Beware the dangers of Sideline Christianity. It looks harmless enough, which is part of its dastardly ploy. People who are mired in it may even think they are smack in the middle of God’s will. Surely you’ve seen glimpses of it. There are potluck dinners, Sunday Services, committees and meetings aplenty to fill up your calendar. I’m not saying that any of these things are inherently wrong. It’s just that when they are wrongly elevated to the main event, they steal the spotlight from the Star of the Show, Jesus. They also fool us into thinking we are making progress, when they can actually sideline us by being distractions.
We invite trouble when we allow church events and activities to be the highlight our faith, giving only a sidelong glance at Jesus now and again. Look carefully and you’ll notice stagnation and self-importance, keeping deceptively busy with lots of projects and events. But you’ll find no substance. No joy. No growth. No true service to others. And honey, it was my kind of Christianity for a l-o-n-g time. And I thought it was really swell and took great pride in it. I never even realized I was stuck in a rut because I seemed so busy and productive.
Bankrupt of true power and devoid of world-changing influence, Sideline Christianity looks pretty good from the outside. It’s shiny and smiley and well-dressed. Inside? Well, let’s just say it can be likened to the whitewashed tombs that Jesus compares the Pharisees to in Matthew 23:27.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.
You see, we were made to move forward. We were saved by the blood of Jesus to be active followers, not passive spectators at a once-a-week service with a feel-good activity or two thrown in for good measure. To be cheering or judging on the sidelines “in the name of Jesus” is not our role. Loud voices clamoring to be heard instead of lifted in a harmony of praise are simply meaningless noise.
We were made for more than warming the seats at church on Sunday. Rather, we should be fanning the flames of revival with passionate worship and fervent prayer. We should be on the move, serving others and sharing the Gospel. After all, Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 16:24 (NLT):
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”
Any way I say it, there’s something compelling about the statement:
Take UP my cross.
Take up MY cross.
Take up my CROSS.
There’s movement involved in taking my cross UP, a forward-following that has led to many detours and breakthroughs during the journey. There’s ownership in taking hold of MY cross and bearing it. There’s the weightiness of the CROSS, a place where things go to die so that God can do something new.
There’s the weightiness of the CROSS, a place where things go to die so that God can do something new.
A jumble of emotions and experiences will accompany me too. Excitement, pain, doubt, blessing, weariness, peace, and victory will each touch me along the way as I follow Him. Sure, the sidelines are pretty static and comfortable, but that’s not what Jesus died to give me. He wants me to have abundant life – to grow, to be challenged, and to be so much more than I could ever be simply sitting on the sidelines. In John 10:10, He says it Himself:
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Brothers and sisters, I challenge you to examine your faith walk. Is it a forward walk? Or is it like mine was at one point, walking in place off to the side somewhere? Are you pressing ahead in faith or only hanging out with what is enjoyable and predictable? I had been missing out on the vibrant life of faith that I was intended for. But then, I really looked and saw His face. I fell in love with Jesus, not “Christian Activity”. The breadth and depth of my walk with Him has opened my eyes. I pray you’ll fix your gaze on Him an experience the same.