“The reason for the average Christian worker being average is that he remains ignorant about what he does not see any practical need for.”
~ Oswald Chambers
The message is set… now prepare Your messenger, Lord…
There is, within the modern day church, this consumer mentality that we have not merely cultivated but continue to feed. The Gospel has been edited and reduced to a series of practical principles aimed at a better life. Where faith is seen as practical, we coo seductively, “Come, taste… and see that this, too, is good” and we do so for the sake of relevance in the hopes of helping people see that a life of faith is certainly far better then a life without. Sermons become aimed at how to feel better, how to live life better, how not to hurt and struggle or how better to manage the anger and flesh and sin-filled desires plaguing us all. Our message, while filled with Truth, has been saturated with a tasty spiritual preservative meant to be received as “the most practical ways” for which to live.
This is counter-intuitive to the Truth and Gospel message of Jesus Christ. We’ve kept from this world things that they already intuitively understand: pain, loss, regret and shame. We haven’t gone so far as to suggest that these struggles with sin are okay and acceptable but we hide the Truth from the world that faith is an impractical thing by trying to make them believe that faith is actually practical. It’s not. My faith in Christ and belief in God is anything but practical. Practical faith doesn’t ask me to forgive. Practical faith doesn’t ask me to surrender every thought and breath of life for the following of a God who creates all things. Practical faith will never admit that sometimes there are no logical or reasonable answers to difficult questions, whether it’s an untimely death or unexplainable addiction or disease. Faith stands alone and on it’s own, impractically, pointing to the only Truth it knows: faith in God and Trust in Christ… it goes no further then that.
My natural leaning in all things, as a human, is to first understand a thing and then help others understand that, too. We are teachers and discovers by our very nature. Even in our selfishness, there lays a certain desire to share with others new pleasures and joys that we discover. Something feels good, I want to experience it again and ultimately, I want anyone I’m close with to be able to experience it as well. We can discover who God is and what God is after… but when we search Him out He even tells us “Seek me out and you will find me – ” What He’s promising is that we are sure to find out EVERYTHING about His nature. The longer we look and more we seek, the more mysteries we are bound to unlock and beyond the surface of “God loves me; God is near me; He empowers me; His love never fails me” and so on, we begin to come across some Truths that are a little less definable and certainly more difficult to swallow. How much do we search for God’s stance on sanctification or suffering? How much do we know – or want to know – regarding faithfulness, obedience or surrendering all we have to the Lord? The contemporary American church unknowingly keeps ignorant believer and un – believer alike by steering clear of those deeper and far more complicated complexities of God’s nature out of fear and ignorance itself. As a pastor, it’s hard for me to explain not only what I DON’T fully know but also, what I have difficulty practicing myself. So when I read of total abandonment to God, it’s such a foreign concept that I flip to the next page and keep flipping until I come across something I can at least understand… even if I don’t practice it all the time.
Faith can’t be compressed into simple passages and tee-shirt ready phrases. But as society grows shorter and shorter on the ability to sustain a thought beyond 144 characters, the church adapts it’s messages to fit the lobotomizing of our faith – filled messages to retain membership, numbers and prestige within our own sub – cultures which we’ve created. It’s no longer “un – cool” to be Christian… so long as you’re the right kind of thinking Christian. The world will always have a social conscience but people need to be told that without that sanctifying power of Christ inside us, meant to renew our thinking and transform our physical being, we can never move beyond our own conscience.
No. I have no answer. I have no formula. I have no solution or epiphany from God on how to cure this epidemic of cultivated stupidity in today’s church. I only have this burning, spiritual desire to begin asking God some tough questions and the proclivity to see my own life transformed to a great degree before my time passes away. I guess I’m writing to myself; sort of a “kick – self – in – the – ass” kind of letter. Honestly, I’m tired of being ignorant and using that as an excuse because today the Holy Spirit has simply shown me – I’m as dumb as I’ve chosen to be. Who knows… maybe everyone else is already on the train and I’m one of the last guys to climb on board – somehow, I doubt that, but one never really knows. But I’m beginning to see that while every person is given the same measure of faith to believe, it’s of my own choosing whether that faith I’ve been given will be practical and limited or impractical and limitless. It all begins by acknowledging the ugly truth that while I worship God conveniently, He does not permanently reside on the throne of my life. I’ve prayed and declared and proclaimed my love for Christ, Jesus; I spoken of how I’d like to be conformed into His image; now it’s time to start kicking things off His throne and let God start conforming me in exactly the manner that He chooses. Nothing else matters… nothing else can.
Peace, Sean Gutteridge
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,
5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith