Are You Serious?
I chose the name for this website based on the concept which Dr. James I. Packer (noted theologian and Christian scholar) explains as he discusses the world of the Puritans (see his excellent book, A Quest for Godliness, a treatise on the Puritan vision of the Christian life). Speaking of the Puritan view of Christian spiritual maturity, the esteemed Dr. Packer says that, in their day, if a Puritan believer wanted to discover whether or not an individual was growing in his or her walk with the Lord, the Puritans would simply ask that individual, “Are you serious?” Meaning, are you growing in your reflection on this life and its impact on the life to come and is it making any difference in the way you live presently? Are you living with the Bible and the cross in mind and do you make your decisions accordingly? I love this concept, since I think that there is a lot of frivolous Christianity projected out into the public domain, a Christianity with no “serious” thoughts about taking up the cross daily, denying self, taking Christ’s call seriously and living and repenting in the face of the most serious concept on the face of the earth, “eternity.”
At the same time, I must admit that I often wonder if I personally can answer the question, “areUserious?” “Rod, areUserious?” Of course, I’m not wondering about this because I have a good sense of humor, one probably worse (sicker) than the next guy. I have, as cartoonist Gary Larson calls it “a Far Side” mind which constantly thinks up the most absurd concepts possible and many of them are pretty funny (if and when I go public with them). I think God made me that way, so I’m not too disturbed about that. What I wonder about and what does disturb me is that even though I know and believe some very serious concepts, like death is coming and there is an ultimate day of “reckoning” ahead and my eternity is at stake, I still don’t allow eternity to sway my temporality as much as it should. So, I have to ask the question of myself: “amIserious?” I do believe, however, that I can live in this tension – I can laugh and find humor in life and yet be very serious about the life with which God has entrusted to me. I think God allows me to laugh, help others laugh and to enjoy life, while simultaneously being very serious about God’s calling for me in His world.
I am mindful of the comment that the late Frank Kik, one of our RTS/Charlotte professors in the early days, made periodically to all of his students. Speaking of the Christian ministry and of being a minister, Dr. Kik stated, “We take what we do (the work of God) very seriously, but we cannot take ourselves too seriously.” Dr. Kik always demonstrated wisdom in his teaching. Yes, knowing, living for, serving, worshiping and loving God are very serious matters for every Christian. But don’t take yourself too seriously because it’s not all about you. You’ll blow it. And when you do, look at Christ’s finished work, laugh at yourself (mourn when you sin), and be thankful that God uses bumbling idiots (and sinners) in His kingdom and then, with faith in Christ and his finished work, move on and move forward and upward.
But when I consider the question, “areUserious?,” I am reminded that most probably the most serious word in the human vocabulary may indeed be the word (or reality of) “eternity.” However, I recognize that the common curse words, “Hell” and “Damn” may be even more serious in their import than the freestanding word “eternity,” since those two words attached to the word “eternity” make the concept of eternity very serious. Of course, our culture trivializes the concept of eternal damnation with its casual (but ironically emphatic) use of the words “Hell” and “Damn.” Their non-serious usage is a cultural form of denial and mental survival. Otherwise, we could hardly take the thought of eternal damnation (or hell) seriously and exist from day to day. If, however, these are words addressing a reality beyond us, then they are very serious words indeed and we had better be serious about them as well.
Now, one might try to build a case that the word “God” is the most serious word we can utter, particularly since, supposing He exists and has created us, we will be held absolutely accountable to Him for our eternal existence (heaven or hell is at stake, regarding our souls) and also because in the first few commandments of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), we find that….
- God is quite serious about having no idols before Him,
- God is a jealous God who deserves our undivided worship, loyalty and allegiance and will punish violators who worship anything but Him,
- God wants His name constantly revered (reverenced and properly used and honored) and
- God calls for His people to worship His glorious being on the day He designates, i.e. in the Old Testament, known as the Sabbath and since the resurrection of Christ, known as the Lord’s day.
God is a pretty serious topic whether we consider Him as a personal being (our Creator and Sovereign) or whether we think of the requirements He places upon His creatures (holiness, sinlessness and perfection) – assuming that one takes the time to reflect upon life and God much at all.
Therefore, I ask the question of myself, of the religiously bent, of philosophers and theologians, of scholars and meditators, of the man on the street, of the woman behind the desk, of the mom transporting children, of the husband flirting with his co-worker, of the agnostic and of the atheist (who gets really serious at times, but has to deal with a stark reality – or non-reality – does it even matter at all?): “areUserious?”
To be serious is to think about God and eternity. To be serious (to be a growing, maturing Christian follower of Christ) is to constantly look to the cross of Christ, the wisdom of God (it’s beyond our comprehension, but we can believe it by His grace and Spirit) and the power of God (it transforms and changes us – a work from above) and to bow before the One on the cross, the God-man, who came from heaven, lived perfectly, died a horrid death but rose again and who gives meaning to this crazy place we call earth and to live each seemingly temporal day (with its laughs and tears) in light of Christ’s second coming, in light of the great white throne of judgment and in light of eternity, where we will live forever, the wicked and unbelieving unto everlasting death (now that’s serious) and the righteous unto everlasting life through Christ, dwelling incomprehensibly, in the presence of the Almighty and all-glorious God who loves us.
Come to think of it, I am, at least, a little serious!