Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Welcome to the Modern Seeker-Friendly Church: Laodicea (Rev. 3)

I became a Christian in the 1970's at the age of 14.  The "Me Decade":  huge rise in the divorce rate (my parents were in that vanguard); Roe v. Wade; Stonewall; disco; STD's; the break-up of the Beatles; end of  the Viet Nam war; ERA and Women's Lib.

Wow. What a line-up.  But what strikes me, looking back, was that the world and its confusion, chaos and selfishness was that it was out there--in the, well, the world.  I could walk up the street to the small Nazarene church in Santa Monica, California, and the world was outside the door.  Inside, we were learning the Word, praying and gathering to prepare ourselves to take the Gospel to the "out there" and lead others to the Lord.  We were, in Peter's words, "Quietly trust yourself to Christ your Lord, and if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way." (1 Pet. 3:15)

Now, lo these many years later (I will be 60 at the end of January) I see something that deeply worries me.  The doors of the church have swung open and the world is alive and well and influencing how church is done.

The narcissism of the last few decades (the Me Decade never really left us) has influenced how church is done:  mega churches (bigger is better); mega pastors (where everyone knows who you are); mega worship teams (recording deals and big money) and mega culture (it's all about you: your needs, your desires and your prosperity are top priority).

When asked to give a response to what celebrity Christians and churches believe, especially about homosexuality (the test for whether or not you will be acceptable to the world) the answers are vague, diluted and personal.  No quoting of Scripture and no acknowledging that you are committing infidelity against the Lord you claim you follow by being unwilling to stand up for Him: "Adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy." (James 4:4)

No vague answer there.  Can't have both.  The world and its values (mega everything including "live your truth") is incompatible with the values of His church, where love and grace, sin and forgiveness and obedience to His truth is paramount.

So, let's come to a Sunday morning service at The Laodicea (we don't use the word "church" because that is off-putting to the world).  Let's walk in with Jesus, and survey the goings-on through His eyes. He is our "Amen,—the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation."  He is the only one we must please.

He says to us, as we walk into a huge sanctuary: “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference."

Wait, Lord!  Look at all the people!  Every week we have thousands! (Are they the same committed people every week, or do people come and go--we don't know--as long as the worship center or better yet, auditorium, is full!) 

Hot or cold?  Well, heat soothes and heals and cold refreshes...only your Word and the love you offer through your people can accomplish that.  But You say we are lukewarm--but we want the world's approval so we can influence it!  We want to be influencers.  Oh, wait, You call us to be disciples--committed and standing on Your Word.  I guess lukewarm is just another way of saying we are self-centered:  just enough of You to be spiritual, but not all-in.  All-in would mean hostility from the world, less seekers, and more persecution.  Hmmm.  Lukewarm is safe.

But Lord, we are rich!  We have enormous budgets, programs, and outreach.  Are we making a difference or just growing the brand?  Oh.  I guess we are clothed in our own pride, not in Your righteousness, which can mean if they hated You (and they did) they will hate us.  But that seems so old-school.  We are striving for tolerance.  Oh.  I guess we don't see how naked and blind we are, because we use the world's standards to judge our success. We are seeking the approval of men, aren't we? Paul's words are convicting: "You can see that I am not trying to please you by sweet talk and flattery; no, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please men I could not be Christ’s servant." (Gal. 1:10)

Over time, and with self-centered churches, we will become indifferent. For the self is a beast that can never be satisfied. We need not a better self, but a new heart: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezek. 36:26)

We need to live with Christ moving in and through us. Our self has to be crucified, not life-coached:
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20)

Lord, if You are inviting us to open the door, that means You are standing outside of what we are doing.  Our modern churches are open to the world but closed to You.  How ironic.  

We need Your discipline today:  “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne." 

Help us to hear You, Lord:  “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”


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