Hard to Believe

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hard to Believe, by John MacArthur

Let me just start, by saying I love my honey. He’s leaving for a business trip tomorrow, the beginning of a month of in-and-outs and back-and-forths for the next month and a half or so. He said he feels bad to leave me alone for so long with just the baby and a hyper dog, so he encouraged me to go out tonight and get some alone time while I can. Isn’t that thoughtful?

So here I am at Starbucks, finally with the opportunity to write about what I’ve been reading lately. (Sidenote: why doesn’t Starbucks offer free wi-fi? Isn’t it bad enough to pay $4.50 for a skinny decaf cinnamon dolce latte? They want me to pay $6.00 for the internet, too?) Last week, I finished “Hard to Believe,” by John MacArthur. I got it on clearance at the Green Valley Book Fair, and I’m not surprised it was discounted twice by two separate retailers. The premise of the book is it is hard to follow Jesus: it’s not about signing a pledge card or walking down the aisle. It’s a powerful condemnation of seeker-sensitive churches, marketing the gospel, and examples like Robert Schuller’s “Self-Esteem: The New Reformation.” To quote from MacArthur on page 11: “So you want to follow Jesus, do you? It will cost you absolutely everything.”

MacArthur thoroughly builds his argument, starting with Jesus’ teachings about self-denial, and then moves to the unpopularity of the concept of God’s sovereignty, the disgust of crucifixion, and the lowliness of his followers. Thomas More disparaged Martin Luther by calling him a “privy pot”, which isn’t much of a stretch from the Apostle Paul saying that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) In true paradoxical Christianity, I found this chapter particularly encouraging. It’s always a struggle for me to get everything done on my daily list; I could always be smarter, richer, thinner, funnier, etc. I stutter, I’m not ‘contributing to society’, and my second toe on each foot is freakishly long. After reading this, I was encouraged that I am among the foolish, lowly, and the “dregs of society” according to Paul (1 Corinthians 4:13). God has chosen me to glorify himself and expose the world for the foolishness it is. In my weakness, He is strong. I don’t understand it, but it’s really cool.

What I appreciated most about the book was his chapters on those who fall way from the faith, who appeared to be following hard after God and then renounced everything. I’ve had several friends do this, and I was beginning to think I was doing something wrong. It was a reality check: this also happened to Jesus and the Apostle Paul, so at least I was in good company. MacArthur showed how pride, false assurance, and religious activity can trick two groups of unsaved people in the church: the superficial and the involved. We actually just discussed this topic at our Bible study group last night. Can someone lose their salvation? The author argues (which I firmly believe) that they never truly had saving faith. It’s heartbreaking, but it should motivate us to question our own faith.

“The Lord brings us to His communion table over and over again in order that each professing Christian may examine himself. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, ‘Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you now know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you are indeed disqualified.' You need to look at your sin and your motivation for doing what you do. Believe me, if you are genuinely saved, God will confirm that by His Spirit witnessing with your spirit. Raising your hand or walking the aisle has nothing to do with it.”


Barbara said...

"Excellent," said Mom.
"Good for her," echoed Dad.

Nathan Garrett said...

"Freakish toe," wondered Nathan. "How did I miss that growing up?"

Rachel said...

Mom: get ready to be disappointed on the next entry.
Nathan: because you have the same freakishly long toes that I do.