Summary: Christianity is not something that can be chosen from a buffet of religious options… It's a realization that we're guilty… It's a relationship forged in repentance... It's a life of loving service & obedience to the One whose mercy & grace set us free.
CORE MESSAGE: Christianity is not something that can be chosen from a buffet of religious options… It is a realization that we are guilty and full of shame before a holy, righteous God… It is a relationship that is forged out of our abject humility as we lay prostrate before God in repentance... It is a life of loving dedication as we pour out our lives in service and obedience to the One whose mercy and grace set us free when we rightfully deserved His condemnation and wrath.
I had a discussion with a young man at our youth summer camp last summer here in northeast Taiwan. He believes that Jesus is the Son of God. He believes that Jesus died for our sins. He believes that Jesus rose again from the dead and is alive today. So I asked him if he was ready to follow Jesus and become a Christian. Then he said something that still breaks my heart even today… He said, “When I get home, I’m going to the temple to ask Matsu (local deity) if I should become a Christian.” I asked him, “What if Matsu says no?” He said, “Then I will be very sad, but I will do what Matsu says because she is like a mother to me.”
That discussion really troubled me. Yes, I’m disappointed that he did not choose to follow Jesus. Yes, I’m disappointed that he felt the need to ask for Matsu’s permission to become a Christian. But those things are small compared to a much deeper problem… A deeper problem that God has burdened me with… A deeper problem that I’m going to share with you this morning.
Do you know what a buffet is? You have all those choices laid out in front of you. You choose what food to put on your plate… and you ignore the food you do not want. You can have as much or as little as you want. The buffet is the best example I can think of to describe this deep problem that has been troubling me. Imagine a buffet with many different religions to choose from. Many people think that Christianity is a religion that can be chosen from the buffet. People think they can choose to be a Christian, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Daoist, or a Buddhist… or they can choose a little from each one… take the parts they like and leave behind the parts they don’t like… or choose nothing at all.
This young man at the summer camp was missing the entire point of Christianity… He was thinking that Christianity was simply a “religion” that he could choose to follow. Christianity is so much more than a religion. You don’t simply “choose” to be a Christian by saying some magical prayer.
You become a Christian when you experience something the Bible calls “REPENTANCE”.
Let’s turn in our Bibles to Matthew 4:17…
“17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
This verse captures the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. The very FIRST thing that Jesus does in His ministry is to PREACH REPENTANCE… even before He chooses the 12 disciples. This must be a very important thing! With all the topics that Jesus could choose to preach from, He chose to start with repentance.