Despite what the world may tell you, you can’t have it both ways. They think it’s perfectly fine to be a Christian, as long as you don’t get too carried away with it. As soon as your religion calls you to question their beliefs, or makes you hold a belief that they find offensive, or makes you actually choose God over the options the world offers, then it’s gone a little too far. They constantly push us to just keep a foot on either side of the fence.
Perhaps you’ve seen one of those funny videos where a dog tries to bring a stick into the house through the dog door, but he can’t fit because the object is too wide for the door (like this, for example). While those clips can be humorous, I think they perfectly illustrate an oft-forgotten point about the concept of Christianity held by today’s world and (sadly) many in the church. At the moment he realizes the stick won’t fit through the door, our canine friend has two options: leave the stick and go inside where it is warm, where he will be fed, where his people are, and where his comfortable bed is… or stay outside in the cold with a stick. Of course, the dog will often choose the stick, at least for a time, and we get to chuckle about how silly animals can be. But think about how much more ridiculous it is for people to have a knowledge of God’s truth and still sit on the fence between worldliness and fully giving themselves to God. It shouldn’t be a choice at all, and yet we can waver back and forth between the house He offers us and the stupid, meaningless, useless sticks the world uses to entice us.
Of course, although there are some who know fully what our Father provides for us within His house and still stay outside, what’s far more common is for people to try to have it both ways. They want all the blessings of a relationship with God, particularly the assurance of heaven, all while clinging to what the world offers them. Anyone who tries to have the best of both worlds, by claiming Christianity and being part of a church while still hanging on to sinful habits or worldly idols simply doesn’t get it. There is no “best of both worlds.” Trying to bring the simple, selfish, short-term worldly pleasure that the world offers us into our relationships with God shows we don’t understand what He has promised us. One foot in both camps amounts to nothing. James told us this in James 4:4 – “do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?”
And yet so many Christians not only try to have the best of both worlds, they convince themselves they can. We can’t even begin to understand Christianity until we realize that it is about completely abandoning what we have in order to get something better. Abraham had to leave his family and home (Gen. 4). Jacob had to discard the family idols (Gen. 35). Moses had to give up the blessings of being in Pharaoh’s house (Heb. 11:24-26). Elisha burned his equipment and boiled his oxen so he wouldn’t even have a fallback option (1 Kings 19:21). And, every person Jesus called to follow Him had to give something up. Why would we think we’re any different?
When we try to have a relationship with God while letting kids’ sporting events, sinful entertainment choices, ungodly relationships, substances, or anything else come between us and Him, we’re no different than a dog who chooses a stick over everything the house has to offer, only far more foolish. Put away your idols. Cut off those relationships. Distance yourself from anything that pulls your affection away from God. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
Every one of us makes the decision every day, so what will you choose today? The worthless stick the world offers, or the limitless blessings found in Christ? Whichever you choose, don’t be deceived – there’s no way to hang on to the one and enjoy the other.
By Jack Wilkie
Jack Wilkie is the author of “Failure: What Christian Parents Need to Know About American Education” and is the speaker for Focus Press’s “The Lost Generation” seminar. To schedule a seminar at your church, contact jack@focuspress.org.