The Great American Fast VII will be under way September 8 and 9 worldwide. The Fast takes place every second weekend of September, and the purpose is to seek the face of God. As I was preparing for the next week's fast, I began to think about the state of Christianity in America.
From a spiritual point of view, things would appear to be improving in America, but we still have a long way to go. I don't claim to have it all together by any means, but I must admit, there are some things that deeply disturb me about the 21st Century American Church. If it disturbs me, I'm sure it disturbs God so much more.
Many of you will not like what I have to say. Some will. I'm told not to discuss religion or politics in public places. I'll forgo the political discussion, but I am a preacher, ordained by God to speak out against the travesty that is the American Church. So I must.
I'm speaking in general terms, not specifics. If these situations don't apply to your church, thank God and go on serving Him with your whole heart.
Let's take care of first things first. The overall American Christian church today has the wrong focus. God was not created for you. You were created for God. He owes you nothing. We owe Him everything. He is not the big, sugar daddy in the sky. He is the God of the Universe. Isaiah 43:7 says, "Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him."
The church will never revisit its New Testament roots without first acknowledging her complete dependence on her Savior. But, let's not stop there.
Sunday Only Christians
Too many "Christians" only play the game. That disturbs me. It was no game for Christ as He headed up Calvary's hill. If God only counts on Sunday, does He count at all? Proverbs 23:7 states, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he . . ." You are who you on Monday Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, as well as Sunday. A wise man once told me, "You are who you when you're alone. If Christ is not preeminent when you're alone, please don't disgrace His precious name and play the Sunday only game. Be true to yourself.
On the flip side, you ought to be gathered with other believers on Sunday. I have heard all too often, "I don't have to go to church to be a good Chrisitan. If you're not at church, where are you? What are you doing? Exodus 20:3 is quite plain - "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Anything or anybody you place above God is an idol.
"Well, I can stay home and watch the TV preachers." Yes, you can. You can do anything you want. That's the point. Do you want to please Jesus? We are told in Hebrews 10:25, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; . . . " There is a blessedness and spiritual growth that takes place when we join ourselves together to worship the only One deserving of our worship.
Next up . . .
Five Minute Prayer Meetings
As long as I'm ranting, I might as well say I think the so-called midweek prayer meeting in many churches is a waste of time. Too often the formula goes like this:.15 Minutes - Sing some catchy tunes; 10 Minutes - Testimonies from the flock about how great things they accomplished for God throughout the week; 30 Minutes - Let the preacher wax eloquent in a Bible study so everyone can shake his hand on the way out and tell him how great he is; 5 minutes - Prayer.
Many churches are now calling it a midweek service, but the New Testament church had prayer meetings.What the American church needs desperately is prayer. It was a prayer meeting that released Peter unseen from prison (Acts 12:1-9). It was a praise and prayer meeting that shook the prison's foundations and freed Paul and Silas (Acts 16:25, 26).
It was the heart-driven prayer that allowed the New Testament church to flourish in the presence of opposition and persecution. James 5:16 gives this insight. ". . . The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." The Greek word for fervent means to be zealous, to get excited while the Greek word for effectual has to do with the idea of being mighty, having power with God. So let me ask you, are your prayers effectual and fervent? Do get excited about praying knowing that you are meeting with the God of the universe and that He is willing to listen and answer. What an awesome opportunity!
Prosperity Theology is quite disturbing and is not Biblical
I could name names, but I won't. Think about it. I'm sure you can come up with your own names. The message rings out loud and clear every Sunday on the TV. If you are suffering a physical ailment, you are not right with God. You need to come and be healed. If you are struggling to pay your bills, just send in $100 and God will bless you four-fold. Send $500, and I'll send you a handkerchief that has been dipped in the Jordan River. It's almost funny except that far too many people fall for it.
Talk to the Apostle Paul about health issues. He prayed three times for healing of a physical ailment and God said three times that His grace was all that Paul needed. He was never healed this side of Heaven.
Better yet, preach your health and wealth salvation to Jesus. His entire life and ministry were characterized by poverty and suffering. He had not so much as a pillow to lay His head.
What about Job? His suffering was eventually eliminated, but he suffered for quite some time with no relief. The list goes on.
What kind of sense does this make - and it certainly isn't biblical
Closet Christians Disturb Me
Closet Christians disturb me. Those Christians who never let their faith be known may not be Christians at all. God sees their heart. He knows. Luke 12:8, 9 says this - "Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God."
As Christians, we are told at least five times in the New Testament to be witnesses for and of Christ (Matthew 28:19l, 20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8).But, we let fear stop us. We allow peer pressure to silence our mouths. We choose to take the easy way out.
Luke 9:26 continues, "For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels." That, my friend, is serious whether you believe so or not.
The Apostle Paule urges the young preacher, Timothy, "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God (II Timothy 1:8). Persecution would come. Timothy's life would be one of pain and suffering because of his stand for Christ.Yet, the experience of the wise Apostle spoke of the importance of making Christ known to a lost and dying world.
In closing, let me say the Christian life is not one of ease and comfort, nor was it ever promised to be. I'm sure Jesus was not at ease and comfortable as He was nailed to the cross and became your sin, taking your punishment (II Corinthians 5:21).
God is holy, and His holiness demands justice. But God is also loving. His holiness and love met at the cross. For all those who will accept Christ's sacrifice, and choose to follow Him, Heaven waits. For those who don't - well Jesus spoke more about hell than He did Heaven. It awaits all those who reject God's love and atonement through Jesus Christ. We are all free to make our choice.