Follow the yellow brick road!February 11, 2008 at 11:03 am | Posted in Christianity | 4 Comments
Tags: abortion, America, ateasetees, Bible, Christian, church, compromise, death, evangelism, faith, God, gospel, grace, hell, holy, hope, Israel, Jesus, judgment, law, life, love, marriage, mercy, modern gospel, money, murder, Oz, pastor, peace, prayer, repent, salvation, scripture, sin, ten commandments, truth, wizard, yellow brick road
In the movie, “The Wizard of Oz”, Dorothy finds herself caught up in a storm where she ends up getting injured. While recovering, she has a dream about a land called Oz. In Oz she meets a number of interesting characters and tries to find her way home. I haven’t seen the movie in quite awhile and will probably skip over a lot of things, but the major points and characters still stand out in my mind. I was considering all of this when my thoughts took an interesting turn. The Land of Oz has some ironic parallels to the modern church…
After spending some time with the Lollipop Guild, Dorothy meets Glenda the “good witch”. Glenda’s sweet talk and gentle nature put Dorothy at ease. Her charm and beauty disarm Dorothy’s fears and make it easier for her to receive the message she has to give Dorothy. Glenda tells Dorothy that to get back to Kansas, she must “follow the yellow brick road”. She also gets a pair of ruby slippers from the witch that she crushed. A song begins and there is much dancing and rejoicing because Dorothy can now find the way home. Sadly, Glenda’s message seems to be one that the church has professed as well.
“If you truly know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you’ll be blessed, blessed, blessed! You’ll be blessed in the city, blessed in the field, blessed going in, and blessed going out!”
In other words, “follow the yellow brick road”. Unfortunately, there are many who have listened to this teaching and believed that everyone who professes the name of Christ will be blessed at all times. They’ll have more than enough. They’ll be overflowing. They’ll live their best, most abundant, most joy-filled life right here and now and all they have to do is believe. If they aren’t being blessed beyond belief, then it’s because they don’t have enough faith yet. To get that faith, they need to “sow” into any one of a number of ministries that seem to have a direct hotline to God. By doing this at every possible point they can, they will eventually “reap a blessing so overflowing that they will not be able to contain it”.
So, Dorothy begins her journey down the yellow brick road. Along the way, she meets a number of different characters. The first main character she meets on the road is the Scarecrow. The Scarecrow is a likable fellow who also seems to be a pretty good dancer. He is kind and gentle, but there is one thing that he’s lacking. If he could get anything from the “Wizard” of Oz, it would be a brain. He lacks knowledge. There are a lot of Scarecrows in the First Church of Oz as well. It seems more and more that those in the church have drifted away from the very thing that we need most. Many churches now have projection screens that post the scriptures so that you don’t even need to bring your Bible. They sit in church and get someone’s interpretation of the Word of God. And, because they don’t have their Bible, they have no way of knowing if what is being preached is the same as what God really said. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge”. Many people could quote that (even if they couldn’t tell you where it is), but they seem to forget the rest of it! The rest of Hosea 4:6 says, “Because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children”. It seems that knowledge is a lot more important than we often give it credit for. In Proverbs, Solomon constantly reiterates the importance of knowledge. He says, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7). He says, “fools hate knowledge” (Prov. 1:22). He says that there will be a point where calamity comes, but when we cry out to Him, He will not answer (Prov. 1:29). Why? Because we’ve hated knowledge. Everything that happened in the founding and creation of the universe happened because of knowledge. He says that we should desire knowledge more than the “choicest gold” (Prov. 8:10).
But we don’t. We revel in our ignorance, believing that we will be blessed and saved and that God will not hold us accountable to His Word if we don’t study it. The saddest thing about this is that we are ignorant by choice. It is our choice to be ignorant about the things of God. We allow the things of the world to captivate us more than the One who loved us enough to die for our sins. We give all of our time to the business of life and then claim that we have nothing left to give to God, when it is Him that we should be spending time with first! We hold on to “secret” sins that no one else knows about and we coddle them and pet them, knowing they are wrong. If we loved knowledge, then we would allow it to reveal to us the places in our lives that need to be changed. Instead, we hate knowledge. That, according to the Bible, makes us fools. Sadly, Psalm 14 says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God’”.
