Sunday, January 03, 2010

Let Us Stop the Charade

Let us stop the charade. Webster defines a charade as “an empty or deceptive act or pretense”. We who believe in and voice a desire to follow the Lord Jesus are faced with a very great challenge. We in the west live in a time where Christianity is no more than religious words spoken in lofty terms and creative ways, but without the dramatic translation into visible acts and behavior that would substantiate our continuing claims about Jesus. Humility is no longer understood or even sought. Bitter and biting speech directed at lost sinners is considered taking a bold stance, and demeaning satire against brothers and sisters in Christ provides entertainment for the evangelical flesh.
Let us stop the charade. There is hardly a modicum of charity and love manifested by God’s people that would accurately reflect the life of Jesus to say nothing of the cross. The church for decades has positioned herself as a political force and a moral sheriff, even while continuing the hollow mantra of redemption by grace through faith. The church has chosen certain sins with which to confirm her moral high ground, and within the “culture war” the essence of the true Christ has given way to the essence of the very Pharisees Jesus opposed.
Let us stop the charade. We are absorbed with our own situations in life, and many if not most believers willfully participate in the debt cycle of the western culture. Whole segments of western Christianity profess a wealth centered theology while others are blind to their own financial sins just because they are not one of the wealth crowd. We see other westerners as our “neighbors” and most of the other world as “others” or even “enemies”.
Let us stop the charade.
Matt.28:18-20 - And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Mk.16:15 - And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
he mission is global, the command is global, and our responsibility must be global as well. We have become prisoners of our culture, our understanding, and our local sphere of interaction. This myopic existence leads to apathy, contentment, and self indulgence. Imagine collecting all people from every part of the world and place them in one state. We will assume the state is Texas which would easily accommodate the entire population of the world with everyone living on 1000 sq. ft. of space. The entire world would be within driving distance of everyone else.
So there are now 6 billion people living in Texas, and of that 6 billion, 1 billion are hungry or starving. Some are 30 minutes from where you live, and the farthest away are 10 hours of driving time away. So the “uttermost parts of the world” are one half day’s drive. And 1/6th of the population of Texas are in dire need of food. Now as you drove down Main Street in Dallas and passed one restaurant after another and one grocery chain after another, would you ever think about the people that were starving in Texas? Would wasted food and overeating be any more of a concern for you?
There now is a “food channel” on television that makes food an idol. There are even competitions to see who can make the most intricate and alluring cakes and pastries regardless of the cost or nutrition. And after many hours of decorating these cakes with all sorts of inedible enhancements that make them seem like modern gingerbread houses, they judge them as to their creativity and visual entertainment value. Watch and see if food has become an idol indeed. As followers of Jesus Christ living just minutes and hours away from starving people, would the food channel be acceptable entertainment then?
Let us stop the charade.
James 2:15-17 - If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
ur sin would be gone if we admitted we do not see, but because we claim to see our sin remains. We are surrounded by great needs that cry out for justice and mercy. Much of the western church lives in comparable opulence and stuffs itself with food, entertainment, education, and every diversion imaginable in order to satisfy our insatiable and relentless desire to find meaning to this life. Our children play sports in million dollar church facilities while the children of our brothers and sisters barely have enough water to drink and many will die today.
Let us stop the charade. We are called to be a living sacrifice, but where pray tell is the sacrifice? Do we cut down to once every two weeks at the Outback and claim a form of sacrifice? The world lies in the darkness of the wicked one and yet where are the throngs of western believers, called by the Spirit, that are being made ready and set apart to go into the whited fields? Like a well worn path through a dense jungle, the footsteps of western believers trot to and from their houses of worship each Sunday as a repetitive custom, but without the community shaking power that would either change cities or bring persecution.
