Behold Your God — Week Nine, Day Five

28 Jul

My favorite line in today’s study was “A devotion to tradition can be a denial of the Lordship of Christ just as much as a devotion to whatever is new and trendy.”

I have long held that the problem we often face in churches is vacillating between these two extremes. Broadly speaking, some people believe that if we just get back to the 1950’s everything will be great while others think if we just move into the 21st century all our problems would go away. “Let’s go back to the old ways of doing things because they worked before” or “Let’s do things the new way so that we can find new life and excitement.”

But I wonder if we need to define biblically what it is for something to “work”? We look at what works from more of an American CEO business paradigm than from a biblical paradigm, where the emphasis is on faithfulness rather than largeness.

The problem is most often defined like this: the church is in decline. Membership is older and is dying and young people are not coming into the church. Many people are disillusioned with the church so we must find ways to reach people. Now this is a wrong diagnosis for many reasons. First, it is based on numerical participation, a metric which is useful from an organizational perspective but almost entirely useless as a measure of whether there is anything going on that is worthwhile in the eyes of God. Second, this perspective is self-centered. We are concerned not because people are destroying their lives and headed for God’s eternal judgement, we are troubled because our pews are not filled. Third, we are looking for progress based on what we do rather than what God does. We think, it is our faithfulness to the old paths or our innovative ideas that make the difference, not the work of God. We wouldn’t say any of this but our lives speak the truth of our perspective. Seriously, could we do all we do in church without the Holy Spirit at all? I think we try. Why do I say that? Just consider for a minute how little time we spend praying together. Church staffs all over the country spend hours each week hashing through plans and ideas and three minutes praying. Rare is the church that has even one prayer meeting a week where they call on God for His working. Look at the prayer list in most churches. It will be almost entirely focused on health needs. There is nothing wrong with praying about health needs but if we have no focus on God’s work in our hearts as well as our bodies, we reveal our spiritual weakness. In fact, the desperation we have for matters of health indicts us for our lack of concern about spiritual weaknesses. Why are we not praying with equal fervor for people to be saved, for sinful strongholds to be broken, for close walks with the Lord, for rich worship, godly fellowship and service, while we also pray for health needs?

So let’s not chase traditions or trends. And let’s not sit on the sidelines criticizing churches or bemoaning the condition of the church. I’ve written a couple of articles this week along those lines but I think this should be the exception rather than the rule of our lives. There is a place for helpful critique but professional critics are rarely salt and light. So we’ve got to guard against harsh, judgmental attitudes. We need to guard against the tendency to talk more about what’s wrong with the church than about what’s right with Jesus. We’ve got to guard against the idea that we’re the only one who sees the truth (which is really just a manifestation of pride) otherwise we become insufferable to others and a poor witness to the transforming power of God.

Let’s run after Jesus. Pursue Him. Make Him your goal. Gather with a group of people who are running after Him and begin to work together to share the treasure you have found with everyone around you. Jesus is the center. If you structure everything you do around honoring Him, revealing Him, serving Him, and loving Him, you are building on a sure foundation. Tradition and trends are shifting sands. When we chase these things, we are always a day late and a dollar short. Behold your God and trust Him. Walking with Him is the way to life. Making it all about Jesus is a cheap slogan but a costly (but worthwhile) way forward in real life. So I understand in saying this that I am just saying it. The proof will be in the living. But I want to walk with Him. And I want to join with you in that walk. That is what it means to be the family of God. We’re not together because of a preference for hymns and organs. We’re not together because of a preference for gourmet coffee and skinny jeans. We’re not together because we’re all from the same generation. We’re not together because we’re all the same race or economic class. We’re not together because we’re the trendy new church plant with the catchy name and we’re not together because we’re the century old church on Main St. whose steeple is a staple of our town’s skyline. We’re not together because we all have the same story. We are a diverse group of sinners made saints by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. He is the only sure foundation and the only hope for the future of the Church.

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