Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The "Balanced" Christian Life

Rev.3: 14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Most of us have heard a more mature Christian admonish someone to be more “balanced” especially when this other believer, many times young in the Lord, exhibits something that seems out of the ordinary among regular church people. If someone gets a little fanatical it is up to the older and wiser members to encourage balance.

I remember a young man who was born again after having been raised in the Roman Catholic Church in our area. Well this young man began to read his Bible and soon saw just how deceived he had been. He was overwhelmed with praise and his faith was with much passion. But the more clearly he understood the Scriptures the more he became burdened for his friends at the former church and the more angry he got with the leaders in that church. He was consumed with the things of Christ but he could not remain silent about what he knew about his former religious training.

So one Sunday morning he went to that Roman Catholic church and right before the priest got up to deliver a sermon that young man stood up and loudly told everyone he had been saved by Jesus’ blood and that this church was not telling them the truth. He began to speak the gospel and was summarily escorted out. He did not resist.

Well the older members of his church scolded him and instructed him to be more balanced in his Christian walk. Did I believe he should have done what he did? It certainly was unusual and even impolite, and I admit I have my reservations about doing something like that, but I cannot definitely state that he was wrong considering the eternal consequences of letting people die in their sins. But do you know what usually happens to a young believer like this young man? They either become disillusioned and stop witnessing at all, or they become more balanced and become like us. Yes, I said like us.

Even if you object to his method of witnessing in that instance you have to admire his bold witness and his concern for the souls of these people. But the church has become so polite and balanced that it never desires to step out of the ecclesiastical boat and walk on uncharted water. And any fire that seems outside the norm is quickly quenched with a water bucket of being balanced. That is one of the major problems with the evangelical church today. We are far too balanced.

Jesus rebukes the Laodicea church because they are not hot nor are they cold. They are lukewarm or in modern parlance they are balanced. They might read the Word sometimes; they might pray sometimes; they might witness sometimes; they might sing worship songs sometimes; but all these things are in a balanced perspective. And even brand new believers are placed upon an assembly line and taught how to be doctrinally orthodox and balanced in life. There is little patience for anyone who upsets the proverbial applecart.

But the teachings of Jesus are unbalanced if they are anything. They go against the norm both religious and secular. Forsake all? Deny self? The first shall be last? Die to self? Rejoice when men revile you? Bless your enemies? Give one of your two coats to whoever asks it of you? Forgive seventy times seven? Those are far from being balanced. In fact they are radical and if practiced literally would make people feel very uncomfortable to be around us. But in reality people are very comfortable to be around us. So what does that say about us?

I do not suggest we try to be mean or contentious or purposely say and do things which draw attention to ourselves. I do not suggest we try to be unbalanced and radical in our own strength. What I am saying is that if we truly lived like Jesus did and if we consciously lived in radical conformity to His teachings we would have people admonish us to be more balanced. Church people strongly desire to remain within the walls of ecclesiastical conformity and accepted church behavior. And those who must step out of these parameters are not only dismissed as unbalanced fanatics, but they rapidly become persona non grata in the local fellowship. And after many decades of such a scenario the Christian church loses its salt and light and settles into a nice family place for people who have made a profession for Christ. It is a club for the balanced.

What would have happened if the first century believers had become balanced? How would the gospel have spread if those believers pledged allegiance to Rome and built places of worship which were very balanced in their manifestation of their faith? And if they had become as balanced as we are, would there have been any martyrs at all? What if those churches had Caesar come and greet the folks once in a while? What if some of these believers enlisted in the Roman army? What if they joined hands with moral Jews and Gentiles who did not believe in Jesus but wanted to stop the violence within the culture? And what if those believers had become so balanced that the Roman government embraced them as a significant voting block and invited their leaders to government functions?

But that is not what happened. These early believers were so radical that even though they eschewed violence and posed no earthly threat to Rome they still were persecuted and many were butchered simply because they refused to be balanced. The gospel had changed their earthly lives in ways they could never have imagined. They were nonviolent and humble and went about doing good to all men and shared their faith in Jesus to their neighbors. And yet they were sought out and fed to lions or hung on gallows. You see fallen man cannot stand those who live in the Spirit. He will either give serious consideration to the claims of Jesus or he will persecute His followers, but he cannot remain neutral.

