“I don’t want to be a Christian because I don’t want God to make me stop _______”
That objection to becoming a disciple of the Christ is the most heartbreaking excuse I hear, and it comes up very often.
It voices a fundamental misunderstanding of not only the nature of God, but what the basic consequences of the choice to either follow or reject Him are.
In this context, the objector seems to be unaware that God has chosen NOT to force His followers to do anything. Throughout the Bible, it is made clear that God informs His people of what He expects of them, tells them the consequences of disobedience as well as the rewards of obedience – AND THEN LETS THEM DECIDE WHETHER TO FOLLOW HIM OR NOT.
That is very important to grasp; God will not force you to stop doing anything, and He will not excuse you from both the temporal and eternal consequences of your decisions.
The mistake that many Christians make (and I have done so myself) is to make a reply similar to “God won’t make you give up anything, just pray and seek Him” and leave it at that. The great danger in this approach is that it leaves the impression that “buffet style” Christianity is a viable option.
Buffet style Christianity, judging from the amount of books, televangelists, and websites either subtly or explicitly advocating it, is the most popular false “christian” theology in America today. It is best described as a belief that God loves us both unconditionally and codependently – we are free to pick and choose which of His commands suit our fancy and ignore the rest because God is a god of love and will never punish us as long as we follow Him when it is convenient.
For those who take the Bible seriously, it is obvious that this idea is not only wrong, but leads straight to hell on a very broad ‘feel-good’ path. Consistently throughout the scripture, the instruction to repent (or turn away from sin) is presented as a vital component to salvation from His wrath. Some examples are Ezekiel 18, Zechariah 1:1-6, Matthew 11:21-22, Acts 2:38, 3:19, 17:30 and especially Christ’s declaration, “unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish” in Luke 13:1-5.
God has never said, “Follow me, except for that one thing you don’t want to give up”. What He has revealed is more like “Follow me whatever the cost and if I tell you to give up that one thing you want to hold on to, I will replace it with something so much better you will be amazed.”
The rewards of following Christ are clear; an eternity of fulfillment and joy with God and all the treasures and rewards He has promised. Here are a very few of them:
-) Freedom from death and judgement: John 5:24, Romans 10:9, Romans 6:23. 1 Thessalonians 1:10
-) Internal Peace: Proverbs 1:33, John 14:27, Matthew 11:28-29
-) Forgiveness: 1 John 1:9
-) A joyous eternity with God and his people : John 14:1-3, I Thessalonians 4:16-17. I Peter 1:5-11, Revelation 21:4
The rewards of rejecting Him are equally clear; eternal, final judgement and separation from God. This is best summarized in Hebrews: 10:26-31.
Which will you choose? A life of never-ending fulfillment and joy, or a temporary enjoyment of that which will always demand that you have more and more and never truly provide peace?