Taking a Painful Inventory
Several hundred years ago Christians from different parts of the world left all they had and set sail for America. It would be a rugged lifestyle and the challenges would be legion. But by God’s grace they established a spiritual beachhead from which God would grow a part of His body. Many missionaries would then go out from whence they came and circle the globe with the message of the everlasting gospel. God has used the church that dwells in America to bring many sinners to Himself and glorify Himself even to the uttermost parts of the world. There probably is not one section of this darkened world that has not felt the anointed footstep of a messenger of the gospel who came from America. This is not in any part a testament to America, this is the Lord’s doing and is it not wonderful in our eyes!
But as the years progressed something happened to God’s church in America. We began to learn the way of the heathen, and we allowed our children to be reared by the culture and not God’s Spirit through us. The fruits of a Christian became redefined and diluted, until anyone who has ever mumbled some words about Jesus is considered a Christian. The depth of commitment has dwindled down until the spiritual life of a church member represents a part of his well rounded American existence. We are no longer considered different in any way, and because we have polluted ourselves with politics we are now considered right wing moralists instead of amazing vessels of God’s gospel grace.
Our families continue to burn down and we continue to attempt to douse them with empty buckets of sexual instruction and a list of “how to” teachings designed to bring us earthly happiness. The call of a career drowns the still, small voice of the Spirit’s call to missions, and doctors and lawyers are exalted above an unknown cleric working for a missionary organization in Ecuador. God’s ways are not our ways and yet we pretend to know His ways with mathematical certainty. We read God’s Word as if it was about us, and we treat it as a manual for happiness instead of a blueprint for holiness. Instead of the Word being sacred it has become an earthly tool leading to earthly success.
The church continues to jettison the Son of God as an aside, being understood as the Savior but not as a present Lord whose grace is so powerful we cannot but help speak the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ. We draw men with earthly promises while hiding the Lord Jesus among words of cultural confusion because Biblical words are deemed outdated and irrelevant to this fast paced evangelical community. Waiting on the Lord now means waiting in the line to buy Christian concert tickets. This generation knows nothing of the term “prayer closet” much less the reality and glory that once manifested in such holy places. We minister in the seen and neglect the ministry of the unseen.
It was said of the young and gawky Evan Roberts that no one could define the source of his power since he was not a great orator or even pleasant to see. It became apparent in his twenties that like a great iceberg, his ministry was significantly more in the unseen world than in the seen. To minister in the unseen is foreign to the church today, we spend five minutes praying for a two hour service and leave contented when in fact God’s unmistakable presence never showed. For every tear shed in a Sunday morning gathering there are a thousand laughs and smiles, even if the plight of the unregenerate is taught.
It may too late, and yet we could cling to Samson and how God used him mightily at his end, even though it was own sin and disobedience that led to his blind bondage. We party too much, we play too much, and in we posture way too much. The reality of the theology we profess has become dammed up and kept from permeating our souls and lives for all to see, and we are blind to it all. Preachers tell us how great we are and how pleased God is with our half-hearted devotion to Christ, and we believe them. And these same preachers have become wealthy by teaching heresies and dipping deep into the pockets of the blind listeners as well as stealing God’s money openly and with hubristic relish.
We hold National Days of Prayer as if God hears that formalistic cry coming from the lips of idol worshipers mixed with Christians as well. That is not prayer, that is hollow ceremony that worship the shadows of days instead of bowing before the Savior Creator in humility and broken repentance. Words without actions only indict, they are carnal issues of the heart that are constructed according to the wisdom of the flesh and not the uncomfortable revelation of the Spirit Himself. Religious formality and pageantry has replaced rooms of sweaty intercessors prostrated in elongated sessions of beseeching the God of all Living to come and bring repentance and righteousness. And our ears are comforted with the theology of our spiritual standing before God and closed to the conviction of God’s Spirit exhorting us to practical holiness and desire.
Fun is free while sacrifice is at a premium. We hear messages on how to fix our earthly lives and not our spiritual walk, and yet we claim to be followers of Christ. The Christ of Scripture had nowhere to lay His head and He warned those who desired to follow Him to count that cost, but today we have formulated an American Christ who desires us to enjoy all the hedonistic accoutrements that the heathen enjoy as well. And in the midst of a lifestyle that cannot resemble anything about Christ we claim a committed followship of the Biblical Jesus.
We use the first two years of our conversion experience as a history lesson of past dramatic changes instead of how the dramatic changes that continue today began. We seek to see how much of the behavior of the world we can participate in without technically becoming sin, and even if we do avoid certain outward sins we become prideful and legalistic about it. We seem to be much more passionate about stacking the Supreme Court than we are about pleasing the Supreme Judge. The evangelical church in America has redefined the abundant life to mean grabbing all we can of this world with the paramount goal of achieving happiness.
We have become as a wild ass, snorting the air and frolicking without restraint, and now we have jumped the Lord’s fence and are grazing in the pasture of the heathen. Where did we leave the shepherd, and where did we begin to shepherd ourselves? The situation is desperate, and yet our church houses remain dark at night during the week. Where are the calls for fasting? Where are the calls for solemn assemblies seeking repentance? Where are the tears? When will we see preachers come to the pulpit so drawn and weary from all night watches and deliver their souls not just their sermons? Where are the shepherds who count their lives as nothing in hopes of gaining the approval of heaven?
Is it too late? Is there no room for repentance, and has judgment been dispatched without the possibility of mercy? Have our eyes become so blind that we cannot and will not see our own spiritual situation? There is still a season for God’s people to become explosively serious about Christ and His kingdom once more. There is still a season for an awakening that sees the fields of the world as one and obeys the Spirit’s call to go. There is still a season of grace wherein God’s people can examine their own lives and allow the Spirit to circumcise our hearts, melt the ice, and baptize us once again with fire from heaven’s altar.
How deeply is the heart of the Father grieved when he sees the tepid and passionless devotion that describes so much of the church, and instead of a vibrant race, we appear to be sleepwalking through the motions. God knows that the day approaches when our faith will become sight, but He must long for us to reward Him with a supernatural devotion that sees that day as if it were here. Without faith it is impossible to please God, and without works our protestations of faith are lifeless corpses.
As Isaiah of old, we need a fresh vision of the Lord Jesus, high and lifted up, and sitting on a throne. Let us open wide our unclean lips and allow the coal from heaven's holy altar to cleanse us from the words and desires of the flesh and supplant them with the Words of the Most High and His Everlasting Gospel. Do not our hearts burn within us, and can’t we feel the Spirit provoking us to envy? Until the last trump of God, until the last sinner comes to Christ, and until we draw our last breath, God continues to exhort us to “Seek the Lord while He may be found”.
Help us, Lord Jesus.