Fans are people who cheer someone on from the stadium, but who you’d never see out sweating on the field. They maybe own jerseys of their favorite players, know all the stats, and never miss a game. But when the team has a bad season they are quick to jump the bandwagon and support a team having a more successful season.
Sadly, it’s how we see many fellow Christians. Maybe instead of jerseys they have t-shirts that say “Jesus is my Homeboy”, or sport one of those snazzy WWJD bracelets. They might go to church but then from Monday morning to Saturday night, there’s no evidence of spiritual fruit or that Jesus is indeed their homeboy. For this type of person, it’s more of a hobby than a lifestyle.
Our church most definitely has a disease. It’s not a new one, and in fact it’s been around ever since the days that Jesus still walked around attracting large crowds. It’s called Fandom and I’m guilty as charged of it.
Up until reading this book I would have told you with proud confidence (red flag #1) that I am most certainly a devoted follower of Jesus, not just a “creaster” (which is what he calls people that only attend church on Christmas and Easter). If you are reading this, I’m guessing you consider yourself a follower of Jesus too. But just sit back and imagine with me for a moment that every assurance of your being on the right path to salvation … is wrong. Just, what if – this whole time I’ve been thinking I was right with God but really was confusing my religion for true relationship with Jesus.
That is the premise of his well-written book – centered around the section in Matthew 7 when Jesus, frustrated with the opportunist attitude of the large crowds following him tells them plainly, “Look, you’re all calling me ‘Lord, Lord’, but the day is going to come when the truth will come out and I’m going to say, I never knew you, away from me!”
Whenever I need a slightly louder version to hammer a verse through my thick head, I turn to the MSG version. Just read Jesus in this translation:
13-14 “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.
. . .
21-23 “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’
Lukewarmness in faith is actually the same as being stone cold in faith. Or as Revelation 3:16 puts it succinctly, “So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth”. Jesus didn’t just want people to “like” his fanpage on facebook, he isn’t interested in your memorized scripture or impressed in how many charity events you coordinate. He wants your whole heart, soul, mind and life, to transform you until you are so much like him you gleam in perfection.
Although please understand, we don’t earn our salvation. Rather, we are expected to recognize ourselves as desperate and empty-handed and wholly in need of an overhaul, and then to allow God to change us through faith in Jesus and the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to work in God’s will for our good and the good of those around us.
He offers a very helpful set of questions to diagnose fandom, and help separate it from the outward “doing” part of religion. Each section should be read thoughtfully, and soberly. I definitely want to go back with a pen and spend more time answering his questions. Not only does Mr. Idleman address the state of the lukewarm Christian today, his writing style is enjoyable and easy to read. I have to be honest, I initially picked this book up because it was on sale for $2, expecting some punchy and quick encouragement to what I already thought I knew. What I found was a response to the disease of assuming. (you know what happens…) The answer: Don’t assume you’re good to go to Heaven holding your badge collection. The process of sanctification is far sweeter and far more worth the trouble.