A conglomeration of thoughts

February 18, 2008 at 6:05 pm | Posted in Christianity | 1 Comment
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This may be more of a rambling blog than any other that I’ve written. I have had a number of different things going through my head and wanted to make an effort to get them written down before I lost track of them.

The first thing that I’ve been thinking about is whether or not the things that I write about concerning the church are too critical. I am I being too judgmental? If so, then why? I know that some of the things that I’ve written have offended some of the readers of my blog. While it is not my focus to try and offend people when I write, I realize that the subject matter itself will offend many on its own, no matter who writes it. As far as being too judgmental or too critical, I will believe that I’m not. My reasoning for this is two-fold. First, I do not believe that I’m too judgmental or too critical because I am not personally judging. Instead, I am reading what the Word says and then repeating it to others. Those judgments are not mine to make they are God’s. But, they are mine to repeat and it is clear that it is something that I’m supposed to be doing!

My background is not as illustrious as so many of the others here in the “Bible belt” (or anywhere else for that matter…). I was not raised in church and my family, while not openly against church, had more of a “take it or leave it” attitude. While I tried to live a morally upright life (not that I understood what that meant at all), I had no power to do so. Then, six and a half years ago, I came face to face with God. I realized the truth of the predicament I was in, and I received salvation. I had no understanding of anything about Christianity and was truly a baby in the faith. Since that time, I’ve learned many things. The most important of these things is the authority of the Word of God. Scripture is the absolute authority when it comes to the lives of Christians. It is a precious and wonderful gift that God has bestowed upon us.

Recently, God has added to the authoritative view the beginnings of an understanding of His holiness. I am completely in awe of the Lord. Not only at His holiness and justice but because those things provide a contrast for His grace and mercy. I am beginning to see a long list of things that God could have done that He didn’t. This brings me to the second thing that I was thinking about my writings. If the things that I write are deemed offensive by some, what makes them judgmental? Is it the writings themselves or the distance of the reader from the truth that makes them judgmental? Is the fact that scriptural truths are becoming more and more diluted due to the fact that we are drifting farther and farther from them? If we are drifting farther from them, and I make an effort to reveal this, should I be surprised that so many in the church scoff, whine, and complain about the surety of the truth of scripture? Should I be amazed that so many are no longer able to see things as black and white? Am I to let my brothers and sisters just go on and slide away from the faith and turn their backs on biblical truth so that I can avoid the names and what is said about me?

I confess that I cannot. There are many that I love and pray for daily that I would love to see gain the same revelation that I have been fortunate enough to have. This revelation comes with a price though. I have had to completely deconstruct the view that I had of myself. I have had to turn the scriptures inward and view myself in light of their standards and truths. I have not enjoyed what I’ve seen. I begin to understand how much I have taken for granted and why I’ve been holding on to some of the views that I have. I can no longer look at myself and see a holy, righteous man who is doing his best to live the way that God has called him to live. These are the things that I strive for, but I have not arrived.

Another thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is the view of God that many of us have taken in the modern church. I use the term “modern church” in a lot of what I write because I see the church of today as different from the one of just 100 years ago, and extremely different from the church that was started by the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. Many of those in church seem to have a view of God where God is the “genie of the lamp” and that we only have to rub the lamp and make a wish and we get what we want. I have heard numerous times about how people have been at a church service and been in “the presence of God”. How they’ve danced and sang and jumped and hollered. How they’ve actually felt the presence of God in an almost tangible way. How they’ve been overwhelmed with emotion to the point that they laugh and shout. They’ve “rubbed the lamp” and now they are filled with joy unspeakable…These things I’ve heard lead me to ask questions like: “Is that what it’s like to be in the presence of God?” 

Seriously, if we think about it for a minute, is that what it would be like? Or does this come from an incorrect view of scripture and of God? Would we know what it was like to be in the presence of God if we were? I think so. Look at some of the people in scripture who were in the presence of God. Isaiah was in the presence of God and he found himself face down on the floor crying out that he was ruined! In the presence of God he was nothing. He trembled and quivered and shook. He realized who he was in the presence of God. He was a man of unclean lips. Were there others who live worse than he did? Of course. Did it matter? No. Ezekiel found himself in the presence of God and what happened? He fell to his face and it took the Spirit of God to pick him up again so that God could speak to him. Daniel found himself in the presence of God too. When he did, he had the same reaction. Daniel says that as soon as he heard the voice of God, his face had turned ghostly white, he had no strength left in him, and he fell to his face. After this, a hand touched him and he was brought up to his knees, but he was still trembling!

