Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Boring Faith

Countless people I know are bored with their faith. It seems old, tired  and pointless. I would like to point out that a bored faith = and absence of faith. The Christian/biblical concept of faith is the idea that one is placing their trust in  a person, a living person, Jesus. It is NOT belief-ism, believing for the sake of belief, a.k.a. blind faith.

Bored faith (at its best) exists because people have an intellectual grasp of what they believe, but have no personal relationship with the person of Jesus. Bored faith sees Jesus as a rock (thanks Jeremy Kingsley). Bored faith treats Jesus as if He is an inanimate object, not as a living person. Bored faith is rooted in the misconception that it fully understands Jesus and Christianity. It fails to see Jesus' infinite value. It fails to understand, or fails in the motivation to grow in understanding to see why Jesus is worth centering one's entire life around Him. A bored faith lies in a lack of love for the Lord, Jesus Christ, because it fails to see Jesus' love.

This is a failure to grasp what He submitted himself to for the sake of His people. It is lacking sight to see what He endured willingly out of love. Boring faith goes on endlessly about what a person should be doing in their life, but never consistently revisits what God has done in Christ for the believer. The truth is we live in light of Jesus' perfection given to us, not out of the obligation of obtaining our own.

Living, genuine, biblical faith thrives in the shadow of the cross and what took place there. It does not move beyond it. Churches are dead, people's spiritual lives are dead not because they are stuck in a bygone era! They are dead because deadness is symptomatic of a failure to passionately cherish Jesus as their greatest joy, thus intentionally existing to glorify God. They are dead because they do not worship (rightly attributing to Jesus His value) in all aspects of their church community which include daily spiritual disciplines, the work week, in the individual homes, in the prayer services, in the Sunday services, and in their programmatic ministries. In everything that a person/church is Christ must be treasured more than anything else. This is vibrant, exciting, and life-changing faith.

I certainly cannot say that I always attribute to Christ His rightful due in a life of daily worship. I have not arrived at some place, which others must be pulled up to. I am an average Christian fighting to keep my faith from going stale. What I know above all else that which prevents my faith from going stale is drinking deeply of Jesus character, person, work in His life death, and resurrection, and His continuing work through the Spirit in my life as I open the Bible. I do not have the silver bullet for to remedy all symptoms for a boring faith, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the heart of a boring faith can only be changed by glorying in, celebrating in, finding our greatest joy in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross, a.k.a. the gospel. Has your faith gone stale?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Palatable Jesus

Conservatives are really good at pointing outside of themselves to liberal theologians and mainline denominations. We are quick to underline the areas they have departed from orthodox biblical faith, but we fail to realize where we have practically done the same. While we might intellectually hold the Bible as our authoritative source of truth, we live as though these truths don't matter. This is why conservative churches are dying in the same manner liberal churches have already declined. We are self-professing conservatives, but by becoming result-oriented we have become liberals in practice.

How can I say this? Conservative, Bible believing evangelicals are just as guilty as liberals of reshaping Jesus into our own image. It is just a different image. The conservative version of Jesus is a Messiah who doesn't have a problem confronting sin. He calls people to holy living. He died to convert people. All of these are not necessarily wrong, just not complete. Our problem is that we have made Jesus so familiar to our conservative sensibilities that He doesn't inspire our hearts towards worship. We forget that the cross saves us, but also confront us with our own ugly sin forcing us to lean totally on Jesus' perfection. We cannot please God on our own strength. We forget that on our best day, the day we witnessed, read our Bible, had our quiet time, fasted etc., on that day our works are dung in the sight of our holy God. We often teach salvation by faith, but teach becoming a mature Christian (sanctification) by step-by-step instructions trusting in a can-do attitude. See all our Christian self-help/church growth sections in our bookstores.

How often do our congregations become so moved by the majesty, power, and glory of Jesus that it falls on its face in the presence of the King. I do not mean a coerced, feelings-oriented manipulation of people, but a realization of the reality of Christ's majesty. Worship is making much of something/someone. Does your congregation make much of Jesus in worship? Or has Jesus become so familiar and common among us, that we are deceived to seek other focuses that make members excited and thrilled? How can we call people to give up everything to submit to a Savior that we find boring?

I am guilty of making Jesus palatable to my tastes. Conservatives and liberals are guilty of this. Rule followers (typically conservatives) make Jesus to be a pharisee. Rebels (typically liberals) make Jesus to be a rebel. Even post-moderns (folks that don't want to wear a label) reshape Jesus. They don't want Jesus put in a box. He is made so big that He almost cannot be known. The truth is that Jesus is more righteous than any Pharisee and more of a rebel than any boat rocker in today's society. We can know who He is because He has revealed everything we need to know about Himself in Scripture. The problem with all camps is that when we make Jesus out to be like us our faith is not about Jesus, but about ME. When churches do this their focus shifts from the author and perfecter of their faith, to placating the membership. Scripture clearly reveals everything we need to know about Jesus, and testifies that your and my life should be about Him. He is really that important.

Unless conservative, Bible believing evangelicals (even reformed churches) realize that their faith, their lives, their churches are not about us, but ought to be about Christ, we will find ourselves on life support just like the mainline denominations are. Who is worshiped in your church, Jesus or you? Has Jesus been made palatable in your church or in your own life so that He does not move your heart to praise Him? Lord, Jesus forgive us (myself most of all) for making too much of ourselves, and too little of You.