorities and the “faithful” have, for probably the entire span of human history, justified greed, violence, power abuses, domination, and genocide in the name of God. Many of the landmines on the road to authentic discipleship have even been planted from inside the Body. For a non-believer, it’s tough to take God seriously when He’s turned over authority for the management of the Earth to so many scoundrels.
But scoundrels and their scandalous behavior are only a small blemish in the overwhelming history of God’s redeeming power in our world. The truth is, the road to discipleship is all about God’s presence, power, and miraculous signs and wonders! Our Father redeems, heals, restores, delivers, and serves, through His faithful disciples, using the power of His authority! The powerful fruit of His presence in our world is everywhere! Anywhere believers set their feet in pursuit of His Kingdom bears the miraculous fruit of His presence with us! People are called to His Kingdom, healed, restored, delivered, and empowered by God’s continuing presence and power in our world.
God, by His nature, exists above the realm of human behavior, and outside the limits of human logic and understanding, and any attempt to judge His power, presence, or absence from flawed human behavior, or from the limited resources of our own senses and understanding, is doomed to failure. It is the effort of a fool. The Bible calls it idolatry.
Bill and Larry are not yet in a place where they can see the folly of their efforts, but who among us can say anything else? We’ve all embraced at least one folly in our lives. (Some of us are still holding onto our folly with a death-grip, decades after we’ve professed our faith in Jesus!)
So what’s a faithful disciple to do, in the middle of all these spiritual land mines, challenges, and dust storms? The answer is clear, if not easy. Put on the Armor of Salvation, and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, your feet on the road to real discipleship, and your heart buried in His Word–His Word, not the world’s criticism, not the behavior of flawed believers or shepherds, not the urgings of your own flesh or ambition, not the machinations of darkness, nor the length or fierceness of the battle.
The Battle is the Lord’s. Our job is to keep our eyes on Him, our hearts in line with His Word, our hands busy working in His vineyard, and our feet firmly planted on the road to His Kingdom. So Buckle up Disciples, and let’s get moving!
Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. (1 John 4:3-5)
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints (Ephesians 6:10-18.)