You may be saying, “That’s true, but all of these men were in the Old Testament. They didn’t have the Holy Spirit like we do. They weren’t like we are”. You’re right. They aren’t like us. They reverenced God for who He is…It happened in the New Testament too. When Jesus tells the disciples to drop their nets for a catch (Luke 5), they do so grudgingly because they’ve fished all night and not caught anything. But they obey. When they drop their nets, they catch so many fish that it will sink their boat without help. When they finally get things under control, Peter jumps from the boat, runs to Jesus, falls at His feet and cries for Jesus to go away from Him because he’s a sinful man. Is this our response? In Luke 17, when Jesus heals the ten lepers, it is the one considered an outcast that comes back and gives glory to Jesus. It is he that understands the truth of what happens, and he bows in reverence to the Lord of Lords. When John sees Jesus and receives the revelation of Him and what’s to come, he hears the Lord’s voice first. When he turns to see who is speaking and realizes it’s the Lord, he falls to his face like a dead man. Those going through the tribulation on earth (Rev. 6) hide themselves in caves and cry out for the rocks and mountains to fall on them. Why? Because they realize that they cannot stand in the presence of God or against the wrath of the Lamb.

Is this the same presence that we profess to be in our churches on Sunday morning? Is this the same God that we dance and sing and shout with as our music plays? Is this the God that we reverence when we enter into His house full of sin and contempt for His rules? I find it hard to believe that it is. If it were His presence, wouldn’t we fall down on our face and tremble before Him? Has God changed and become some doddering old man that only wants what’s good for us and spares us from the “bad” things? If we truly spent time in God’s presence, would we not come out changed like Paul did? To go from one of the most heinous and despicable men alive to one of the most influential people in the lives of those we come in contact with, all for the glory of the gospel?

Do we understand who God is? We have people all over the world who profess Christ as their Lord and Savior, but their lives don’t line up with His Word and commandments. We constantly see the “people of God” living lives that are so diametrically opposed to the absolute truth of God’s Word, that they make a mockery of the sacrifice of the cross; all in the name of “love” and “mercy” and “grace”. If you ask me, we don’t understand those things anymore.  We expect those things and we walk in pride thinking that those things are promised to us because we name the name of Christ as our own. We are sadly mistaken. The love of God is a self-sacrificing love. It is agape. It is a love that will endure, but it is only given to those who are truly Christ’s. And, I believe, that is the biggest problem in the church today. There are thousands upon thousands in churches all across the US alone that believe that because they call Jesus their Savior, or because they said a little prayer at an altar somewhere (at least once), that they have a right to the love of God. I disagree. We don’t have a “right” to anything. I can stand in a garage and call myself a Porsche, but that doesn’t change the truth. You and I can stand in a church or a gathering of Christians and call ourselves the “followers of Christ” but if our lives don’t live up to what God says Christians should be, then it really doesn’t matter what we say. We’ve made ourselves the mediators. We have become our own judges and we’ve deemed that everything we do is worthy of heaven.

Here’s a news flash: It’s not worthy of anything but hell.

We have done this with grace too. We seem to think that we deserve grace. The definition of grace is “unmerited favor”. You can’t deserve grace. To deserve grace means that you’ve earned it, and by it’s very definition, that can’t happen. Nonetheless, that doesn’t stop us from putting on pretenses that we are a veritable well of God’s grace and that the instant that we do something wrong, it’s forgiven. We prance around with the attitude that we have earned God’s grace and that it’s our ticket out of anything. After all, God’s grace is unlimited right? Wrong. It’s got its limits, and they may be a lot shorter than you  and I think. Think about it for a minute. If you were a holy, righteous, and just being (I know that it’s hard to think like that for some of us…that’s a good thing), and you had a bunch of created beings, who were supposed to be your image-bearers on the earth running around constantly committing acts of outright sin and not giving it any thought because they expected grace from you; what would you think? If we constantly live our lives in utter contempt for the holiness of God, how can we honestly expect Him to continue showing us grace? Do we think that we can outrun His justice? Do we think that somehow, because we chant the name of Jesus, that we can charm Him into giving us one more chance? How disgusting a thought is that? But it happens in pulpits and churches around the nation every Sunday, and sadly, it seems that many are unaware that it’s even going on.

Does this mean that all churches are like this? No. Not by any means. There are wonderful churches where the truth of God is preached. Where He receives due reverence and glory. Where people strive to live out the life that God has called them to live in a manner that is acceptable to Him, regardless of what man thinks. I just see this type of church to be a minority, especially in America. I believe that it’s possible for this to change, but it will take the preaching of the unadulterated Word of God and acceptance of scriptural authority before that can begin to happen.

Do I think that it’s possible to receive grace from God? Yes, I do. I’ve received it many times in my life. Recently. But, should I bank on that always being the case or should I actually make an effort to obey God? To be honest, I consider it an amazing thing that any of us have lived as long as we have. Why push it? While I always pray that God’s grace will be there when I stumble, I want to get to the point in my life where I need it a lot less than I do now…

I have come to the realization while writing this that this is what my heart is. I desire to live a holy life. I desire to see all of those who profess Christ live the same way. Not my way, but God’s. If this means that I write something that steps on people’s toes, then so be it. I will repent of anything that I see that goes against the Word of God. Other than that, I will stand on that Word and know it to be the final authority, the ONLY authority.

As always, I leave this blog open for comments.

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