The danger of lukewarm & modern Christianity
In my renewed pursuit of growing my relationship with Christ these last few months, I've been praying about growing my dependence on God - yes, it's kind of weird to pray to God about having a deeper love for Him and a hunger for His truth, but it's what I wanted in my lukewarm state, so I prayed. And this weekend, God gave me a glimpse of that.
I've always been a bit selfish in my spiritual life - I'd get caught up in the ups and downs of my own spiritual life and only sparingly take the time to pray for others beyond the courtesy blessings for my family or prayers in moments of crisis. And that is wrong, for it is by giving that we receive, including our spiritual lives. So, that's why I've been asking to see the world around me like Jesus does. To give me a love for the people around me and a hunger to know His truth above everything else in my life - to go beyond just lukewarm, comfortable Christianity.
Jesus answered and said to them, 'Are you therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? -Mark 12:24
This weekend, when attending a friend's baptism, I stood in a crowd of strangers and my heart ached at what I saw - a church, a group of Christians, standing on the shore of a lake as a group of young people were about to commit their life to the Lord through a water baptism. This is a huge day - a celebration in Heaven and on Earth, but the crowd didn't reflect that. The majority of the young people stood on the outskirts of the crowd, engrossed in their own conversations or phones as the short service convened. Even when the baptism was underway, many remained in the distance talking and laughing.
And my heart broke at the carelessness. The Spirit in me wept at the ignorance and blatant disregard.
Later, at the church service I sat surrounded by at least two dozen young people - from teens to twenty-something and as communion began many of them chatted amongst themselves or scrolled through their phones as the church sang songs about the pain Jesus endured on the cross and the sacrifices He made. But, there was no reaction or even acknowledgement from the people who sat around me.
And so I cried and prayed for forgiveness, because I had been that person so many times - distant from the Lord and disengaged from the church service, even as my body was physically present. And I begged for forgiveness for the church of Christ today - that we can sing of the pain Jesus experienced on that cross, a human sacrifice for our sins - yet we sing with habit, growing quite used to the stories and the gesture, not fully processing the depth of what that sacrifice means; that we aren't on our knees before our Lord begging for forgiveness for our comfortable lives; that we can have a conversation with our friends during communion; that we don't see the blind see or lame walk every day because of the prayers the church offered on their behalf.
Yes, sometimes we have these moments, but they're rare and few in between, at least for me. Because church has become a routine for so many of us. Christianity has become a mainstream attraction - something you just do. And we tend to just focus on the good things that come with being a Christian - the blessings, the label, the unconditional love and grace. But, we don't think about the lives of service, discomfort, pain, suffering and persecution the church must live through.
We're turned off by the preachers whose sermons tell us we're going to hell for one sin or another;
we agree that homosexuality is a sin, but since church and state are separated, it's fine that gay marriage is legal in the name of equal rights;
we pray for God's will and then shy away when He asks us to do something that people would consider crazy or may inconvenience our comfortable lifestyle;
we allow our kids to just be kids late into their college years, instead of giving them fully over the Lord in prayer and submission to do as He pleases with their lives;
we speak of true beauty yet spend billions of dollars each year on plastic surgery, makeup, and other beauty rituals; we speak of modesty, yet seeing fellow church members in bikinis is perfectly ordinary;
we preach a modern Gospel - one that blatantly disregards the Old Testament and solely focus on how much Jesus loves us and just wants us to be happy;
we donate money to the church and missionaries, but we go back to our super-size cars, nicely decorated homes and full fridges without a second thought that we might have too much and we're misusing those blessings;
and our young people? They might lead mission trips and be involved in youth ministry, but we grew up on watered down Gospel in the form of games, camps, skits and other Bible-themed activities to make Christianity easier somehow. And yes, that was fine when were seven, or even 12, but not when we're teenagers and have never spent hours just praying reverently with fellow believers - nothing else, but prayer. Yes, we pray and we bring people to the Lord with hands raised and worship music in the background, but it's over in a few minutes to make time for catch-up time and a few laughs over coffee afterwards.
We are a blessed generation and sometimes amidst those blessings, we fall into being a lukewarm Christian - justifying sins until it becomes normal even in church to live in sin. I'm not judging and I'm not bulking all churches, youth and Christians into this. But this is what I'm seeing first and foremost in myself, but also in those around me. And the wrong of it all has been achingly clear lately as the Lord educates me His way. Part of me wants to run away and justify that this is modern Christianity - that it's somehow okay, but deep inside, I know it's not.
The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me, because I testify of it that its works are evil. -John 7:7
Still, I fear to proclaim it out loud, because I don't want to be perceived as that "holier than thou" person who acts like they're somehow more Christian or less sinful than everyone else. Because I'm not. I'm guilty of every one of those things we do as Christians. I have so many sins and spiritual battles I'm fighting that some days I want to just stop, because it's easier to just bask in the lukewarm waters of how much Jesus loves me and just wants me to be happy - to just take it easy.
But, I can't do that anymore. I know too much, because it's now less about me and more about the Lord. Because now that I've seen a glimpse of the sin and destruction He sees amongst the church, I am ashamed and humbled. I thought I knew it - what being a Christian was all about. I thought I felt it on our churches and heard it our worship sessions, but I was wrong. All that was intro to Christianity 101 - the very shallow bit of knowing God that is meant for beginners, yet has somehow has become the popular watering hole for many churches - it's warm and comfy there.
But, if we go just a bit deeper - yes, it colder and scarier, but there is more of Jesus there. I don't know what to do with the discoveries I'm making - how to share with the people around me that we're wrong - that we have this whole modern Christianity thing wrong, that the way we're living is hurting our God. That even though we call upon His name and proclaim His love, one day, He will say He does not know us. That we can spend an entire life doing the work of Jesus and be denied entrance into heaven because we never left the shallow end of God's pond. That we played it safe.
Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' and He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know you, where you are from.'
Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank Your presence, and You taught in our streets.'
But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you , where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.' -Luke 13:24-27
So, I'll keep praying for forgiveness for myself, our churches and even our nation - for the sins that have become a part of our definition of being a Christian; for our lukewarm condition and exuberantly material comfort; for our indifference and pride. Because other than pray, I'm not sure what else to do...