But when the church lives a balanced earthly life that has some doctrine as its witness but its living practice seems just like some moral unbeliever than the world accepts them. And when our eyes are as dry as our fallen neighbor’s, then we are very balanced. We own a house, pay our bills, borrow money, watch television, plan vacations, love sports, enjoy entertainment venues, complain about prices, save money for retirement, shop, listen to music, and are a benign member of our neighborhood and community. And given the fact that we believe we have eternal life, it is quite the earthly life of blessings.

But if we turn around and retrace the steps of the church for centuries we see a disturbing path. Little by little the church succumbed to the culture and eventually held onto its doctrines and some morals. Yes, we still divorced at secular rates, yes men still struggled with sexual sins, yes we still worried about money, yes we still sought financial security through secular means, yes we still went to war along side of unbelievers, yes we were entertained through worldly venues, but we still practiced a local church version of the faith and that became enough. And now there were churches on every corner, parking lots filled on Sunday, beautiful buildings, Bible study classes galore, wonderful music programs, many church activities, and generally an ecclesiastical network which even used the most up to date technology for teaching, in house information, and local advertisement. The western church construct had become an ingenious creation of the American religious mind,

As David Wilkerson once said, “Never before has the church made such inroads into the secular culture with so little effect.” And that is because we have become part of the culture and left being part of another kingdom which is completely at odds with any fallen culture in this world. So the world “balanced” in context means behavior that is culturally acceptable but spiritually lukewarm. It is an incredibly apt description of the western church. But it will sustain itself through all kinds of ways. And people will leave the building, return to their homes, and feel very good about their relationship with their church and other church members. But it’s like the electric company. It’s the only game in town so live with it. The boat is safer than the waves. But, sadly, Jesus walk on the waves and is calling us to Himself. So we can do one of two things. We can make Jesus fit into our church structure and practices with little sacrifice or denial of self.

Or we can get out of the boat where there is much uncertainty, much wind, much stormy weather, and oh yes, there is Jesus. If we truly caught a glimpse of Who He is and what He has done we would be completely unbalanced, and as the Apostle Paul said, a fool for Christ. And any who could call the cross "balanced" have never been there.


Anonymous said...

Rick, I lost my balance long before I got to the end of this article. I'll let God Himself decide what He thinks of what you've written. In the meantime I'll wait for a more balanced article before I make my next comment.


Anonymous said...

Hey Rick,

30 years ago, young in the Lord, I was found talking about work after the Church service and was mildly rebuked for it...

I was told, "this is the Lord's day, today is all about him, not work"...

Goodness, today, you can hardly find anyone that talks about God, the sermon or anything spiritual after the service...

Fellowship is all about hunting, sports, going out to eat, work, hobbies and so forth...100% opposite of 30 years can go to the local "American Legion" and talk about the same things with unbelievers as you do in Church fellowships...

That is not fellowship at all...

You have to "walk in the light" to have fellowship and truly our fellowship is with the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ...

spirit and truth...

Yes, there are problems today in our fellowships...

It's almost as if one is looked upon as a Pharisee because you want to continue to converse about the Word of God after the Amen of the service...

Or here's a good one, you are labeled as one the speaks - Christianese

Anonymous said...

It's so hard to understand what the christian walk should be. There are different admonitions, like "Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand." Phil. 4:5

I wonder, do these verses admonish a christian for his personal daily walk only? Or is this verse asking the christian to apply it to the great commission also?

Like the young man that went to the Catholic church, was 'moderation' something he needed to apply? Is moderation only needed for our life at home, but not for witnessing? I am confused.

Then there IS the verse from Paul where he says he is a 'fool for Christ'. So which application must we use? How can one be moderate in all things, yet be said to be "a fool for Christ".

I always thought no balance in one's life was when new christians would get too preachy when they were first saved. They would be so 'on fire' that they'd almost push people away. Yet, their zeal was encouraging, but I think we need to 'balance' out how to use that zeal. If I get hurt by people's harsh remarks, then I should not be harsh to others. Isn't that what scripture means, when it's written, "do unto others as you would have others do unto you"?

