Sunday, December 18, 2011

An empty church filled with people

What does God think about "Christians" that attend church, but do not live out their faith? Is He content with knowing that they're at least hearing the message? I mean, the church is for the sick, not the healthy... right?

We all know these people: they come (most) every Sunday, but you rarely see them serving others in the church or otherwise; they occasionally throw a couple bucks in the offering box, but they don't tithe 10% of their income or give until it hurts; they often say good things in church, but if you look at their life at home, work, or school, it's a completely different story. What does the Bible say about these people?

"Through him [Jesus Christ] and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith." (Romans 1:1)

Our actions as believers do not earn us our salvation or get us to rightousness--on the contrary, they are the result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, if someone's life is not showing obedience to God, what is that saying about their faith?

"For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." (Romans 2:13)

It is not merely our vast understanding of the Bible that will lead us to righteousness (or right-ness in the eyes of God), but salvation and faith through Christ Jesus, lived out through our obedience.

"Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.'
Jesus replied, 'Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.' "
(Matthew 8:20)

Jesus didn't seem to be interested in building his numbers as quickly as possible. There are several accounts of Him warning people that --if you want to follow Him--you have to make major sacrifices in your life.

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:15-16)

Speaking to the church in Laodicea, God makes it clear that He is uninterested in the lukewarm Christian. Following these verses, in verse 17, He goes on to describe them as "wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" . . .I guess I never looked at the average pew-warming, lukewarm Christian in this way.

"Then He will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me othing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I need clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
They will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
(Matthew 5:41-46)

This was the most convicting passage for me; God's requirements for eternal life was not solely based on the redemption of Jesus Christ, but also on how we live our lives as a result of His free gift. What good is a dead faith to God?

All of this being said, I believe that God is not interested in people following Him with a noncommitted heart. . . because He wants all of our heart. He sent His own son to die for us so that we could be saved (John 3:16-17), and every single person is in desperate need of that salvation:

"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace throught the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:22-23)

*All Bible verses are taken from the New International Version.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Sprit intercedes for us through wordless groans...

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
Romans 8:26

Last night, I wasn't doing so great. Overwhelmed from my day, I sat in my room as tears streamed down my face. I whispered prayers without words, my heart unable to express to God how much I needed Him in that moment.

I was about to just go to sleep when I felt the desire to pray. Knowing that I needed God's comfort, I pulled out my Bible reading plan. The first chapter for the day was Psalm 42, and from the very first line, I knew that God's Spirit was speaking my prayers through the words of the chapter. When I didn't know the words to express my pain and need for God, the Spirit knew.

Here are the words of that Psalm; words written thousands of years ago by a distant and foreign king, yet still somehow the words my heart could not find.....

Psalm 42
1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
   so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
   When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
   day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
   “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember
   as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
   under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
   among the festive throng.

 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
   Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and my God.

 6 My soul is downcast within me;
   therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
   the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
   in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
   have swept over me.
 8 By day the LORD directs his love,
   at night his song is with me—
   a prayer to the God of my life.

 9 I say to God my Rock,
   “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
   oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
   as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
   “Where is your God?”
 11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
   Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and my God.