“What are you in it for?” This past Sunday my father posed this question in regards to being a Christian. I connected to this topic due to my current spiritual life (and lack thereof) as well as its strong scriptural reference.
A few weeks ago I struggled with this same subject matter. At that time, I had begun going to church for the first time on my own in my adult life. I had been attending church and bible study regularly for two months and read my Bible for personal Bible study twice a week. I was trying to learn more about the God that I served and what was required to serve him properly. However, I still felt like a kid playing church. One mid-August Sunday I asked myself “why am I here?” What am I seeking and why am I seeking it? I had lapsed back into some of my unsavory ways, and I felt like I needed to examine myself before I continue attending. It seems counterintuitive to leave a place that can help (church) to seek help, but I did not feel right attending.
When I fell back into my ways, I did not feel as though my repenting came from a sincere place. It sounds good and feels good to go to church on Sunday and say “I went to church.” People can tell just by looking at you in your church clothes and know that you were obedient to God’s word. But I felt hollow. As mentioned, this was my first time going to church regularly by myself as an Adult. Previously I always attended church with my family, and it was familiar. But I simply could not knowingly sin, not be sincere in my repentance and return the next Sunday as if all was well.
This past Sunday my family had church in our home for the first time in months. I did not feel like attending, but I did anyway. Little did my Dad know his sermon connected directly to my concerns: What are you in it for? In his sermon, my Dad preached from Acts Chapter 8: 4-25. In this chapter, Apostle Phillip is sent to spread the gospel to the people of Samaria. While there, he cast out numerous demons from the people and the Samaritans decide to give their life to God. Including Simon, a sorcerer, who “bewitched” the people and proclaimed himself as sent from God. Two more disciples visited to lay hands on the Samarian so that they could receive the Holy Ghost. Simon approached the men and asked if he could pay them to receive their ability to administer the Holy Ghost. He was rebuked by them and told to repent. Simon’s motives for becoming a follower of Christ were not pure, he was in it for the power and prestige he saw the disciples had.
Salvation is not a game, and God knows your heart, and I do not mean it in the glib way it’s used today. Often the phrase “God knows my heart” is used as a scapegoat for contrary behavior. When I say that God knows your heart, I mean that he knows your inner thoughts and motives. Regardless of whether you publicly acknowledge or realize your motives, he knows you. Even in the case of Simon who committed numerous sins, God cared enough about him to send a message through his disciples; Repent. Even though he’d led people astray, falsely proclaimed himself as someone sent from God, and tried to bribe the disciples the disciples stilled showed him mercy.
My Next Steps
While I can intellectualize this, it is still hard for me to process emotionally. I still question my motives for attending and dedicating my life to Christ. Am I doing this because of my upbringing, and it is “good”? Or am I seeking him because I cannot see another way? Often when I speak to born-again Christians there is a sense of absolute serenity regarding their decision to “take up their cross” and follow Jesus. I still question the motives of my heart. The question of “What are you in it for?” is a question that every person who proclaims their self to be a Christian should examine. Do we follow God and attend church because we believe wholeheartedly that he is the beginning and the end? Or do we “believe” in him and attend church because it’s a “good” thing to do?