I have recently stuck my head into the world of flat-panel televisions. My wife and I (well, really just me, but my wife has at least given her consent) are considering buying one, and I decided to do my due diligence and research the best brands, prices, etc. What I discovered was interesting but not surprising: you get what you pay for. Two televisions, comparable in size and features, might vary by as much as $500, and many consumers run to the stores to sweep up these inexpensive models (called second- and third-tier brands by the service industry). Interestingly, many of them respond incredulously when their "great deal" goes on the fritz. Internet blogs and consumer reporting agencies are overflowing with complaints concerning the performance of these cheap televisions, as well as the service provided by the low-tier manufacturers. One popular internet electronics reviewer, known as "HD Guru," in an article entitled Your New Disposable Flat-Panel HDTV, remarked that "what you basically get when you buy a [particular name-brand] is a disposable HDTV-think paper towel." He investigated the in- and out-of-warranty return/repair policies of many off-brand manufacturers, only to find that either the prices were outrageous for shipping/parts or there was no repair assistance offered at all.
In my investigation, I learned a few useful facts about buying flat-panel televisions. Interestingly enough, these lessons have some very serious parallels in the religious world. Consider the following points and their application:
First, my decline into the depths of the electronics world taught me that we should expect to get what we pay for. One internet poster made the following comment following HD Guru's article: "As a veteran of 35+ years in the electronics business (20+ in retail and 10+ in wholesale), I am constantly amazed at the consumer that demands cheaper, cheaper, cheaper, and then is surprised when the unit is no good." Something in modern American society has fostered the get-something-for-nothing ideal, a stark contrast to the so-called "Protestant work ethic" of generations past. When two comparable televisions differ so greatly in price, the consumer should expect that price difference to be reflected somewhere.
Does the same principle not apply to the religious world? Main-stream religion today claims magnificent benefits while costing very little. The Joel Osteens and Joyce Meyers, the Purpose-Driven Life's and the Chicken Soup for the Soul's, all offer quick fixes and religiosity without the demand for extensive life changes. They give us shallow insights into our finances or marriages, they make us feel good about our situations (however sinful), and they allow us to lay our heads down at night without guilt or concern. But where are those quick fixes and shallow insights when the really tough questions come up? They fall short if they do not provide Biblical answers. And most importantly, how are these watered-down religions going to hold up when eternity stands before us? Jesus points out their eternal shortcomings:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).
Imagine a man or woman who has followed some semblance of Christianity for some time, only to realize ultimately that he was never following Christ! He will respond with disbelief, "But what about the feeling I had? What about the assurance I felt? What about the worship I thought I gave you, the prayers I thought were reaching you?" But place the two options side-by-side, and the difference becomes clear. New Testament Christianity demands a change from the old man to the new man (Colossians 3:9-10; Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17). It requires repentance, or a change of lifestyle, attitude, and thought (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38; 2 Peter 3:9). It requires complete obedience to the will of God, including baptism and proper worship (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:20; John 4:24; Colossians 3:17). It requires a faithful daily walk with the burdens of this life (Luke 9:23; 1 John 1:7) and a consideration of these requirements before undertaking the responsibility (Luke 14:27-33). How foolish is it to do less than what God requires and still expect the blessings that come only from complete obedience? If we buy into cut-rate religion, we should expect cut-rate results.
It also occurred to me while researching flat-panel televisions that I don't understand how something that can cost between $700 and $4000 is disposable! As one blogger put it, "Some of these lower cost brands have great pictures to go along with the low price; now I'm not sure if I should take a chance on them knowing what I know now. As for [brand name], I don't consider anything that costs $1149 to be 'disposable'." To that I say, Amen.
But now consider that same idea from a spiritual perspective. Aren't our souls worth more than flat-panel televisions? Jesus surely thought so: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). Why, then, do so many treat their souls as if they are disposable? Many take whichever religion is cheapest or most convenient, with little or no investigation. Others still give no thought to the care and upkeep of their souls, allowing them to fall into disrepair through neglect and carelessness. The disciples asked Jesus, "Carest thou not that we perish?" (Mark 4:38). The question might today be framed differently: Carest we not that we perish? No wonder Paul commanded us to "study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). The Bereans "were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). Though an inspired apostle was preaching, these Christians-to-be were not about to take their eternal destinies lightly. And neither should any person today.
Flat-panel televisions and the final destinations of our eternal souls are miles apart in importance. However, the same logic that applies to one physically should apply to the other spiritually. Are you willing to settle for low-tier religion? Are you willing to bet your soul on a cheap imposter of the church for which Jesus died and shed His blood? Take care of your future-ensure that you will enjoy the bliss of heaven for eternity. Remember: You get what you pay for!
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