After their meeting, Dorothy and the Scarecrow decide that they can all go to the “Wizard” of Oz and get exactly what they want. So, they travel together down the yellow brick road, following the modern gospel and all that comes with it. Eventually, they come across a Tin Man. He has been standing in one spot so long, that he is rusty from lack of use. Dorothy and the Scarecrow find an oil can and begin to help the Tin Man get free. I can’t tell you how many Tin Men (and Women) I’ve seen in the modern church. There is one main difference though. The Tin Men/Women of the First Church of Oz are content to sit back and do nothing. They don’t share their faith, they don’t help in the ministries of the church, and they don’t feel “lead” to do anything that might involve sacrifice. They don’t have a heart after God’s. So they just sit back and enjoy the singing, and the fellowship, and the potlucks, and all of the fun things; but, they never get up and do the actual work of God. Now, you might be saying:
“Wait a minute. Dorothy and the Scarecrow did something good! They helped the Tin Man get free! That’s what it’s all about! The church is here to help people get free!”
That kind of stuff is another product of the modern gospel. It’s not true. The church isn’t here to get people free. There is nothing you and I can do to get people free. To say that we can is an outright lie, and blasphemes the Name of Jesus. It is Jesus, and Jesus alone, that can “get people free” (I am getting more and more to the point where I can’t stand all of the cliché Christian phrases…). The main purpose of the church is to glorify God. Period. If we do anything else, it is because God ALLOWS us to be a part of it. It has nothing to do with me, or how good I am or what talents I have. Many people reading this would probably say, “I know what you’re saying and I completely agree”. But would their actions line up with that? There are many people who seem to know that it’s all about Jesus and that He’s the One that does it all, and they constantly try to help Him by manipulating things or setting themselves up on high and doing things their way. Does God get any glory from that?
Finally, Dorothy and the Scarecrow finish setting the Tin Man free, and they tell him all about the journey that they’re on. The Tin Man gets excited. For as long as he can remember, he’s wanted a heart. Dorothy tells him that the “Wizard” can help him get a heart. After much rejoicing, the three start off on the yellow brick road toward the “Wizard”.
They continue down the yellow brick road and while passing through the forest, they run into a lion with a yellow streak a mile wide. He puts on a good show and acts like he’s the most ferocious animal in the world, but when they start getting bolder, he let’s his true colors show. Dorothy and Co. tell the Lion about their journey to see the “Wizard” and how they are going to ask him for the things they want. The Lion wonders if the “Wizard” has any courage for him and they invite him to come with them to ask.
As with all of the other characters, there are a number of Lions in the First Church of Oz. Some of them get really excited about the things that are going on in the church and are all gung ho, for about three weeks. Then, when the newness wears off and they are stuck knee deep in a ministry with no help (thanks to the Tin Men/Women), they show their true colors and quit. They won’t fight it out and they won’t stand on the Word. They just stop. Other Lions make a big show of being “warriors” and “soldiers”. They talk about the spiritual battle that rages around us and look at the church as a platoon of soldiers in differing stages of readiness. They talk about being “manly men” and how they are taking the devil out. But when it comes to true battles, they are caving in and running away. Because they lack knowledge, they don’t really understand where the battle truly is and they get caught up running around shadowboxing. They waste all of their time and energy fighting a mirage in the battlefield of their mind instead of standing toe to toe with the true foes and fighting the good fight of faith.
They finally meet the “Wizard” and he tells them that he will help them if they get him the broom belonging to the wicked witch of the west. They go in search of her, but on the way, Dorothy and Toto are kidnapped and flown to the witch by the flying monkeys. The witch tries to take the slippers (they belonged to her sister) but can’t. After some heroic stuff from the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion, Dorothy is freed. They find themselves cornered on the top of the castle and the witch sets the Scarecrow on fire. Dorothy tries to put him out and succeeds in soaking the witch and causing her to melt away.
