Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Truth Exalters...Black Sheep?
And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil, to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD. (Jer 9:3)
In the passage above the Lord is laying out His charges against Israel through Jeremiah the prophet. One of the reasons why He was about to judge Israel was that they were not "valiant for the truth". I am somewhat struck by these words in 21st century American evangelicalism, where as David Wells says, "God rests lightly on the church." What Wells is getting at is that God and truth about God is not weighty in our minds. God is somewhat of an add-on, and talk of Him has become certainly flippant if not all together lacking a sense of the "Otherness" of God. God is often fashioned altogether like ourselves, He is buddy who is always there. God is not judgmental like many people we know, He is always accepting of us and all that we are.
Therefore when someone comes into this sort of context with a message with weight, a message describing the sinfulness of man, the wrath of God, and pleading for sinners to be reconciled by Christs blood alone, when someone comes with this sort of talk it simply is out of step with our casualistic "chipper" view of God. To speak the truth of God is to be weighty, to do so makes one not only a "black sheep" in our culture but a growing portion of evangelicalism.
Death of Reverence:
Yesterday a local radio show called "Crosstalk" had a show discussing the "Death of Reverence" in the church. To give some examples a church after completing a 40 days of purpose series had a giant balloon drop with the band busting out Kool and the Gang's "Celebrate Good Times Come On". Now full on secular music is acceptable in the church, no longer just the cheap "Christian" impersonation of it. Also a different church is building six all season domes in which 2 NBA sized basketball courts will be as well as a 12 lane bowling alley, a youth disco and kids playground. I mentioned before about a church shooting T-shirts into the audience like at a sports game with a canon (one of the shirts indicated a winner of an ipod). I could go on with the tawdry new bibles being produced...
The question is what does all of this have to do with church? Things in my mind seem to get put into perspective real quick as far as church conduct when I ask would Peter do this? Honestly when we read the book of Acts and Pauls letters can we honestly think that Paul would endorse a church building gigantic domes to bowl in? It is especially difficult to accept putting bowling alleys in when we put in context the global church many of whom don't even have bibles. How about secular music in church services? The church that gave away the ipod was having a series of messages on music, one of the songs played was a Nickelback (secular band) song, the worship service totally looked like a rock concert with lights, fog machines and a screen zooming in on the leaders rocking out.
I wonder if you who may be reading this are grieved by this at all. What I have been describing are symptoms of the disease, symptoms of the fact that God is now weightless, inconsequential, to be met on OUR terms. I think when we begin to truly grasp that God is HOLY, that God is infinitely valuable, we will begin to have zeal for His house. Until then we will worship God in a way that seems right in our own eyes.
Where is the fear of the Lord? I know you have probably heard a disclaimer every time some one read a verse exhorting us to "fear the Lord" saying "Now fear...that just means reverence, were not supposed to be afraid of God. Perfect love casts out fear..." I'm sorry but when Jesus says "Don't fear him who can destroy the body but after that do nothing, fear Him who can destroy both body and cast your should into hell." I think we get a better picture of fearing the Lord. Reverence is a big part of it but I think the part of the fear neglected is the fact that we answer to God, He is God and has the right to do with us as He sees fit. Thus it is a "fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God". This fear is missing because God, His character and His judgment are viewed in a cavalier manner.
God Centered Message Never Fits In:
The situations I briefly described is as I said mere symptoms of a larger issue, the fact that we would even have the gall to do church in a way that is not bible driven but rather consumer centered is a trait of the fact that we don't have a high view of God. Thus as I said the message of say a God centered Christian saying that God is to be feared and worshipped in the beauty of holiness is simply out of step. If we look at redemptive history such a message has frequently been out of step. All too often the ebb and flow of redemptive history mimics the passage from judges (relativism isn't new):
"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (Jud 17:6)
Messengers bearing a message in an objective sense are rejected or shunned. I've noticed that many don't really give a rip about theology, or care to really give thought to issues that people disagree on. We are called however to care about theology and doctrine, if we are going to be obedient to the word of God we will care about these things. We will strive to be valiant for truth. I'm not saying that everyone needs to be a Seminary level theologian, but if we are going to be obedient to God's word we will care about theology:
"Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continuing them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." (1 Tim 4:16)
I say this because in some circles to care about doctrine is frowned upon, and theological Christians are looked upon as judgmental and divisive. Well both those judgments may be true, doctrine does divide, it divides error from truth. Irregardless whether people may like us, the issue remains: are we going to be obedient to 1 Tim 4:16? Are we going to be valiant for truth in a "I want it my way age"?
The picture of valiance for truth is displayed well in Bunyans "The Pilgrims Progress" as he describes "Mr. Valiant for truth" who was found covered in blood, with a sword in his hand.
"Forget not Master Valiant-for-the-Truth, That man of courage, tho' a very youth. Tell every one his spirit was so stout, No man could ever make him face about." (Bunyan)
Valiant's heart and mind were so set on pilgrimage that nothing would turn him to the left or the right. May it be so of us as the spirit of the age of consumerism, relativism and love of the world threatens us, and begs us to compromise the weighty truth of God in exchange for a weightless God, a mere add-on.