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Why is Christianity So HARD?
By David A. DePra
Some Christians donít think that Christianity is hard. But they are really talking only about salvation. That is not hard. But once we are saved, it does, at times, become very difficult. Why?
Well, it is not because God sat down one day and made it that way. God doesnít make things hard or difficult. Neither is it because you and I deliberately make life miserable for ourselves. No. We make life miserable for ourselves without realizing it Ė for no one wants misery. But even if we avoided all of that, it would still be difficult to live as a Christian. Why?
Life in Christ is difficult because it is contrary to the natural life. There is nothing about us that is compatible with Christ in us. Nothing. So when Christ does come and live in us, there is going to be trouble. And I am not yet even talking about eternal circumstances. No. All of this is still internal.
Christians need to see that life in Christ, if it is NORMAL, is going to be difficult. Once we see this, we will perhaps be comforted over the fact that our difficulties are not the result of us being, "out of the loop." No. Suffering is NORMAL. Furthermore, once we see this, it will assure us that the terrible teachings of this day, which suggest that Christians ought to never suffer, or be tested, and that Christianity ought to be a fun picnic, is a lie. No. By definition. Christ in us is going to bring more trouble into our experience than we had before we were saved Ė trouble of a different sort, and unto good ends Ė but nevertheless TROUBLE.
Why is Christianity so hard? Well, it is actually WE that are the problem. Christ is life, and we are death. Christ is spirit, we are flesh. Christ is liberty, and we are bondage. Christ is the Last Adam, and we were born in the first Adam. This is why things can be so difficult. But in the end, it is all unto our good.
The Nature of Things
The nature of things Ė including OUR nature Ė is at enmity with God. You didnít decide for yourself to be born that way. And God doesnít blame you for it. What God does blame us for is our affirmation of the sin nature, and our neglect or refusal to hand ourselves over to Him once we see the way out in Christ.
But once we hand ourselves over to God, the trouble will not end. Some of it will. All of the unnecessary trouble will end in a progressive fashion. But much NECESSARY trouble will begin. As I mentioned, this will be trouble of a different sort than that of unbelievers. For unbelievers certainly suffer and do have trouble in this world. But believers have other issues that sinners know nothing of. We not only have the normal trouble, but we have the inner turmoil of life in Christ. We must believe despite trouble. We must obey. Sometimes we donít understand. All of this takes it toll.
Now, donít jump to a wrong conclusion here. This is not to paint life in Christ as a depressed, gloomy experience. No. And it certainly is not because the life of Christ in us causes bad things to happen, or makes us suffer. Nope. The Truth is, Christ in us is freedom, liberty, and Truth. But due to the fact that everything about us Ė without Christ Ė is contrary to Christ, the impact of the life of Christ upon us will bring conflict and upheaval.
If you are upside down in the eyes of God, but think you are right side up, and God begins to truly turn you right side up, what are you going to think? Well, you are going to think God is turning you upside down, because you thought you were already right side up! Or to put it another way, if you and I are at peace with ourselves Ė but a lost soul Ė God must disturb our peace. This will seem like a bad thing. But it is all geared to getting us to where we are at peace with God.
Notice that the apostle Paul speaks of trouble and suffering as business as usual for anyone in whom Christ lives, but that the outcome is to our benefit and to Godís glory:
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Rom 8:18)
Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. (1 Pet 4:1-2)
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (1 Pet 4:12-13)
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)
You will notice that this isnít a matter of, "logging in suffering time." No. This is a matter of coming under the impact of the death and resurrection of Christ. This will mean death to our flesh and self, and life in Christ. There is no other way for life to come forth except through death. It is a Truth we need to realize.
So if you are a Christian, but never have any distress, Iíd worry. Or, Iíd get ready. There is no such thing as a Christian who is growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ that will not suffer. You will also rejoice greatly. You will have many blessings. You will find true purpose in life. But you will suffer along the way. You will have to. The nature of things demands it.
Of course, today we have many who preach a message that suggests that all that God does when we are saved is ADD something to us that sort of makes us better people. This message would lead us to believe that we receive the Holy Spirit, "on top," of what we are in Adam, and that this makes everything ok. From the point of our baptism in the Spirit, we are told that God simply does a rebuilding project to make us into the beautiful people that we can become.
Sounds lovely, doesnít it? Millions believe it. And the end result is basically correct Ė God does want us to find our identity in Christ, and that will be quite beautiful, wonít it? I mean, we just read a bunch of passages about, "the glory to be revealed in us." Thatís beyond what any of us can measure as to the good things ahead of Christians.
But there is a problem. In order to rebuild us, God must first tear down the old us. Indeed, the Holy Spirit has not come to merely ADD Himself to us, making us better people. No. Rather, the Holy Spirit has come to SUBTRACT from us everything of the old creation. And then to make us brand new. Thatís were the trouble and suffering comes in.
God is not interested in salvaging the old creation. He is not come to affirm you and I, and make us feel good about ourselves. We donít believe it -- but the continual quest to feel good about ourselves is what is WRONG with us. God wants us to be set free from this self-focus and feel good about HIM. We donít believe this because, again, this runs against the nature of things. Godís goal, is, in fact, a state of being that is far removed from anything we know. But saying that is simply a testimony of just how far removed we are from Godís original thought for mankind.
The Bible is filled with passages which show that the life of Christ is to come into people who have initially no compatibility for Him:
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of GodÖ.But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:9-14)
We start to be compatible with God only by first surrendering to Him through repentance and faith. That is a moral beginning. But it is only the beginning. Then the Holy Spirit will indwell us, and begin a work to form us together with Christ. The Holy Spirit will tear down the old and build up the new. God has come to fill us with the fullness of Christ, and that is going to require life from death. The work of the Cross. If anyone has told you differently, you have not been told the Truth.
Why is Christianity so hard? Because manís fall was so deep. God is bringing us back from the kingdom of darkness, and from a condition of total corruption. It is a condition that we are at home in. So the change and adjustment hurts and confuses us. But in the end, we will agree with Paul that the sufferings of this life are not to be compared with the glory Ė His glory Ė that we will realize, not just in the ages to come, but as a down payment in this life as well.
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