II Cor.11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Man has made Christianity very complex, very ecclesiastical, very ceremonial, very political, very patriotic, very moralistic, very doctrinal, very denominational, and generally a myriad of different issues which are all supposed to be identifying traits of a Christian. And most of them are supposed to be loosely connected to Jesus but which have to be defined through a matrix of philosophy and earthly logic since they cannot be found in Scripture. And what has been constructed over the decades is a religion whose practice and revelation have little to do with Jesus and His teachings.
Western Christianity has become a well-organized and well financed organization which concentrates on inspiring and affirming the fallen desires of sinners and saints alike. And even the most “orthodox” churches which pride themselves on expository preaching still operate with the same basic secular business constructs.
But Paul says, “Let no man beguile you…” And since we have allowed men to deceive us now we must repent, and led by the Spirit we must walk out of that deception and back into the sacred simplicity that is found in Christ Jesus. If we truly desire to experience the fullness of Christ we cannot believe and practice that which denies Him. No, we must reject the entire system which continues to keep people from Jesus and ensnare them to all kinds of earthly attitudes and practices. We must not find common ground since there is none. But in order to understand the depth of what has happened we must also ask ourselves some revealing questions.
Before I was born again I worked with a man named Jim. He had a part time job with an adult movie theatre in town. He would often relate in great detail the explicit depictions in the movies. But this man was also a faithful member of the Lutheran church where I was raised and confirmed. But after I was saved I wondered how a man could continue to work at such a place and still attend church without a whisper of conviction. Little by little God began to show me that many churches do not even believe in being born again. And through the years I began to see that even churches that say they believe in being born again were deeply compromised and had been ravaged by the dictates, mores, and practices of the fallen culture. A profession of faith and a subsequent baptism was the overwhelming and often the exclusive evidence that defined a person as a believer.
But what kind of a church leads people into a disdain for sinners? What kind of church castigates sinners and places them into categories complete with pejorative labels? What kind of church teaches people that tithing will bring God’s financial blessings? What kind of church makes people support war and pray that God will always help America win? What kind of church creates handsome salary packages for what the world calls “staff members” and makes them commensurate with other churches, congregational size, and the secular business model?
Let us be clear, no one can serve two masters and no one can be a surrendered servant of Jesus while being an active participant in things that go against Christ. And the more we incorporate the thoughts and principles practiced by the world the more we move away from Jesus. Jesus is not a written set of morals and principles. He is a Divine Person who teaches morals and principles; however He is the door to those teachings. One must embrace Him way before you know all that He taught.
So what does it mean to follow Jesus in all resplendent simplicity? I mean cut away all that man has added. Do away with all the cultural accoutrements added by man. What does it mean to follow Jesus led by His life and teachings and empowered by the Spirit? I suggest to simplify that concept we need look no further than the Sermon on the Mount. I realize that He has taught many other things, but I want us to see just how far we have strayed from His teachings which is actually reconstructing a different Jesus altogether. How many churches teach the Beatitudes but ignore them in practice? How many believers complain about the economy or liberals or the President? Where is that in His teachings? In fact, let something surface that is inconvenient and even unfair to Christians and the complaining and caterwauling reaches a fevered pitch.
The entire attitude of the Beatitudes is built upon humility. And just where is humility today in the church? In fact, where is even the slightest hint of desire to be humble? If we just consecrated humility and began a journey with Christ from that starting point we would have to admit how wrong we are.
You cannot follow Jesus without a foundation of humility and redemption. Everything else must be built upon those attributes or else you run the risk of aggressively projecting morals and issues and not the Lord Jesus Himself. It seems simple but man has made it fit his own agenda. We are afraid someone might call us liberal or a compromiser. We strut our orthodox credentials with placards that accuse lost sinners and present a short list of unacceptable sins. How has the churtch come to embrace war, capitalism, moralism, politics, and a suffocating air of superiority? But amidst all the fury we have lost the simplicity that is in Christ. And if you truly desire to pursue Christ, you must forsake earthly allegiances including yourself.
I am convinced that the overwhelming error in today’s evangelical community is nationalism. Yes, it is that double mindedness that seeps into our theology and causes believers to speak, act, and think like the lost and not like Christ. But God is calling individual by individual to come out from among them and be separate. We may not all agree with each other on all issues, and we might come from different doctrinal perspectives, however we feel an undeniable bond because once we were all in bondage to earthly matters and now Christ has set us free indeed.
Self righteousness? God forbid! Grace consumes the entire room and leaves no place for hubris or self righteousness. When you can see Christ for Who He is and what He has done, well, you cannot be anything but broken and humbled.
What can you say when your very life has been rescued? What words can even approach how I feel when I was so very guilty and yet I was declared innocent? How can I share how much Jesus means to me? If I could reach down and rip out my heart and open it before you, it would reveal two things. How great is my sin, and how great is my Savior. One million years from today that will still be my story! It may sound simple, and a child may be able to comprehend it, but one day what man called simple will be revealed as the eternal truth throughout the ions of timeless eternity.