Crying out in the wilderness, or imitating the world?
The year was 1984 and I had just become a born again Christian. I remember the popular saying at the time- “Christians can have fun too!” But even though I had just turned 24 it wasn’t a “Let’s have fun with Jesus” gospel that saved me. It wasn’t a certain style of Christian music that moved me; it wasn’t a new cultural church vibe that drew me- All it took was the Holy Spirit showing me I needed Jesus.
The path to Jesus is not found in this world, and it doesn’t need this world’s culture to validate it. The church in it’s preoccupation with being “relevant” has bought into a lie- People do not come to Jesus because we have dressed Him up to look appealing, or to be cool, fun or current. There has only ever been one way to enter into LIFE, and it has nothing to do with being like the world.
Only the Spirit of God is able to open blind eyes and move hard hearts; only the Holy Spirit can draw people to Christ- everything else is smoke and mirrors. Salvation is the Father’s work, not ours: This is true for every generation; it’s true for every age group; it holds true for every people group and culture.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” (John 6.44)
I can almost hear the deafening reaction, “Yes, but, we need to be relevant; the church is no longer relevant!”
To that I say: The reason we are not relevant is because we are not focused on the eternal.
God’s Word is always relevant because it never passes away like the world’s fads do.
When we seek to be like the world we cease to be truly relevant. The church exists to reveal heaven, to point to Jesus and eternity, and when we fail to do that we make ourselves utterly irrelevant.
The heavenly call
The call of His Spirit is not an earthly call, but a heavenly one. In Revelation, chapters 2-3, does God tell the churches to do their best to be like the surrounding culture? Does he tell Christians to makes themselves attractive and appealing to the world by being just like the culture they live in? No, He calls them to repent and return; He calls them back to Himself and refocuses their eyes on eternity.
So many in the church are worried how they will reach future generations- I’m worried for future generations if this generation fails to stand for God’s truth. Paul, the Apostle, laid down his life to defend the faith so that all who came after him would be able to have the purity and truth of the gospel.
Many today appear more interested in having a dialogue or conversation about what the truth is, than being messengers of the Lord. A messenger represents the one who sent him- We are to carry heaven’s torch to light a dark world. This will bring us into sharp contrast with the culture around us. What does light have to do with darkness? The absolutes of God’s Word will bring the church into sharp contrast with the relativism of the world. This is how it should be! When we try to blunt that effect we’re hurting, not helping the gospel.
The death of doctrine
Have you seen the proliferation of Christian blogs that call for change in the church that come with an obvious dislike of doctrine and dogma? “We shouldn’t be so dogmatic, so absolute!” But the Word of God tells me that the church is supposed to be “the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15) If we won’t stand for absolutes, for truth, who will? Jesus put the truth plainly:
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21)
The reason people refuse Jesus is not because He’s irrelevant or antiquated- scripture says they reject Him because they love darkness and refuse to walk into the light. What favor do we do the world by blunting this truth? To a world drowning in relativism we need to hold out the absolutes of God’s Word. Who will stand and say, “Thus saith the Lord”?
A distaste for “preaching”
Why is it that those calling for change in the church often seem apologetic about the church? Preaching has always been a staple of the church but it doesn’t fit well with our culture. We’ve grabbed a hold of the world’s buzzwords and want everyone to “join the conversation”- preaching gets in the way of that we’re told, so preaching is now ”bad” and conversations and discussions are “good” according to the culturally responsive Christian. Some are downright apologetic that a person would have to actually endure preaching!
Should we apologize for “preaching”? And who forgot to tell George Whitefield?
The church would be blessed to have 10,000 George Whitefield’s to herald the gospel. The guy preached to 20,000 people in open air meetings without a microphone! (The year was 1742!) Any account of Whitefield I’ve ever read describes the man as quite direct and dramatic. Have you ever read the sermons he preached? He preached absolutes and made declarations, and oh, how God used him!
The point of preaching is not only instructive, but declarative. I think many Christians are afraid of that today. We’re afraid to say, “Thus saith the Lord”. Whitefield wasn’t having a dialogue or discussion! Nor was Stephen in the book of Acts, when he preached with such fire and truth that they stoned him to death! His message made his listeners so furious that the bible says they “gnashed their teeth at him”. He suddenly became very unpopular for telling the truth, but the bible has this to say about Stephen…
“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55)
We should not expect to see the glory of God if we refuse to stand up for the truth of God.
There’s a place for conversation and a place for proclamation. Where are the Elijah’s of God? Where are the men of Acts like Stephen, or Paul, or Peter? Where are the messengers of God who when they speak, speak as one who speaks the very oracles of God? (1 Peter 4:11)
You see, it’s not an “emergent church” that we need… comfortable with the surrounding culture, and the culture quite comfortable with it. We need to be crying out in this wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” (Isaiah 40:3-5)
A voice of one calling:
“In the desert prepare
the way for the LORD;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Yes, these words mark the first appearing of our Lord; but the message holds true- Jesus is coming back! And not to have a cup of coffee! The time is short- How dare we embrace this world instead of warning it! It’s time to repent and return:
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. (2 Peter 3:8-10)
Does this sound like a good time to be cozy with the culture around us?
“Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding…” (Jeremiah 3:22)