Let us stop the charade. Our churches hold few prayer meetings, if any at all. And the prayer meetings that are held must fit snugly into the overall time allotment that must respect the intricate schedule of the particular local assembly. Activities are at the core, and prayer seems to be an aside, if indeed not sometimes treated as an elderly uncle; cherished but still a nuisance. We preach and teach the power of prayer in very lofty and elegant verbiage, but in practice it remains a curiosity and significantly unnecessary. Pass each local church at night during the week, and if the lights are on it is to accommodate some activity or some meeting.
Let us stop the charade. The western church has become extremely adept at dissecting Scripture and constructing an entire sermon series or even an entire book on topics that interest the western culture. And just name the topic and regardless the limited teaching in the Bible, we can find all sorts of Old Testament examples that substantiate what we desire to hear, in spite of other commands that forbid such practices. We hoard up great sums of retirement money because that’s what westerners do; we attend all sorts of fleshly entertainment because that’s what westerners do; we spend exorbitant amounts of money for food and clothing because that’s what westerners do; and we have made the Bible bend to our lifestyles so we may feel spiritual and saved without altering almost anything in our lives. As long as we do not get drunk and use drugs we are behaving as a Christian.
Let us stop the charade. Each of our little denominations has its particular idiosyncrasies when it comes to doctrine and practice, and these distinctions, regardless of how insignificant as it pertains to redemption, build wonderful walls that keep believers from interacting, much less fellowshipping, with each other. We have invented “church membership” whose requirements vary from church to church. And even if you are saved and baptized, some denominations even require “re-baptizing” before you can join their particular church club. They have made baptism the divine pathway to church membership instead of the divine witness of redemption.
Let us stop the charade. The western church has made Christianity part of a well rounded cultural experience instead of a remarkable journey of love, grace, and sacrifice. People who profess Jesus walk and interact in the darkness with very little notice, much less any light. We must orchestrate different campaigns designed to drum up church membership and with the direct knowledge that more people means more toward the mortgage. Most services are drenched in entertainment value while retaining the parameters of time so as not to interfere with tight schedules, the lunch lines, and of course the opening kickoff. The announcements usually dwarf the allotted time for the “Bless us and bless our troops” prayer mantra. If there are any tears they are usually because the cute little kindergarten kids sang “This little light”.
Let us stop the charade. If this is what it means to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, then almost everyone, knowingly or unwittingly, is following Jesus. If being in debt, attending questionable entertainments, using careless and coarse language, and generally exhibiting a normal hedonistic lifestyle is following Jesus, then the martyrs were fools. With the doctrinal side our mouth we tout prayer as paramount and of great spiritual power, but with the practice side of our mouths we gossip more than we pray. Like a 400 lb. man who claims he believes in exercise, so is the church when she says she believes in prayer. And when the government does something that the church considers unbiblical we organize petitions, phone banks, and pamphlets shouting our outrage. But still the churches are dark and God goes to sleep at night without the inconvenience of listening to passionate calls for mercy and power. But Leno and Letterman will fill in the gap.
Let us stop the charade. Preachers are gaining world wide popularity through the modern mediums. A growing number are suggesting that God will save everyone regardless of their lack of faith or even rejection of Christ. Some are suggesting that the virgin birth of Jesus was a myth and unimportant, while other say the resurrection is a metaphor. Many are “preaching” a mumbo-jumbo of words that are erudite in their expression but spiritually bankrupt in their substance. And we who claim the golden calf called “orthodoxy”, are blind to our own powerless state because we soothe our consciences by identifying heretics. But isn’t one who lives a culturally compromised lifestyle, powerless and anemic in prayer, and who suggests that is actually following Jesus, isn’t that heresy as well?
Let us stop the charade. We are not fooling God. Let us be honest, let me be honest, and stop the charade…Rick.


Jon Daley said...

Good thoughts Rick.


Paul C said...

Rick, thanks for this. Very convicting - may God help us. Need to read this over a few times.

Anonymous said...

Ouch! "Faithful are the wounds of a friend. . ."