Ironically, This seems to me to be a picture of the how the modern church is dealing with those who stand on the Word of God as their foundation. The modern church has the truth of the gospel with them (the slippers), but they choose to ignore it and chase the material things (yellow brick road). Those who try to get the slippers and use them the way they are meant to be (the witch) are attacked. Their message is diluted by the modern church in the ears of those who hear it. Granted, all of this is a weak example, but it is a reflection of what is happening in the church even as I type this! (If you don’t believe me, listen to the speeches that were given by Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter at the “New Baptist Covenant” meeting) Instead of being an example of the beauty of those who bring good news of good things (Romans 10:15), they completely forget and ignore the power (Romans 1:16) of the gospel they are supposed to be preaching!
Finally, after a long arduous trek, the yellow brick road leads them back to the Emerald City. They get to the doors and have a difficult time getting in at first, but they finally work their way into the city. Inside it is like nothing they’ve ever imagined. There are wondrous and entertaining things going on all the time. There are Technicolor horses and other oddities. They seek the “Wizard” out again and, after a little trouble, finally get another audience with the “Great Oz”. The “Great Oz” is a floating head with a loud, booming voice. He has fire and smoke and explosions. He has a terse manner of speaking and all of this makes him seem larger than life and unapproachable. He seems like a god. He cannot be touched, he will not have his whims denied, everything will go his way or no way. Each one of the company of four asks for the thing that they seek most.
In a laughable turn of events, Toto finds a man behind a curtain off to the side. He reveals this to Dorothy and Co. This causes the “Great Oz” to say, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”. In the end, the old man reveals himself as “The Great Oz”. He is nothing more than a man from Kansas.
Sadly, many more preachers are striving to look like the “Great Oz”. They seem unapproachable. They are full of power, prestige, and it is their image that is most important to them. They conduct their lives in Emerald City Churches with smoke, fire, and explosions. They are intimidating, cannot be touched, their whims will not be denied, and everything will go their way or no way. They are so much pomp and circumstance. The yellow brick road of the modern gospel leads newcomers and seekers to their very door. The newcomers are ushered in to a world unlike any they’ve ever seen or heard about before. They see things that they didn’t even see in the world and find an experience that, while it makes them feel good and allows them to be comfortable in their sins, does nothing to truly change their lives. They are taught to put on a façade of happiness and joy when around others of “the faith”. They are taught how to preach the same yellow brick road gospel to their family and friends. They are taught how to be busy for God without actually doing any of the work of God. They are taught to be Scarecrows, Tin Men/Women, and Lions. And in all of this, they are not given the one thing they need more than anything else: the truth.
The “Great Oz” tells the three Ozians that they have already found what they sought. The Scarecrow found knowledge, the Tin Man a heart, and the Lion found courage. They found it on their journey along the yellow brick road. How like the modern gospel this is.
“Live out your life exactly like we tell you (even if we don’t do that ourselves) and you’ll find the true life and happiness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You’ll find the prosperity and the blessing. You’ll find the peace, joy, and happiness. You’ll get everything that your heart desires. You will be healthy and free from trouble. All you have to do is follow the yellow brick road”.
Dorothy eventually finds her way home and back to reality (with the ruby slippers), but there are so many who are still caught up in the modern gospel. They continue chasing the “dream” and the “vision” instead of growing in truth and holiness. They continue to be busy with nothing to show for it. They “work” by preaching this false gospel to the next generation. And sadly, many of them don’t even realize what they’re doing. They don’t realize that they’ve been following the yellow brick road for years and still haven’t received what they were promised. They have wasted years of their lives following a false vision and have nothing to show for it.
What are you following? Are you following the yellow brick road? Are you following the teaching of the modern gospel? Do you seek the false promises more than you seek Jesus? What are your eyes fixed on?
Or do you follow the truth found in the gospel (even when it doesn’t make sense to you)? Do you stand on the truth of the Word of God above all else, including your own thoughts and ideas? Do you disregard the popular things if they are unscriptural and have no foundation in the Word of God (even if they use scripture to support their premises)?
What are you following? Where are you going? Where will you end up?