Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Process Called Faith


How do people arrive at a system of belief, and what ingredients are necessary for people to believe something? God does not hog tie a sinner and make him believe anything, regardless of some doctrines that suggest such a thing. There is always a process which has two immutable elements which are the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. We will expand on that later, but those ingredients are indispensable in leading a sinner to faith in Jesus Christ. And there are also some ingredients which are used that vary, but the challenge is always not to make other ingredients overwhelm and obscure the Word and the Spirit and thereby run the risk of eliciting faith in them and not faith in Christ.

God uses sermons and preachers and life experiences and testimonies and tragedies and many other things and events as limited aids for the Holy Spirit to use in drawing sinners to Christ. But if the person and work of Jesus Christ becomes less than the focal point then the message risks becoming manipulative rather than an instrument used by the Spirit. In this modern age many churches have been extremely successful at using images and theatrics and presenting all kinds of earthly promises in order to draw people. But in so doing many have draw people to certain preachers and certain churches and certain movements and not to Christ.

Many churches design their services to have a feel of excitement in order to make the people feel energized when they leave, and in so doing they have been very successful. The professionalism and the sensationalism that many churches employ in constructing a service is nothing less than breathtaking. Excellent music with its volume ebbs and flows; creative lighting; skilled worship leaders; screen images; all work together to form an atmosphere that invites excitement, drama, and all kinds of emotions. It is true that emotions are used of God, but when emotions are the goal and when emotions overwhelm truth, then they are detrimental to the ministry of the Spirit. And the underlying principle is this: That the environment in which we subject ourselves to influences the way we process truth. Whether we intentionally place ourselves in that environment, or whether the environment happens unintentionally, we still are influenced.

And let us delve a little further into that principle. The only way any of us can process truth accurately is through the prism of God’s Word and with the ministry of God’s Spirit. That means that all outside influences are more often than not contrary to God’s truth. So if we spend hours listening to or watching things that are at odds with God’s truth, we are influenced on some level by them. What we hear and what we see enters into the thought/heart process even though it may be clandestine. But I also contend that certain elements also enter in such as length of time and whether we choose or do not choose to listen and watch. What we willingly subject ourselves to has a little more of an impact than what targets us without our permission. But both venues impact us.

And the conclusion is this: The media has had a profoundly detrimental effect on all of us who say we desire to follow the teachings of Jesus. In fact, the media and the secular culture has so influenced the church that many churches are detrimental to the spiritual growth of believers. A poisoned tree offers poisoned fruit. The reading and meditating upon God’s Word has substantially given way to the consumption of whatever the media is offering to us. That in and of itself should expose what has happened and what continues to happen to the truth of God’s Word as it is processed through our hearts and lives. The outside influences have been given unrestricted access to our thoughts and lives with only pornography as a limit, and sometimes not even that.

A little rudder can change the course of a large ship. And when we spend most of our time working for the temporal and listening and watching that which is temporal, then eventually our hearts and lives are bound by the temporal. And God’s Word becomes good suggestions and sentimental anecdotes when served in the temporal and not the surpassing glory of the Eternal Christ. We cannot serve two masters. Regardless of our doctrinal statements, what we truly believe will manifest itself in our lips and lives. And when our hearts and lips agree with the fallen media, regardless of how “conservative” they may be by earthly definitions, then alarm bells should be going off in our hearts.

And lest we forget, the fallen media is always the enemy of Christ even when they espouse certain moral positions, or fight for observing Christmas, or defend the concept of religion. That is a smoke screen designed to camouflage the enemy’s true intentions. What seems right unto men are the ways of death. As soon as we step into the kingdom of darkness, what seems good is really evil and what seems right is actually wrong. If we take truth and mix it with self righteousness and covetousness, and when we present truth without the gospel and the exclusivity of Christ, then we have abandoned truth and it all becomes a free for all with the interests of man as its pursuit and not the interests of God.

There is a truth which is the gateway to pursue and find all truth. We as believers in Jesus must pursue truth through His Person and through the ministry of the Spirit who came to speak of Jesus. When we squabble about issues without having Jesus at the center then we present a car without a motor and a body without a head. And it is very easy to get entangled with the affairs of men and leave the essence of the everlasting gospel. And it is almost impossible to see and believe God’s Word clearly when our eyes and ears are overburdened with processing the things and thoughts of this fallen world. Just the invention of television has seriously compromised the church’s view of Christ’s teaching and now has the visible church in a life threatening condition.

And most of the situation we find ourselves in today is the result of the continuous bombardment of the fallen media venues. But it isn’t just the pro-choice or pro-gay outlets, it is also the pro-life and pro-traditional marriage outlets as well. That which is morally correct but without Christ is still death although it presents a more clever approach. If we as believers ever hope to draw closer to our Redeemer and His will, we are going to have to sacrifice some things. We will have to deny ourselves some entertainment luxuries and some mindless media outlets and replace them with broken times of seeking Christ. This is no easy task since we are way past the curiosity phase and now are addicted.

There is only one pathway to faith and that is lined with God’s Word and the ministry of Gods Spirit. And surprisingly enough, you can espouse an orthodox theology while still exhibiting traits that are completely in the fallen realm and even opposed to the teachings of Jesus. Let us take inventory of ourselves. Do we spend sacrificial time seeking Christ and His truth? Is that what consumes our thoughts and our hearts? But it will take more than some convenient honesty to face the reality of our won spiritual situation. And it will also take a penetrating and all consuming devotion which leaves behind our pretend devotion which is so defined by peer comparison.

This journey will necessitate repentance as a process, which when implemented over time, will see the stone rolled back and the Risen Christ in all His glory come forth in and through our lives. Until then we can present our baptismal certificate and our church membership as infallible proofs of His resurrection.


Anonymous said...

Very true Rick, what you have written clearly defines the state of things as they are. I can't help but feel though, that the world has only offered and enticed us with the things that we want - we are lured away by our own selfish and perverse desires. Jesus' sermon on the mount is quite different to modern sermons, and the apostles styles and work was quite different to our modern ministry. Paul's testimony as the 'chief of sinners' is very different to many modern testimonies which often read like a soap opera. Modern Christianity is just like modern food - easily accessible, full of toxic chemicals, lacking in nutrition, much changed from its original form, but worst of all , it is just the way many Christians want it.

Will said...

"That which is morally correct but without Christ is still death although it presents a more clever approach." AMEN!

Cherie c. said...

"That which is morally correct but without Christ is still death although it presents a more clever approach."

Is also the one we fall for the most often. Most keep forgetting that satan comes as an angel of light. Anything without Christ at the core is vanity.