by Guest Blogger, Alexandra Armstrong
I can’t help but chuckle to myself when, as recently, I hear folks haul out Karl Marx’s mid-19th century quote: “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”
It’s used to make the point that religion provides a cheap means for people to sedate themselves from the realities of this cruel world by focusing on the illusion of a happier one.
Are they kidding?
Maybe that’s true if the religion they know is nothing more than a social affiliation. But authentic biblical Christianity isn’t cheap, doesn’t deny reality and isn’t rooted in illusion.
I’m amazed at Jesus’ candor about what it takes to follow him. He said plainly (Luke 14) if you’re not willing to prioritize him above those you love most in this world, willing to bear the cross assigned to you and willing to renounce all that you have, you cannot be his disciple. This kind of marketing doesn’t attract devoted masses.
Moreover, Jesus encouraged those who would be his disciples to count the high cost of following him so they didn’t get into it, discover it required more than they expected and then embarrass themselves by quitting.
German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said the idea of Christianity without discipleship is a myth. The Bible never offers salvation without it.
Yet, Jesus was clear about what his disciples could expect. He said they wouldn’t be treated any differently than he was: hated and persecuted. Biblical Christianity doesn’t deflect life’s challenges. It would seem to add to them.
You have to respect Jesus’ truth in advertising.
The apostles also wrote things like: “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” And, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
So to have any hope of living the requirements of true discipleship and remaining committed, God gives his followers the Holy Spirit to empower them. Far from sedating, the Holy Spirit’s presence sharpens one’s focus on realities seen and unseen.
Finally, the gospel promise of eternal life with God — predicated on our acceptance of Jesus Christ as the substitutionary sacrifice for our sin — is by faith. But it is not baseless, illusionary faith.
One of the strongest evidences Christians have that God will keep his promises for the future is his record of keeping his promises in the past.
More than 25 percent of the Bible is prophecy, including approximately 2,500 specific predictions. Of these, about 2,000 have been accurately fulfilled (leaving one-fifth yet to be completed.)
The statistical probability of this accuracy rate has been calculated as 1 in 10 to the 2,000th power. Anything with a statistical probability of 1 in 10 to the 50th power is considered “impossible” by scientists. Any skeptic would take that accuracy rate to the dog track.
Biblical Christianity is no opiate for the masses. Jesus said that few enter the narrow gate of discipleship. Maybe it only looks like there are masses of disciples because Christians don’t weed out the social affiliates among us.
But true disciples will weed their own hearts.
You can contact Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org