Friday, December 28, 2012

When Will We Believe in Jesus?


Professing believers are some of the most observable hypocrites in America. We have acquiesced to a fallen culture which is consumed with entertainment, ease of life, violence, and everything that pertains to money. Bigger is better and quantity is better than quality. And in the midst of a consumer driven culture the church has slowly but surely bought into it and now willingly participates with an unbridled effervescence. And please do not be deceived, when your heart has been given over to such things you cannot ,love and serve Jesus regardless of your doctrinal statement, your baptismal certificate, or even your profession of faith.

In truth your profession of faith must be presented on a daily basis, not just as an historical account. Spurgeon once said that it was dangerous to rely on your so called original profession of faith, but that we should always be turning from sin to Christ. How true that is, but how easy it is to rest upon an historical profession and thereby provide a place to be friends with the world. The church is filled with people who give lips serve to Jesus, and in fact the church is filled with people who do not give any lip service to Jesus. And with that kind of community of faith the church has genuinely become a scandal in the eyes of the lost and more importantly in the eyes of God.

The one fact that has led the church to this situation is that the church no longer actually knows who Jesus is. Yes, we have confined Him to a “ticket to heaven” status and with that we are satisfied. Once you are saved you no longer need to seek Him with all of your heart. Once you are saved everything else becomes an elective. You are done with the important part and now you can coast and audit the class called “Jesus”. Once you are saved you may concentrate upon you and your earthly life. You can now have all kinds of passions: sports, politics, success, fashion, entertainment, and almost anything else can be your core pursuit.

But reading and meditating on the Scriptures with an almost insatiable desire to know Him is really not necessary. A page from the Daily Bread devotional will suffice. Spending precious time alone in deep prayer is for monks, God wants to guide you to greater realms in the natural. And we have received what we desired, however let us not pretend it comes from God or that it in any way represents Christ and His teachings.

So when will the church once again believe in Jesus? It is so easy, self serving, and affirming to the flesh to post verses from the Psalms and other blessing verses while ignoring the self denying and cross bearing Scriptures. We love to quote how we will dwell under the shadow of His wings, but we do not often refer to the fellowship of His sufferings. We even love the Beatitudes but our focus is “Blessed” and what follows is an aside. Phrases like a “living sacrifice” or “forsake all” rarely make a cameo appearance, and when they do they have been whittled down to little more than a religious quote that enters our ears smoothly and arrives in our hearts without any real challenge.

Let’s face reality, in light of the Scriptures we so often claim are inspired and even inerrant, what is practiced toady bears little resemblance to their meaning, that is if they really are literal as we love to contend. Are we desperate enough to begin a new search for Jesus in our hearts and lives, the Jesus who reflects His own words? Or can we continue to summon the blatant hypocrisy which can easily reside in the redundant and innocuous demonstration exhibited by the western church? Have we traveled so deeply in deception that we can still live without an authentic pursuit of the Christ? Have we actually replaced the glory of the Risen Christ for an ecclesiastical construct which has been erected in the likeness of other earthly organizations?

But now let us turn our hearts inward and take a spiritual inventory of our own spiritual health and vitality. Many of us have left the organized church because it hinders our spiritual growth and it has become a compromised mess. Some still attempt to overcome what they see and remain somewhat attached. But in these last days we cannot depend upon the local church to lead and guide. Just the structure lends itself to the ways of the world. And even spiritual and sincere men have been corrupted by the insidious nature of the entire western structure. Fellowship with others has overtaken fellowship with Christ. But what about our own private fellowship with Christ? What about our own prayer life? What about our humility and our self denial and our sacrifice? Most of us have known Christ for some time now, so we cannot lie to each other. We are in a battle, and just pointing out the shortcomings and compromises in the visible church can never guarantee that we are pursuing Christ.

Everything in this temporal existence can easily become an enemy of our spiritual lives and they often do. We do not have the energy and relentless fortitude necessary to seek Christ with all our hearts. That must come from the Spirit as well. Turning over new leaves are temporary fixes, but we are in need of a much deeper resolve than that. And when we look inside our own hearts and seek out our own energies, we find we are wanting. Only God can grant us a supernatural will that sets our hearts like a flint toward His glory and His truth.

Shut the door and fall to your knees and as you begin to seek Him your mind offers thoughts that are temporal and distracting. You are bombarded from the outside with all kinds of earthly cares, and like Martha we are tempted to leave His feet and go help in the kitchen. The journey once begun in earnest is now abridged. This is a labor of love to be sure, but it is labor indeed. Doing spiritual business with Jesus Christ is not some easy pleasure cruise and it requires a cross upon which you must die. And although you will not be confronted with a real wooden cross, the spiritual cross will be extremely challenging and profoundly abhorrent to the flesh and all that we deem important in the temporal.

