In what follows I want to explore a few of the many obstacles that we let get in the way of our being as effective or as obedient as we should be in regard to a serious commitment we have made: our discipleship as Christians. Rather than being a “finger-pointing” session, I want this article to be an aid to help us think seriously about these obstacles and correct them so as to grow in our Christian commitment. In this first installment of my new series called Obstacles To Discipleship I want to look at some common obstacles that I call “conscience appeasers.” These conscience appeasers are things we do (or half-do) that are not at all conducive to Christian discipleship (they actually hinder it) but once we have done them, appease our conscience so as to think we have engaged in God’s work. I will list two of them below and then elaborate on what I mean by each one, because if understood and done properly these can be good things.
1. Reading the Bible a few minutes before we go to bed Before I start commenting on this one, I want to remind us that there is nothing wrong with reading the Bible before we go to bed. What I am offering here is that many people only read their Bible before they go to bed! They do not study it, grow in it, etc. The biblical text is vital for true discipleship. Not just reading it, but studying it, mining it for truth and getting all we can out of it. We really need to put a lot of time into properly understanding the Bible and its teachings/doctrines. As I have said in other places, we all make time for what we deem important: whether it is entertainment, visiting with friends, etc. I think it is important that if we profess Christ as Lord that we live a life that reflects that commitment. Remember Jesus spoke positively only of those who believed and practiced what He said, and very negatively of those who only heard what He said but didn’t practice it. He thought it inexplicable that someone would confess Him as Lord and not practice what He commanded:
“Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say? I will show you what someone is like who comes to Me, hears My words, and acts on them: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great!” (Luke 6:46-49 CSB)
How many of us really reflect that in our lives and practice what Jesus commanded? Taking it a step further, could we be faithful in that commitment if we only read the Bible shortly before bedtime? Or should we set aside special time for studying the Bible like we do other things in our lives, such as entertainment? I opt that we let go of this conscience appeaser and press forward in our discipleship as a way of reflecting our love for Christ:
“If you love Me, you will keep My commands.” (John 14:15 CSB)
2. “Going to Church” A serious word of qualification here before I proceed, I am not saying that going to church is a bad thing, quite the contrary. Church done properly (not perfectly, but properly) is vital in the life of a believer, hence me placing the phrase in quotation marks in the bold heading above. Having said that, many of us live in an area where there is a “go to church” mentality that really cripples serious discipleship. Many churches offer not much more than an emotional experience rather than a place where truth or being challenged to grow as a Christian is valued highly. Rather than seek a church that can offer what they need, many opt for just “going to church” despite not ever growing or being challenged in their discipleship while in attendance. A good service for them constitutes how powerful the experience played on their emotions, and it is fueled not by quenching their desire for truth/need or things conducive to growth, but by “feel good” clichés or music. This is how “going to church” becomes a conscience appeaser, as one gets comfortable and actually becomes resistant to serious discipleship and their commitment to Christ. The continued commitment and no growth is surely crippling to these Christians lives, yet they remain faithfully committed, not to serious discipleship, but to this conscience appeaser.
What Should We Do About Conscience Appeasers? I would offer that we give serious thought and reflection to what it is we actually do in our lives as Christians. I only gave two examples of conscience appeasers but I’m sure we can all think of many more. I suggest we be active in identifying and then eliminating them. One way to do this is to ask ourselves questions such as “How is this helping me grow in Christ?” or “How am I helping others grow in Christ?” in reference to whatever activity we are engaging in or not engaging in. If it isn’t challenging us to grow in our discipleship then we should rightly ask “why am I doing this or why am I participating in this?” If we are faithful in correcting conscience appeaser number one (reading the Bible a few minutes before going to bed), and we continue to grow in our understanding of Scripture and what it says about discipleship, that will help us correct number two (“going to church”) as well! I pray this helps us be more mindful of our walk with Christ and helps us all to take our discipleship more serious.