A buried treasure

November 13, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Think of something precious to you. Not someone, some thing. Maybe this is a ring that has been handed down in your family for generations. Maybe this is a tool your grandfather gave you. It may be something from a loved one who is no longer here. Whatever it is, think about it. Could you describe it to me? What color is it? How big is it? What is it made of? Does it have any distinguishing features? Do you remember the day that you got it? Where you were? What was going on when you got it?

For most of us this exercise comes pretty easily. As humans, we hold on to those things that we hold dear. The things that are most important to use have a prominent place in our hearts. Now, think back on that object that is precious to you. See yourself holding it (if possible). Now imagine that you took the item outside; somewhere in your backyard. And you dug a hole, dropped that precious object into it, covered it back up with dirt, and tamped it down.

You’re probably thinking that you would never do such a thing with something so important to you. That item is precious to you and probably has a special box or place where you keep it. Ok, so you didn’t dig a hole in your backyard, but it’s still buried. Let me ask you a question. Before you started reading this, when is the last time you thought about this item? Has it been days, weeks, months, or years?

Believe it or not, there is a reason we went through all of this….

That precious item is valuable to us because it brings us comfort. We think about the item and the memories attached to that item instantly come flooding back. If we’ve lost the person that originally owned the item, we are once again with them, even if for a moment. They are the little things that have helped us through the hurt. Today, there are a lot of people who are hurting. They look for comfort or answers to the pain and strife they’re facing. Some turn to alcohol. Others turn to harder drugs. Some turn to sex or pornography. Some even turn to the church. Sunday after Sunday, people enter the church and they’re hurting. Chances are, no two people in the church are hurting for the same reason either. Whether it was something their parents taught them or it was their last resort, they end up in church. They come hoping to hear something that will comfort them and ease their pain. And sadly, many of them leave the same way they came in.

Don’t get me wrong, these people went to a church where the people smiled, the songs were beautiful, and the pastor spoke with passion. But they still left hurting. Why? I believe that it’s because the church has buried its treasure and forgotten it. It seems that church has changed a lot in the last 100 years. Even looking over the last ten years, a lot of things are done differently now than they used to be. In America, a large number of people still go to church. If you’re in the Bible belt, that number is a little larger. So why do so many people leave the church hurting? Why do people go to church looking for answers and leave with more questions?

It’s because we’ve buried the gospel. I can almost hear you laughing. You’re thinking that I’ve lost my mind. That’s what the church is about! I would agree with you if there were a slight change: That’s what the church should be about. I know many would say that I may be talking about some churches but not all, and they’d be right. But, when did you last hear the gospel preached? Not scripture; the gospel. And not the watered down version of the gospel that so many churches try to pawn off as the real thing. I’m talking about the honest to goodness, truth from front to back, gospel.

Many of you may think that I’m crazy for this, but bear with me. There are a number of churches in America that are “seeker sensitive”. They find out what the non-Christians in their community would like to see at the church and then they do those things so that the non-Christians will come to their church. Then, when the nonbelievers have been lured in, they spring the gospel on them. Not the true gospel. That would chase them away. Other churches have “pastors” who dress up as Superman, Batman, or Elvis in order to entertain their congregations. They “send in the clowns” (some literally!) in order to keep their people happy. And it works…while they’re there. But when they go home to a marriage in shambles, or to an empty house and they begin thinking of suicide again, all of the entertainment and all the programs really don’t mean anything do they? The “pastors” can preach their “sermons” on how God wants them to be blessed. They can talk about how it only takes a little faith to see things happen or have God “move”; but when their lives remain unchanged, it doesn’t take long for bitterness to set in.

Many of today’s “pastors” have buried the gospel and forgotten about it. They’ve replaced it with a plastic, shallow message based on the latest trends (although we always seem to be about 20 years behind). They pull their next sermons off the internet sermon archives and hope that no one is preaching the same one as they are. Instead of teaching people the reality of God, they offer a works-based approach where if you give enough money, have enough faith, and stand with your right leg parallel to the ground and your arms out like an airplane you might get the “blessing”, “breakthrough”, or “more than enough” anointing that you’ve been hoping for.

