When a child grows up and takes his place among the adults, it is expected that he will be able to understand more, do more, handle more, reason more than his younger counterparts. His mind, having the benefit of education and experience, is better equipped to spot lies and deduct truth from spoken and written words. Having understood the truth, we expect that he will then able to apply it to his life, leading him in continuous state of growth and improvement. In short, he is expected to show more maturity today than he did yesterday.
Through such deduction and application of knowledge and wisdom, a savvy businessman is constantly more informed and thus better equipped to grow his business, a teacher searches out and gains more knowledge and through such is better enabled to teach her students, a doctor spends precious hours dedicated to learning a new technique that just might one day save the life of one of his patients. Anyone engaged in doing any kind of work who doesn’t take time to learn and grow is at a distinct disadvantage.
Parents, themselves children just a few years prior, are expected to have grown up and gone through the necessary levels of development (spiritual, mental, physical, emotional, financial) that will enable them to develop the maturity needed to raise and teach their own children. Lead by knowledge, reason and wisdom (rather than, as their kids, emotions, peer pressure and ego), they are able to make the decisions to guide their little ones and growing ones to their own path to maturity.
Why is that not true, then, of the church?
Once the church was full of men and women whose passion for God, focus on the Cross and guidance by the Holy Spirit drove them to an ever-deepening hunger for truth and a willingness to live it at any cost, including the cost of martyrdom. Fueled by love for the One Who died for them and belief in the one way taught by Him, followers of Jesus turned the world upside down. There was no room at the Cross for anyone who refused to take it seriously, thus there were rarely converts who refused to grow. This was not only their life that they gave to God; taking up His Cross just might mean their death. No one took it lightly.
Can the same be said of the Western church today?
Fueled by love of self, focus on numbers and driven by an ever-increasing desire for more (more fun, more money, more publicity, more comfort), few of today’s “converts” (if they can truly be called such) have any idea what it means to take up their cross daily. Driven to the Cross of Christ, not by repentance but by a desire for self-preservation that leads them to “accept” Christ as their Savior from hell, men and women are, from the very beginning, at a loss as to what it means to be a Christian. Fed for years by the ego-centric diet of me-ism prevalent in modern society, once in the church they have no doubt that it, too, will be all about them. What they expect is, sadly, what they often find. People’s “felt needs” are what many churches focus on.
A circus mood prevails in many of our pulpits and sanctuaries. No longer is the world ashamed of, or threatened by, the church. We have adopted their ways as superior to our own. We entertain like them, teach like them, party like them, celebrate like them, gyrate like them, dress like them, sing like them. What often passes as the church in contemporary society is the devil himself in disguise: an angel of light offering us a better way, a new enlightened way, a way leading us straight into the jaws of hell itself.
Driven by postmodernism and fed by a lethal blend of gnosticism, paganism, new age-ism and, as is prevalent in all of American society, me-ism, the church has no grounds with which to understand or teach God’s truth. Proclaiming the damnable doctrine that God needs us in order to be happy or content, we’ve redefined Him as a small, manageable, unworthy, deity willing to overlook any offense, any sin, as long as we give him the time of day; in short, we now have a god whose only goal is to save us from suffering in this life and hell in the long term (not that this god would send anyone there).
In reprehensible response to this god, we plaster his message on t-shirts and bumper stickers. We adapt popular rock love songs to sing of his goodness towards us (in providing us the things we want). We focus more and more on us and less and less on him and don’t even realize we are doing so. In our wide-spread, false gospel proclaiming, egocentric state, we will celebrate God, debate God and bring God down to our size by redefining Him. We will do everything but obey God and worship Him in a worthy manner.
We have entered a new dark ages in church history, one brought on by our own apathy and self-love. It isn’t that there is a lack of truth available: in America, the Word is available everywhere. However, due to lack of Bible study, lack of prayer and, sadly, a lack of true Pastors who are willing to preach an increasingly unpopular but desperately needed Message that exalts God and shows man his real condition, a spiritual anorexia has prevailed upon our society.
The Word of God is read by few, mis-handled by many and mis-understood by almost all. Those who fill up the pews in the man-exalting, man-made organization now touted as the “church” have rarely, if ever, heard Scripture properly proclaimed. We are, as Paul Washer says, “Gospel ignorant”. Those Christians who actually do care about Truth must dig through decades of lies that have been spewed forth both from the pulpit and from the volumes of blasphemous writings widely known as Christian literature. Any Preacher who dares to proclaim that there is One Truth that never changes runs the risk of being laughed at, deemed old-fashioned and out of touch with the needs of the church and of society and pushed aside as a curiosity. At times, he is fired; if visiting, it is highly unlikely he will be asked back. Itching ears have their own teachers.
To add to the problem, we no longer pray as Jesus did. No longer do we give ourselves to hours of solitude in which we desperately seek the Lord. Deep prevailing prayer is practically unknown today. Taught, as we are, that God understands if we don’t have time to pray, we have become masters at excuses not to. Increasingly God has been reduced to nothing more than a wish-granter and thus there is little need to pray except when we want something (bless him, bless her, give me this). Or, adding insult to injury, we throw out biblical teaching on prayer altogether (as if anyone would notice) in order to grasp the new darling of the evangelical community: the increasingly popular centering prayer whose foundations lie in Gnosticism and paganism.
The madness that has invaded the church must be stopped…but how?
Spiritual maturity is the answer. It isn’t, Jesus has told us, the ones who emphatically proclaim Him as “Lord, Lord” (something most of the “church” today refuses to do, anyway) but those who do the will of His Father, who will be saved. We can only do His will if we are mature enough to understand it. We can only understand it if we are willing to avail ourselves to study, to prayer, to growth. Then we can make a difference. As Martin Luther brought about a reformation that has resonated through the centuries, when he, sickened by what he saw in the church of his day, took a stand for Truth, so we, too, must take a stand for Truth in our day. Christ Himself has promised that His church will prevail and we, by the grace of God, can have a part in it. It isn’t a role for the weak or the spiritually naïve but for the spiritually mature. Are you ready to take a stand?