I didn’t want to write this post, but I sensed God leading me to do so. I love the church, both the universal collection of all born again believers and the local bodies of believers that make up the universal church, so I argued with Him about it. However, one thing I have learned in my thirty three years of being a Christian is that when you argue with God, He always wins. I gave God two reasons why I didn’t want to write this post. First, I asked God “Who am I to write this? I’m just an unknown pastor of a small church that is struggling to keep its doors open. There are many other big name pastors who should write this.” Secondly, the things He led me to write hurt deeply, because, as I write this, I am part of the problem, not part of the solution. But He prevailed, and so I write this. It’s not neat and pretty, but I sense it’s God’s heart. So here goes.
If I am part of the problem, what is the problem? The church, the bride of Christ, has lost its purity and gone after other lovers, and thus has lost its power. Who are these lovers? Popularity, coolness, self exaltation, complacency, and lukewarmness.
The church has gone to great lengths to be popular and cool with the world. We make our sanctuaries look like coffee house lounges instead of places of worship. When I go to a doctors office, I expect it to look like a doctor’s office. When I go to a church I expect it to look like a place to meet with God, not a place to lay back and drink a latte. Also, many churches have dropped the word “church” from their name because the word “church”, they say, is offensive to people. Call it what you like, it is still a church. Additionally, in our “coolness” we have also devised “non threatening” services, Bible studies, and prayer meetings. When we cut through the baloney, non threatening basically means watered down. In truth, the gospel is threatening because it says that I am a sinner that deserves hell, and that I cannot save myself. However, there is good news, absolutely incredible news in this threatening message, and that is God loves me and has made the way to forgiveness of sin and eternal life through his Son Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the church has forgotten to tell people both sides of the gospel message. – all lovey-dovey and no sin, no hell, no repentance. We might be non threatening and non offending people to a lost eternity.
In order to be cool, we have adopted many buzz words in the last few years. We are told by the experts to “think outside the box” (i.e.: do weird things). How about thinking inside the Book instead of “outside the box”? We are also told that the church needs to be “relevant”. Relevant? God and His word are always relevant. We don’t need to be clever and tell lots of cutesy stories and add a multi media extravaganza to make the message “relevant”. Just preach and teach the Word with the anointing of the Holy Spirit and God will transform lives. Another buzz word is “missional”. Do we really need to make this a central focus? Being “missional” (living out our faith and verbalizing it with others) is at the very heart of being a follower of Jesus. If we need to make this a big focus, it is a sad commentary that the church has lost its way.
I wonder how many pastors spend more time downloading stories and video clips to spice up their sermons than being down on their faces before God praying for anointing and holy boldness as they prepare and deliver His message. And we scratch our heads trying to figure out why most Christians are biblically and theologically illiterate, and don’t have a biblical world view on the moral issues of the day. They say, however, that they are not changing the message, just the method. Well, I believe that when you change the method, the message will eventually change because you now must cater to those whom you attracted, which are not really interested in the real message. But you need to keep them coming back so the message changes to appeal to them.
Sadly, the modern church has adopted a worldly stance in regards to music and literature. Dove awards? Really? Do Christian musicians compete with one another for the song of the year, singer of the year, etc? Aren’t we supposed to sing for God’s glory and His approval? Do we compete with each other to see who worships better? And what about Christian Book Awards (formerly known as Gold Medallion Awards) that are given to the best Christian books? Are we competing with each other on who writes the best book about God? On top of this, many big name Christian authors don’t even write their own books but use ghost writers to write their books and then put their own name on the cover. How dishonest is that? And yet we congratulate ourselves by giving each other little trophies, which are actually trophies to our own egos.
Have you ever gone to a Christian conference or listened to a Christian radio/television talk show, and before the speakers give their talks the emcee takes about five minutes touting all the degrees the speaker has, all the prestigious universities they studied at, how many books he/she has written, how many television shows they have appeared on, and how many countries the individual has ministered in. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t care about all of that. I care about the individual’s heart. Are they sold out bond slaves of Jesus? Do they pride themselves on their accolades or are they broken, humble servants of God?
Have you noticed the plethora of self help books in Christian bookstores? There are “how to” books on every conceivable topic. Much of this worldly psycho babble has complicated the Christian life so much. We’ve made marriage, raising kids, work place behavior, and interpersonal relationships a chaotic maze of steps, emotional responses, and “to do’s”. We’ve complicated the Christian life so much, is it any wonder that most Christians haven’t a clue on how to follow Jesus.
We’ve become Christians of convenience instead of Christians of conviction. We want to come to church and be entertained by the “show” and then have our ears tickled by a feel-good, its-all-about-me message. We follow Jesus on our terms instead of His. We have ignored Jesus’ words in Luke 14:33: “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple”, and Luke 9:23: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me”. Instead we want an easy, comfortable, light and breezy discipleship, which is totally foreign to Scripture.
I could go on but this is already too long. You know, it’s one thing to say what’ wrong, and quite another to give solutions. So, what is the solution to the mess the church finds it self in? What can we do to be what God has called His church to be – the most powerful entity on the planet who, through the power of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is used by God to transform our world for His kingdom?
It’s very simple. In fact, it can be summed up in three words: DIE TO SELF. Self is that part of me that wants to be God and call the shots and be in control. “Self” is the anti-God state of mind.
Dying to self means nothing less than absolute surrender to Jesus Christ. It is giving up all rights to ourselves to Him in total surrender. Dying to self is living in spiritual brokenness, which means to acknowledge that without Him, we are spiritually bankrupt, so we hold onto Him in holy desperation. Dying to self makes Romans 6 operative in our lives – acknowledging that “self” died with Christ on the cross, and intentionally living in this reality.
Dying to self is the key to living the Christian life and impacts every aspect of life – marriage, family, work, recreation, entertainment, relationships, money, time, ethics, morals, and character. If we would just die to self and give God the reigns of our lives everything would change. For example, just think for a moment, what would every marriage look like if every Christian would die to self and obey God’s simple standards for marriage? How would our marriages be if every husband loved his wife as Christ loved the church (i.e.: unconditionally and self sacrificially) and every wife submitted to her husband (i.e: respected Him as the head of the marriage and home)?
My friends, only by dying to self will Jesus’ bride, the church, be chaste again. Only when each one of us repents of our sin of self sufficiency, self reliance, self centeredness, self righteousness, self exaltation, self congratulation, and selfishness, and dies to self by surrendering to Jesus Christ will we, the church, again be His holy, devoted, passionate, intimate, sold out bride. I believe that it is that simple. But for many of us, it is so hard to do because we fight so hard to be in control. However, if God is to send the revival that we so desperately need, it must start here.
I know that many who read this will not agree with me and think I am some crazy nut job. Probably some, if not most, will be angry at me and never read uncompromisedchristianity.com again. That’s ok. But for those who resonate with this, will you die to self and be on the journey of absolute surrender? As our world slides further and further into darkness and chaos, will we, the church, the bride of Christ, be His chosen instruments that He works through to shatter the darkness and bring people into the light? I ask myself, and you my fellow brother and sister in Christ, will we die to self? Will we be part of the solution or remain as part of the problem?