Does anyone else find this both sad and aggravating? Paul talks about Christians either on milk or meat. I absolutely love the theological meat, but I would take milk over the cotton candy fluff that many pastors seem to think nourishes their flocks. Ya know, maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe this is a simple misunderstanding. Maybe these “pastors” really don’t know what the calling of a pastor is. Maybe they just got caught up in the hype of some of the other cool, hip, and relevant dudes who stand up on stage on Sunday morning. Maybe they couldn’t get a job flipping burgers so they decided to try leading a church. Then again, maybe I’m not being too harsh. Last I heard, there is a Southern Baptist church who two main pastors AREN’T EVEN BELEIVERS!!! These “men” said that they’re afraid to step down because they don’t want to be unemployed…

And that’s part of the problem. To so many, being a pastor is now a job. If they can get the right message, mix in a little Word of Faith, and toss in a boomin’ sound system and some cool lights and graphics; they can be a megachurch and make $50,000 a year easily. All but gone are the men who took the role of pastor because they couldn’t do anything else. All but gone are the men who trembled before the Almighty God, beseeching Him to have mercy on their flocks. Gone are the men who poured over scripture, making sure they had every jot and tittle in place because the lives of their congregations depended on it. Gone are the men who grieved for the hurting in the congregation, who took the pains of their trials. Gone are the men who chose to preach the truth and keep their integrity (and God’s) intact rather than compromise the precious Word of God to fill the pews and the coffers. Gone are the men who called sin what it is without shame because that’s what God calls it.

Ok…maybe these men and women aren’t gone, but they are disappearing. And with them go the hopes of the next generations. Those coming behind us are being raised on entertainment, 10 second sound bites, movie clips, and sugary sweet “Bible studies”. They have no foundation to stand on. They have no fear of the Lord (which is the beginning of wisdom!). When trials and tribulations come, they have nothing to hold them up. They have no answers and no clue how to find them because the gospel isn’t precious to them (they learned that from their parents!).

I know that this probably sounds like a rant against men who call themselves pastors and aren’t. And it might be. But, it is born out of a fear and concern for the thousands of souls that are on their way straight to hell while these “men of God” play church. While these boys play up on the stage, how many will hear “depart from me”? How many kids will turn away from God? Scripture says to train up your child in the way they should go. In Bible times, a child was age 12 or under. At 13 you were an adult and all that came with it became your life. Now, kids get an extended childhood and some still haven’t grown up. All of these souls could be spared the wrath of God if men would boldly preach the truth. As I said above, there are a lot of hurting people. War, crime, drugs, disease and divorce all bring pain and hurt to thousands every day. Regardless of the cause of the pain, the answer is the same. Hurting people need the gospel…

If someone hears about God’s character it gives them a foundation. When they hear that God is transcendent, holy, just, and righteous, it sets their perspective. When they understand that He is the Creator of the universe and stretches out the universe with His hands, they get an idea of just how big God is. He is to be feared for who He is. He is the just judge of all the world and every man will stand before Him to give an account for their lives. Each sin will bring more of God’s wrath. When hurting people hear this, it gets them focused on God for who He is. Their sin becomes prominent and their pride evaporates. Who are they to speak against God? They then recognize their helplessness. They know that there is nothing that they can do to help themselves. Their painful situations are reminders of this. It is here that they are broken. The weight of their sin is crushing them, their pains and trials batter them, and there is nothing they can do about it.

And then, the pastor continues. He talks more about God. The crushed and battered sinner hears that God is also loving, merciful, kind, compassionate, forgiving, and gentle. They learn that these qualities don’t replace the others, they compliment them. They see all of this perfectly in Jesus. God must punish sin because He’s just, but because He’s merciful, He sent His Son to die in place of sinners. They hear that repentance and faith are the key and that anyone that repents and trusts in Christ will be saved from hell. They have been saved by a just and gracious God. Suddenly, the weight is gone. While their sins are gone, their trials are still there but now they understand them better. They understand (though not fully) that their trials bring glory to God. Because their heart has been changed, this is not only acceptable, it is considered an honor. They are strengthened because they no longer have to face their problems alone. Just like God the Son bore their sins, God the Holy Spirit comforts them in their pain. This is both directly through the Holy Spirit and indirectly through other believers’ actions. Because the person now has a right view of God, they have a foundation for facing every trial. They may get worried or fearful at first, but their remembrance of God’s work in their past will erase this. With their constant study of scripture, they continue to deepen their knowledge of God and who He is.

The hurting person’s life is changed forever by the preaching of the true gospel. They have been given more than any entertainment ever could and they are now equipped to help others in the same way. This is what happens when pastors are actually shepherding their flocks. When they preach the gospel and exposit scripture they are feeding the sheep and caring for their flock like real shepherds….Like Jesus does….

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