Thursday, July 12, 2012

Through The Fire

In Ezekiel, the prophet railed against the people for sacrificing their children to idols, passing them through the fire. Today, we scoff at such 'primitive' behavior, too. But for entirely different reasons. We dismiss a practice of child sacrifice as much as we scorn rain dancing or Bible reading. In our world, our culture, secular thought has risen above all superstition and stands in proud, dismissive judgement of it all. Belief in anything unseen is completely incompatible with a world driven by 'science.' This ignorant superiority over the past has blinded us like the contemporary thought of Ezekiel's generation. Remember, people hated the prophets because they felt they were wrong. Ezekiel was calling out a people that felt they were properly religious in a contemporary way.
Today's Christianity has fallen away from the zealous, fervent worship and devotion of ages past. Modern Christians degrade the recent past as “boring,” and prior Christian practices as “stale traditions,” or “legalism.” The new Christianity pretends to be a cultural troubadour, righting the stiff injustices of past generations. And how do they correct the Christianity's errors? By reassuring everyone that they won't be boring, stale and solemn. They use flippant jargon, referring to a sacred faithful response to God's awesome grace as “God stuff.” They reduce the rich, reverent worship of the past to a thumping rock concert. They write off the Puritans and other faithful generations as “hypocrites.” And they bristle at the mere suggestion that they are worshipping themselves rather than God; all the while they cater to their own tastes, talk about their “felt needs” instead of their TRUE need and make popular books or raps equivalent to Scripture in their presentation.
Hypocrites are those that say one thing, but deny it in practice. To that extent, the modern Christian points to some straw man of Religion who preached purity, but wasn't pure. The truth of the matter is, no follower of Christ has ever claimed to be perfect. But they used to preach sanctification, separation from the world and holy living. Failing to meet Christ's standard isn't hypocrisy. But telling others that you are a follower of Christ and yet never showing a life of sanctification, is. And that's what our modern Christendom is, a raving group of Free Grace hypocrites, exulting in their sin and giving up on sanctified, holy living.
Today's Christian is more pragmatic. He/she wants to know what steps to take to have a successful, epic, blessed life. They want God's blessing without having to obey. They want to be a law unto themselves and yet receive the blessings of a lover of God's law. What they're really looking for is a system that affirms happiness through religious check-lists, instead of living a life of self-denial, submission and devotion in relationship to God.
The average American Christian is just like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day: Not in their judgmental attitude, but in their faith in human styles and trends. Today's Christian is identical to the idolaters of Ezekiel's day in sacrificing their kids, too. By seeking out teachers that change, diminish or toss out the Bible, they have embraced the World and sacrificed their children to the World system. The average church with their indictments against any call of separation has fallen over itself to identify with the world. The American church wants to show its 'worldly cred' to attract people to Christ, rather than shining the light of the Gospel to induce conviction and repentance.
In practice, this ultra-contemporary 'relevance' gospel encourages young people to imitate the world. After all, they won't get any of their friends to join them at church if they are viewed as boring, rule-following stiffs. This leads to kids placing a high value on cultural popularity. And what is that if not sacrificing our kids to the gods of this world? We're not only passing them through the fire, we're DELIVERING THEM TO HELL.
We know that in the end there will be those who will call out to God and claim to be His. But God will say, “depart from me you workers of lawlessness, for I don't know you.” This is a desperately important issue. Nothing could be more vital or relevant than the true Gospel if we really hold the faith we claim. And if so, we shouldn't elevate cultural relevance, as if the unvarnished truth of God's judgment for their rebellion isn't motivation enough.
Imagine Ezekiel or Jesus walking into your church. What would they say? Would Ezekiel see the apathetic, immodest young people ignoring what little scripture is read or mulling around while some empty Christian rock blares from a speaker and conclude that these are children of zealous, God-fearing parents? Would Jesus see the books for sale, the coffee shop selling treats, the sermons for sale, the tickets for concerts and not be driven to tip over the coffee stands, book shelves and ticket counters? Is your church a house of prayer? Is God the subject of reverent awe? Or are you showing up late in your most comfortable, casual clothes to be entertained with clever speakers and fun, contemporary music?
As a side note, the “style” of the music is really secondary to the fact that what passes as contemporary music is empty of any sound theological lyrics. But the style is important. In American society, regardless of whether you live in the south, north, east, west or mid-west, formal, respectful music has a manner and tone. Similarly, rock concerts have a tone, too. If one is invited to a formal affair, they would know that they need to dress in a suit. In fact, they would want to. Conversely, if one is invited to a rock concert with a tailgate party, more casual dress is in order. No one is really confused about style and appropriate response. Except when it comes to the modern church.
The reason is that the church in America has turned away from the pursuit of holy living and majored on pleading with the culture around it. Many church leaders have been deceived into believing that God is not sovereignly powerful enough to draw his elect to Himself (in fact, many churches do not believe in the elect. Or if they do, they twist it for their own pride). Since they do not trust in God's sovereignty, they believe they need to wrangle people into churches for God. In their vain attempt to build something for God, they use worldly methods and divide the body of Christ into separate services and age-segregated groups. As our Lord said, a house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe our modern church has succumbed to the Devil's deception. Satan wants the Body of Christ divided. Satan wants us diminishing God's fearsome nature. Satan wants us abandoning fervent worship and personal devotion to holiness.
We need to return to the roots of our faith and a zealous desire to serve God in holy submission.