Questioning Low Expectations

Posted: June 22, 2009 by Josiah Batten in Christian living, Deeper Life, The Church

My hope is that in the course of my writings here my readers have come to realize that things are not as they should be.  The status quo of the Church does not align with God’s plan and purpose for the Church.  This conviction sparked this blog.

The problem is not one solely of ecclesiastical practice.  I certainly believe the way the Church functions could be improved.  However, poor ecclesiastical practice is a symptom of  a larger problem.  I’ve gone to great pains on this blog to point out the various symptoms because a treatment will only be taken as seriously as the problem is; and without symptoms we won’t believe there is a problem.

Our spiritual experience should be much greater then it is, the events of the Book of Acts should be the norm in the Church; today we view them as the exception.  The American Church has been shaped by cultural standards rather then God’s Word; we implement business plans over prayer meetings and advertising campaigns over Biblical discipleship.  We accept pluralism, cultural dating practice, superficial definitions of “success”, and thousands of wrong beliefs about God; my friends, “I submit to you that this is unChristian” (Paris Reidhead).

A.W. Tozer wrote a book called “The Knowledge of the Holy”, and he proposed that our poor spiritual state was a direct result of our poor conceptions about God.  I believe Tozer was correct.  Weak churches, irrelevant preaching, and ineffectual ministries are the result of a weak, irrelevant, and ineffectual god.  Such a god is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Such a god did not part the Red Sea.  Such a god did not take human form, die on a cross bearing our sins, raise from the dead, and empower his disciples by his spirit.  The only logical conclusion is that at some point the Christian Church ceased being the Church of Jesus Christ and started serving something/someone else.  We surrendered an all-knowing, all-powerful, loving, merciful, just, sovereign God for a weak one that doesn’t require much committment or attention.

Our thoughts about God are the most important thoughts we’ll ever have because what we do follows directly from what we believe and nothing influences what we believe more then our conception of God does.  I believe at the present time there are two great misconceptions about God inside the American Church.  One is legalism, the other is liberalism.  I shall deal with these in turn and then examine the correct way:

Legalism: Legalism is the philosophy that proposes the entirety of our relationship with God is contained within doing the right things and having the right beliefs.  If we don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, etc… then we’ll have a good relationship with God and everything will go well.  In many ways it’s an attempt to earn entrance into Heaven.  The main problem is that this is a human attempt at a divine achievement.  While a legalist won’t verbally say “I believe God is irrelevant and unpowerful”, he or she may live that way.  Consider that to believe good works brings us into relationship with God necessitates a belief that man is completely capable of acting in accordance to God’s will without God’s help thus rendering God irrelevent.

Liberalism: Theological liberalism is the philosophy that proposes the entirety of the Christian life lays in a relationship with God that allows all moral restraints to be cast aside.  It is, essentially, the opposite of legalism.  Oftentimes theological liberals will say things like “I still do X Sin, but it’s all about relationship with God”.  The problem here is that God is viewed as a pansy completely incapable of working in individuals to overcome sin and help them live according to His perfect standard.  Biblical moral commands are interpreted through the lens of what the individual wants, not what God orders.

The solution is in a truly Biblical approach in which God and the individual have a deep and intimate relationship that is manifested in good works.  Good works are a necessary evidence of the relationship.  For example, if I know a best friend loves someone dearly, and I deliberately offend that person it will have a negative effect on my relationship with my friend.  What I do becomes a reflection of the relationship I’m in, and the quality of that relationship is determined by my conception (be it accurate or inaccurate) of that friend.

Thus my proposition for the Church is that we set our conception of and relationship with God right.  We have to get the big things in order before other things can happen.  If we want to see God move mightily among His people, if we want to see the Holy Spirit flood our fellowships, if we want to see Jesus exalted as Lord of all, then we must have a proper relationship with God that molds us to think properly about Him.

I’m tired of going to Church and singing “This is a Church on fire” knowing full-well that this is not a Church on fire.  I’m tired of leading people in singing “How Great Thou Art” every Sunday and that sense of God’s greatness not carrying through and shaping our lives.  I’m tired of reading about the Sermon on the Mount and hearing all sorts of “Amens” and “Preach its” but seeing lives conformed completely to worldly patterns.

God’s purpose for the Church is not easy, and it is not safe.  Radical fellowship will look odd to nominal Christians and non-believers.  Exuberant worship will scare some people.  Aggressive and unrelenting evangelism will offend the relativists and pluralists.  Biblical discipleship will upset the Ruler-of-the-Synagogue.  These are the things God has called us to do.  A deeper and more real spiritual experience will start with prayer, with a closer and ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ, with obedience and submission to God in every single aspect of our lives.  The only hope for the billions of unreached people throughout the world is that we start to get it right, that we give up our fluff Gospel and spiritual complacency and decide to truly follow Jesus wherever He may lead.

“I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.”

God bless


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