Timothy Keller wrote something like this in his book on Judges, “most people use Jesus to get the things that they want, but what we really need is to want Jesus.” (paraphrase)
Christianity has lost a great deal of credibility because we have been infected by charlatans and scam artists. I remember a number of years ago a friend telling me that at her church a clothesline was stretched across the front of the church. The visiting evangelist then announced that he couldn’t preach the special message God gave him until the people came up and filled the clothesline with money. He even provided the clothespins. Is that how God really works?
Or how about the mega-pastors, preaching that if we only send a little seed money to them then God will bless ten fold? Really! Then there are the faith healers who never allow anyone with real illness to come up on stage for healing.
What is wrong with us as Christians that we run after every person who claims to be a prophet, evangelist or healer? Why can’t we be content to simply open the word of God and allow the Spirit to talk to our hearts? Why must we have the miraculous, outrageous, or the exaggerated to reassure us of the truth of who God is?
Why do we use God to try and get things when what we really need is God? Christianity in the west has little to say to our culture because the truth of the matter is that we are infected by the very culture that we say goes against the message of Scripture.
I grew up in a denomination that told us women shouldn’t wear jewelry of any kind because it drew attention to them and it was a waste of money that could otherwise be used for evangelism. So we ended up with millions of women who don’t wear jewelry but now use their money to purchase luxury cars, vacation homes and take expensive vacations.
Somehow the leaders of the denomination don’t see the humor and irony in the double standards. In fact they don’t even see the problem. The power of churches to change society is totally lost when we have the same desires, wants, and goals as that culture.
It is difficult to proclaim the coming Kingdom of God when we would prefer His Kingdom to come after we die so we don’t miss out on the good things we believe our culture has to offer.
Because of my involvement in the arts community I meet a great many people who have no real interest in Christianity because of how we have made a caricature of it. They believe we are hypocrites and exploiters of the dull and dimwitted of this world. They see Christianity through the eyes of television evangelists who are always begging for more and more money. They watch old women falling over on stage while a white suited evangelist screams out that he can see the Holy Spirit anointing his ministry. They shake their heads in disbelief that anyone could fall for this stuff.
And when did Christianity become enthralled with mega-pastors, multi-million dollar churches, and never ending retreats and training seminars? Our friend Puji in Mongolia has nothing, and I mean nothing. He doesn’t take a salary to minister to the poorest of the poorest in this world. Almost without exception everyone in his church is homeless and live in amongst the steam pipes under the city.
Ministry to Puji is dressing wounds, giving tea to the hungry, trying to find fresh water for people to wash, and comforting the dying. Where is our compassion for a pastor like Puji and his congregation of the discouraged, broken, and defeated?
I’m going to be honest with you. I agree with many of the critics of western Christianity because we are most of the things they say we are. I know there are many exceptions and there are Christian churches and groups doing wonderful things in North America, but they are not the norm. We are like Laodicea saying, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” Revelation 3:17a However, God says, “and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:17b
Our critics are not saying anything that God hasn’t already said. In fact, maybe God is using our critics in the secular world to remind us how far away from the great commission to proclaim the gospel into the whole world that we have drifted.
But here is where I disagree with our critics. They do not take the time or have the inclination to look beyond the shores of America and see what Christianity looks like in the majority of the countries of the world. There they would see Christians persecuted, raped, robbed, stoned, and murdered. They would see the followers of Jesus driven from their homes and in many countries put in prison for their faith.
They would see people who stand firm for their faith in spite of the threat of prison and physical abuse. They would see people sharing what little they have with people who have nothing. They would see Christians calmly going to their death while ISIS hatchet men stand over them with knives to take their lives.
They would see the Puji’s of this world who give everything for the love of his fellow man. They would see a man who broke down crying in my front room as he recalled the pain of being called by police to go identify another victim of scalding from a broken hot water pipe in the darkness under the bustling city.
I am proud to be counted a Christian and I am ashamed at the same time. I am proud that men and women like Puji live and work and breath Jesus to people who are forgotten by society. And I am ashamed that I give so little of my wealth, time and energy to serve and minister to the broken around me as well as those in other countries.
I rejoice that Puji gives his all in ministry and I weep that some television evangelist cries out to me that “God wants him to have a new jet,” and people send him millions.
We have all got to decide where we stand as Christians. We either use Jesus to get the things we want or what we really want is Jesus. We have to decide.
* Please take the time to read some of the stories of Christians who are experiencing persecution for their total commitment to Christ. They need our support and prayers.. http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…