I remember a young couple in our church, where they couldn't hold down jobs at that time for fears and lack of confidence, and feeling like misfits. They both had hard childhoods, with little parental love, and clung to the pastor, who tried to encourage them and be a father figure to them. Their relationship blossomed to the point that when the pastor and his wife would get overwhelmed with their neediness, they'd ask the church to drive them to get groceries, church, doctor's appointments, because they didn't have a car. There was something unbalanced in that case. They couldn't overcome their dependence on the church, and instead of forcing themselves to take baby steps to change and grow and be strong and have the faith to get jobs, they clung to dependent status on everyone, for food, fellowship, and drives everywhere. I think the pastor, like all of us, wanted to do the right thing, but the pastor enabled them, and at some point, they had to learn the hard way that they needed to adjust their old thinking and be new creatures. Of course, we all had to do that in our own walks.

But, if the pastor of a church shows 'balance', then the people will learn objectively. It's like, "so with the priest, so with the people" verse in the OT.

It's overwhelming sometimes for all or any or us to try to stay grounded in every verse and command. We all fail, and despite that good pastor's efforts, it kind of backfired on him. But, in all of that experience with that couple, we, our small church, watched this pastor's good works, in that he made a lot of sacrifices, gave time, and gave of himself to that couple. It just required a little more wisdom where he had to put a stop to the enabling.

It's hard being a christian, right? When it gets too complicated, I just go back to that moderation verse. I realize that some of us may never reach all the potential of the bible before we leave this world. There's just so much to learn and the time it takes to 'learn' and act, can be days or years. Thank the Lord Jesus that He is patient, like a caring Father.


Anonymous said...

I think I understand what Rick is referring to here, with the 'balancing'. I believe these are the last days, and I have to reformat my thinking completely and rev up my zeal to speak boldly to people now. Get out of the comfort zone. Not just have personable conversations with people. I remember years ago, going to a church conference to another town a few hundred miles away, and leaving the hotel and telling the housekeeper who was near our door that there were revival services at this church and invited her; but I was a little more bold then. Last summer, I picked up a hitchhiker, while we were on vacation. My husband and son were hiking and I was driving alone, and I just did it, because that morning I prayed, Lord use me. I told this young man Jesus loved him. He and I started talking about God and he told me he had just started going to a church, and was from Haiti and had no friends. I told him about my experiences with church, my sons, and tried to encourage him. We parted ways like real friends. That was a moment of going out of my comfort zone. If only I had that courage every day. What I hate about myself is that I go back into caveman mode. My father's family were outdoors people who were all pretty much loners, they could live in camps in the woods with little contact with the world. The genetic make-up of all of us is so different and we all have challenges and we are all unique.

I think we all can use our talents and uniqueness for the Lord. Some might look at another and say that they don't do enough, or work enough for God, or seek or abide by certain rules and laws, but, forget that God knows where we personally are. No man knows the heart, only God. God knows what kind of childhood challenges we had and how it affected us, and he knows our DNA, and he knows our weaknesses and strengths.


Anonymous said...

Luke 17:15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God,
:16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.

I believe the young man Rick mentioned in his sermon physically felt Jesus cleansed and healed him of his sin. And he could not be quiet about it. I should take note of this young man’s actions.

We cannot look back at our past before Christ came into our lives, it is detrimental to our walk with Jesus. Luke 9:62 But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." If you look back you are going to end up way off course.


Anonymous said...

A little zeal can't hurt brother ! What exactly is meant by the word “zeal”? The word “zeal” captures something of a notion of “fire” and “passion” or perhaps “ardor” and “fervor.” Zeal is a matter of personal character or temperament. As the Son of God, the zeal of Christ is perfect, holy, righteous, awesome, and powerful. Undoubtedly, it is also still more beyond our telling. The Letter to the Hebrews says, “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). Those who draw close to God experience His fire, His zeal deep within them, animating them and making them courageous. It's time for us to become
Uncivilized once again His church

Anonymous said...

I don't want to be uncivilized but I do want to be purified!