Thursday, February 16, 2012

Modern Christianity’s Biggest Problem: It is too Easy!

The biggest problem facing Christianity in the present age is its lack of definiteness. What do I mean? I mean that saying you are a Christian has about as much meaning as saying you are political. When a person says they are a sports fan, the first question that comes to mind is, “What kind of sports fan?” Are you a football fan? Are you a professional or college football fan? You get the point. To say one is a sports fan tells you something, but not much more than that. Today, Christianity has become so broad in its definition that saying you are a Christian, in modern culture, here in the West at least, is nearly meaningless. Now, for those in other parts of the world, that may seem shocking. In many places on this little dot we call earth, calling yourself a Christian could get you killed. You see, in those places, when you say you are a Christian; that means something very specific. And in the Greco-Roman culture, and especially in Palestine, around the first and second century, it meant something very specific then as well.

What do I mean when I say that Christianity’s biggest problem is that it is too easy? Well, apart from a little hyperbole to arrest your attention, I mean that Christianity has become, for the most part, one of the world’s most undefined religions. There was a time that becoming part of the Christian group was the most radical thing a person could do. I can remember when I was a young teenager; even then, becoming a Christian was an extremely serious step. It meant that your life was going to be significantly different. It was a very big deal. Today, being a Christian is not really a big deal. Everyone is a Christian. Even people in other religions are Christians in the mind of some. When you think about it, it really is stupid, but that is the way things are in modern, American, western culture. What is the cure? Some say that we don’t need a cure. Some say we are making progress. You see, I work out in the real world. I am not hid in some seminary teaching future pastors how to exegete the text. I am not a full time pastor living a life predominately surrounded by the white walls of the church. Every day, I am down in the pits with people who unashamedly hate Christianity and are not shy about it, as well as with people who say they are Christian without having the first clue what a Christian is. I am with folks who are simply unregenerate men and women living their lives the best they know how – according to the lusts of their own heart. I have conversations with people all the time who say Christianity is a joke. Other people have the “to each his own” attitude. Some are downright hostile. However, most think they are Christian because they give Jesus a wink and a nod.

Christian Leaders – Pastors and Scholars

As with any other problem with followers, the blame can be assigned, to a large degree to the leaders. We have seminary professors teaching future pastors how to be pastors when they themselves do not believe the gospel. You can send a young man filled with enthusiasm about the rewarding work of the ministry off to seminary where he will be taught by lettered men who deny the virgin birth, a literal bodily resurrection, the miracle of the six-day creation, the exclusivity of Christianity, and the truthfulness of Scripture. These wolves work at seminaries who claim to be conservative. Moreover, the church does next to nothing about them. We treat these differences as small ancillary matters that we must navigate with kindness and respect. It is no wonder they produce the kind of pastors we see filling the pulpits today. The truth is we should them from the community once we discover their faith is false.

Pastors are just as bad and even worse than the professors who taught them. They view the ministry as a career. They see themselves as “in charge” of things. They love the attention people pay them. They love being the “go-to” person. They love their ability to influence people. It is a massive ego trip for them. Such is human nature. It is a nasty temptation with which they have to do. Yet, resist it they must. Many pastors spend their time working on their style, their delivery, their gravitas. They are not unlike previous political administrations that lead by straw poll. They try to figure out which way the political winds are blowing and that is how they make decisions. They are more concerned with fads and fashions than they are with true faith and godly living. They have tied their material possessions to their income which is tied to their ministry. And they are not willing to place those things are risk in order to defend that which is right and true and just. They deny Scripture, pervert dogma, invent programs, and do all they can to retain that which they have come to love: their status.

The Christian Community – The Scourge of the Church

Leaders and pastors who fail in their duty to preserve, promulgate and procure the truth of Scripture inevitably produce communities that do the same thing. They end up with members who reject that idea of an infallible Scripture. They deny the authoritative nature of the Bible. They reject the miracle truth-claims of the text. When Scripture threatens their lifestyle, the come up with numerous ways to contort and bend it just the way they need to in order to retain the comfort level they so enjoy. Today, Christians engage in homosexual relationship, they live together outside the bonds of marriage, they engage in sexual promiscuity without flinching arguing that God knows that no one is perfect. Christians are engaging in and supporting abortion on demand. They deny an eternal hell. They use language that would make many unbelievers blush without hesitation. They lie, cheat, steal, hate, slander, gossip and just about every other deviant behavior you can dream up. You see, these are no longer viewed as intolerable, ungodly acts of pernicious evil, but simply as imperfections that God understands.

Christian leaders and their communities no longer have the stomach to remove reprobates from among them. They no longer have such high regard for Christ and for His one true church that they are willing to keep her pure. Moreover, they do not love those caught in sin enough to actually give them the real medicine that makes a real difference in their life. You see, that is unpopular, risky, and hard. Today’s leaders would rather excuse this behavior and, as a crutch, call on the supposed grace of God who supposedly understands Christians that live a lifestyle of predominant sin without the slightest regard for the Christ they offend with their behavior. He understands must understand.

The Cure – Old Fashioned Persecution more of a blessing than we realize

Some of this behavior can be traced back to what I call the great apostasy. I am not convinced that the apostasy prophesied by Paul has not already taken place. Before you go accusing me of being a Preterist, let me explain. Paul warns the Thessalonians about a coming apostasy that seems to be a quite a large scale. This is an event that must see the visible church moving away from sound teaching and praxis in preference for wanton pleasures. Up until the fourth century, the Christian movement suffered tremendous persecution. This persecution helped to guard the church from developing predominant appetites for worldly behavior. In essence, persecution was a blessing in disguise. While it did not keep all heresy at bay, it certainly helped the church keep her focus on the things that really matter, like the gospel and discipleship. Enter Constantine who, in an attempt to keep the Roman Empire together, converted to Christianity and outlawed persecution with the Edict of Milan. While many rejoice in this move, I think it may have been the first move toward paving the way for the wholesale apostasy of many in the visible church. Not long after this, in fact within 100 years after this event, Theodosius I made Christianity the state religion and actually outlawed paganism. This event served to transform the church from a humble, spiritual religious entity to a political power. The focus shifted from simple preaching and Christian praxis to power and politics. Men began to buy bishoprics and there are cases where children as young as 10 and perhaps younger were appointed as bishops due to the political importance of their family. This imperialist structure soon enveloped the church. The church continues to suffer from this philosophy seated deep in our thinking.

There are pastors who pound their chest from the pulpit saying they would die for Jesus. They would rather die before compromising the gospel. Yet, when given the opportunity to step out from behind the pulpit and actually execute on doing the right thing as opposed to just sounding pious, they wilt. There are men who say they would die for Jesus but won’t even remain sexually pure for Him. There are women who say that Jesus is their Lord and Master, and that they would die for him but somehow can’t even remain married to their husband for Jesus. How does this work?

Maybe if we began to experience real persecution, the visible church would once against begin to move a little closer to the true church. There will always be those in the church who are hypocrites and who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. The point is that when we see them, we must act. We move in love to correct and reprove those who are in doctrinal error or moral failure. We humbly and lovingly confront, seeking to restore. In the end, if those we wish to restore reject our efforts, we must insist on the purity of the Christian community. We do this by removing rebellious and impious individuals from the group so that others might realize that Christianity is not as broad as some think.

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