If we truly desire to worship Christ in doctrine alone than we have arrived. By if we desire to build upon that truth and seek a personal encounter with Jesus in the Spirit than that reward comes with a steep sacrifice. To renounce the flesh and all its desires is no small task. To even understand the craftiness and lusts of the flesh is a mighty undertaking that must be led by the Spirit. Paul says that in us dwells no good thing. Uncovering our fallen desires and removing our religious masks can be very painful and even surprising. That which we long ago thought was part of the kingdom of God is sometimes exposed as fraudulent and self serving. This kind of spiritual expedition shows only a few footprints, and many of those footprints stop before they reach the destination.

But as difficult and costly as that journey is, the rewards in the Spirit are unfathomable and miraculous.

Matt.13: 44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Sells all that he has? What kind of sacrifice is that? These two parables from the lips of our Lord not only reveal the intensity of the passion that seeks Christ, but more importantly it reveals the value and glory of the Person of Christ Jesus. And that can never be overstated or even fathomed. And that is what is ours if we desire it more than this life. Somewhere along the way we have lost the desire, to say nothing of the passion, to lay hold of Christ. He has been used politically, economically, nationally, and even ethnically, but those are only caricatures and not the Risen Christ Himself.

Contentment has become a deception. Doctrine has become a prison. Ceremony has replaced worship. Activity soothes the conscience. And a couple of hours on Sunday have become the core of our spiritual lives. But the treasure in that field, and that pearl of great price remain spiritual metaphors which are not received as spiritual challenges resulting in a sacrificial pursuit. Those men sold all to seek them while we believe they should bless us with more. The western church subtly teaches that the treasure and the pearl should seek us and our desires. That is not Christianity at all. That is humanism in a religious format. And that shames Christ, and that kind of thinking has spiritually decimated the western church. But again, what will God have of us? What are we willing to surrender in order to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings so that we can be made conformable unto His death?

Or is it all so many words penned by unstable writers and scribes of days gone by? Are the words of Paul ethereal and airy, and more like fictional poetry than spiritual substance? If that is the extent of the truths revealed in Scripture, and if they are only as inspirational as the finest Hallmark Cards, then let us eat, drink, and be merry. But if they are tangible and eternal truths which when believed and pursued will lead to a deeper revelation of Jesus, and in fact a personal encounter with Christ, then what cost is too much? What sacrifice is too weighty? If it is Jesus whom we seek, than what price are we willing to pay? And more confronting, what sacrifice is He unworthy of?

This is not some monk retreating to the mountain top and spending his life engaging in some religious disciplines. This is the reality of walking in the Spirit in the midst of profound darkness. This is fellowshipping with Jesus Christ while all around you despise Him. This is the reward of the Spirit, unexplainable and miraculous, and while others seek God with an open hand you seek Him with an open heart. How many seek Christ for salvation and once they believe He has granted their request, they resume their selfish lives? How many genuflect to Christ in hopes of receiving eternal life and then walk away as if they had never met Him? How many have really met Him?

So when will we believe in Jesus? Not only in restricted doctrines and as a church membership requirement? When will we actually believe in the Jesus who lived and spoke and taught? And can we really believe in Him and not emulate Him? And can we emulate Him without knowing what He said and how He lived? And how can we know that with just a cursory and shallow knowledge of His narrative? When will we believe in Jesus?

When we cannot live one more day as we are.


Anonymous said...

My wife and I just returned from Kurdstan
We where staying with missionary family
serving there , We met a young Kurd who
Escaped from Iran . As a young Muslim
He heard the gospel , it took five years
Before excepting Christ. He told us he belived
When he heard but it took him all that time
To count the cost , his life, family, work ,
Islam's demands on him, as we fellowship
With a few secret believers there it was like
The early New Testament church on the
Run, as they follow the the Son of Man
Who didn't have a place to lay His head.
Until I truly count the cost everyday,
In prayer to God I said to Him , the song
"All to Jesus I surrender " will not be sung
From my lips, I don't want to lie to you
Anymore ,I have to start somewhere brother

Rick Frueh said...

We all need to start somewhere if we desire that path that leads to Him. All of us.

Anonymous said...

It's becoming increasingly obvious that many professing Christians are oblivious of the concept of obeying Christ. While it's true that we all have our areas of struggle, I have noticed that there are many church leaders who openly practice adultery, financial greed, materialistic obsessions, and abusive behavior. I have also noticed that there are many christian missions workers who's lifestyle I am sure they do not reveal to the people they minister to. The unbelievingly world may look upon this as hypocritical, but to those who take God's word seriously, it is nothing less than terrifying.

Cherie c. said...

I am truly a miserable failure. Is there any hope for me at all?

Cherie c.

Shannon said...

Sister Cherie, read Matthew 5:1-12.

Recommend listening to the Romans studies from Mastering the Bible link Rick has posted. Very good!


Cherie c. said...

Pastor, can you please re-post the link Shannon mentioned. Thank you.

Cherie c.

Rick Frueh said...

The link is on the blog page to the right named Mastering the Bible. It is under the number of post stats.