Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What is the Greatest Need of the Church in America Today?

I believe that the greatest need of the Church in America today is a radical commitment to living a life of passion FOR the Glory of Christ.

In essence, I believe that most church goers say that they are living a life of passion for Christ, but in reality, they are not. There are a lot of Christians who love their plasma HD TVs where they can watch their favorite sports team. There are a lot of Christians who love their new iPod phones. We want bigger houses, live our lives around our kids' sports, we have the need to see the latest movies. Just name the idol here – clothing, food, Starbucks, wealth, careers, new lawn furniture… the list can go on an on. Most of them don't have shrines, but there certainly is a lot of focus, attention and money spent on our passions.

If Jesus calls us to lose our life for the sake of the gospel, their certainly is a lot of holding on to the stuff of this earth. Where are the men and women who are willing to throw everything away for the sake of the gospel? Where are the "Pauls" who are willing to have nothing for the sake of the gospel?

John Piper said in speaking at a recent pastor's conference,

"My desire and prayer for you is that your life and your ministry have a radical flavor. A risk-taking flavor. A gutsy, counter-cultural, war-time flavor to it that makes the average prosperous Americans in your church feel uncomfortable. A strange mixture of tenderness and toughness that keeps worldly people a little off balance. A pervasive summons to something more and something hazardous and something wonderful. A saltiness and brightness, something like the life of Jesus.

When Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth," and, "You are the light of the world," in Matthew 5:13-14, I think he was referring to the preceding verses where he had described the most outrageous joy imaginable. "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven" (Matthew 5:11-12). Be glad when you are persecuted and slandered."

I would submit that most churches don't offer quality Scripture focused, Christ exalting preaching, and we know that if the preacher is not preaching it, then the congregants are not living it. Does the confession of a particular church match its practice? Where is the fire that burned in the bones of Jeremiah today? Are preachers preaching all that they can? I fear that most preachers desire to be trendy more than they love to be single minded for the glory of Christ.

The famous Southern Baptist preacher, Vance Havner wrote,

"I have read of a battle where the flag got far ahead of the soldiers. An officer called back to his superior and asked, 'Shall we bring the flag back to the regiment?' 'No', came the reply, 'make the regiment catch up with the flag!'

The New Testament standard is far ahead of most of the church today. It is true that we have all kinds of people at various stages of spiritual development in our fellowships. But we must yet lower the standard to the poorest level of our membership. When Gideon's three hundred won their battle, the larger numbers who had not joined them in the conflict fell in at last and shared in the victory. We must major on our dedicated minority these days and not accommodate our program to the host who are not ready for spiritual warfare. But we can hope that in the triumph of the faithful few, many of these laggards will change their minds and join us.

- Pepper 'n Salt by Vance Havner. (Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966)

Where are the Joshua's who are confident to conquer great new lands?

Where are the Josiah's who even at the age of eight years old knew what it meant to follow God?

Where are the Esther's who are devoted to a greater cause, willing to die for it in fact?

Where are the Ruth's who are willing to trust in God for all things?

Where are the Hannah's who are consistently and persistently putting their requests before the throne of God?

Where are the David's who are willing to fight for a cause larger than their own life?

Where are the ones that are willing to give up their own life for REAL LIFE? My fear is that they are hard to find.

Thomas a Kempis wrote many years ago, "'He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness,' the Lord said. These are the words of Christ; and they teach us how far we must imitate His life and character, if we seek true illumination, and deliverance from all blindness of heart. Let it be our most earnest study, therefore, to dwell upon the life of Christ."

- Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

There is a certain level of safety in the status quos, but the gospel doesn't allow for a "sitting on the sideline" type of mentality. This following Jesus is really a "full contact body sport." It's all or nothing. Yes Thomas, let our most earnest study dwell up the life of Christ!

Matthew 6: 28-34 says "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 – "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

Are you pressed in? Perplexed? Persecuted? Have you been struck down?

Paul in his letter to the church in Phillipi wrote "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Have you given up everything? Is everything a loss for you? Give up, just give it up.

Hebrews 11:24-26 "By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

Hebrews 12:1-2 “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Charles Spurgeon wrote,

“While I was on the lower ground, riding in a hansom cab, I saw a light before me, and when I came near the hill, I marked that light gradually go up the hill, leaving a train of stars behind it. This line of new-born stars remained in the form of one lamp, and then another, and another. It reached from the foot of the hill to its summit. I did not see the lamplighter. I do not know his name, nor his age, nor his residence; but I saw the lights which he had kindled, and these remained when he himself had gone his way. As I rode along, I thought to myself, ‘How earnestly do I wish that my life may be spent in lighting one soul after another with the sacred flame of eternal life! I would myself be as much as possible unseen while at my work, and would vanish into eternal brilliance above when my work is done’”

Oh Father, humble our hearts. May You increase all the more. May we decrease. (John 3:30)

My thought to you is Christ calls us to live this great impassioned life for Him. We are to be burning with fervency for His glory. For His Word. We are not to live in either complacency or in some sort of recklessness – but passionately for the glory of Christ. This, I believe is the greatest need of the church in America today.