The last two posts have drawn quite a few comments from our readers. Unfortunately, almost all of the comments were in the form of personal emails to me and not to the comment section of the posts. I think if they had been posted we would have a wonderful conversation going over the nature of the church and our relationship to it.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that many readers have experienced serious conflict while attending church. Without a doubt legalism is the most serious barrier to authentic worship that Christians are experiencing in their home church. Freedom seems to be a dirty word to a great many church leaders and their fear of losing members keep them continually preaching adherence to their particular brand of belief.
“The bending of the mind by the powers of this world has twisted the gospel of grace into religious bondage and distorted the image of God into an eternal, small-minded bookkeeper. The Christian community resembles a Wall Street exchange of works wherein the elite are honored and the ordinary ignored.” ― Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
Brennan Manning points out one of the greatest problems people have with the church is that it’s not based on equality. The wealthy, successful and socially connected seem to be treated with greater respect than many of the other members who don’t possess these blessings in quite the degree others do.
When people attend church they want to be accepted. They long to be part of the group and fit in. For those of you who still attend church regularly ask yourself this question, if you dropped out would you be missed? Do you know people who have stopped coming to church and are they missed? I will guarantee you that if they were big supporters of the church they would be visited and coaxed into coming back. But the single mom, the young gay boy, the socially unacceptable and a host of others would never be missed.
The church is a place where God calls us regardless of our background, pain and brokenness. It is where God asks no questions but just wraps His arms around us and tells us we are loved. It is where we go to be uplifted and encouraged to live out our Christian lives. It is where we receive strength to make it through the week. The church is where we make friends and become spiritually connected with other believers on the journey. If we don’t experience Jesus in Church then why are we attending?
It breaks my heart to read emails each week from readers who have been beaten up, tossed aside and forgotten by the church establishment. No wonder atheists mock us and so easily point out our failures as a so-called loving community. Why can’t we become an authentic people who simply proclaim the love of God to the world with no strings attached?
In a nutshell, in order for us to love others we need to love ourselves and we can only love ourselves when we understand we are loved by God. That is our message. God loves us unconditionally and His greatest wish is to spend eternity in our presence. In order for that to happen He has to make all the sacrifices and surrender His all to invite us freely home.
As the second Adam He undid all the evil that entered the world through Adams rebellion and selfishness. He lived the perfect life that we cannot and then accredited that perfect life to our account. He paid the penalty of our sin and rebellion by taking our place as our substitute on Calvary’s cross and dying the second death that we deserved so that we will never have to. He took my guilt for sin and replaced it with freedom and the free gift of salvation. He died for me and was resurrected on the third day and now resides at the right hand of God as my redeemer. He sent the Holy Spirit to us so that we can live happy joyous lives filled with assurance that we are children of God.
Take some time to contemplate the following verses:
“To Him the gatekeeper opens, the sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.” John 10:3 God knows you by name. He calls you by name. We are not some nameless objects that God occasionally thinks about. We are children of God (John 1:12) and loved by Him.
While in chapter 10 notice this verse, “and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” (v. 28) Does that sound like a God who is harsh, not accepting and sitting in heaven like a bookkeeper keeping tally of every mistake you make?
One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:12-13, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart.” Can you find a much better promise than that? God doesn’t say I might hear your prayers but instead He promises I will hear you and you will find me.
There are scores of passages I could leave you with but you get the picture. God loves us and therefore our hearts become filled with joy and that joy overflows into compassion, concern and love for others.
Let me leave you with this thought about Bertrand Russell, the father of modern atheism. He grew up in a repressive spiritual home according to his daughter. He rebelled against the staunch teachings that were to be accepted without consideration or debate. The result was by the age of eighteen he was an atheist. What might he have been if the Gospel had been the center of his home? What might God have done with the brilliant mind of Russell if he had been introduced to the love of Jesus instead of dry formulated doctrinal religion?
The modern western church needs revival. We need to become centered in Christ and His love for a lost world instead of selfishness and indifference. Maybe it’s time we stopped focusing and worrying about our own salvation and turned our eyes upon Jesus.
* Please remember in prayer those who are persecuted for their Christian faith. Go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for updates on persecution of Christians