What will the world be like when the American church finally wakes up?
Darker than the church ever imagined it could be. In my estimation the church has pretty much abandoned the call to be light in the midst of darkness choosing instead to make itself the center of its own universe. Rather than pointing to Jesus as the one and only need for humanity the church lifts itself up in partnership with the government as the ultimate provider and sustainer.
“Come here and we will make you feel good about yourself no matter what kind of lifestyle you are engaged in. Come here and you’ll never hear the words ‘stop’ or ‘no.’” This isn’t a blanket statement but I sincerely believe it is a generally true statement: the American church thinks it has gone beyond Jesus. “Jesus was great for His time but we live in a much more modern and progressive era.” I know this is true because our own President (who professes to be a Christian) recently said “It’s important for us to guard against cynicism and not buy the idea that the poor will always be with us…” (emphasis mine). Of course, the “idea” came from Jesus: “For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11).
Here is another statement of Jesus that is just as true now as it was when spoken over two millennia ago: “If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:23). It’s great to emphasize and prioritize love. But what kind of love is it that either ignores or flat out denies God’s holiness? Hebrews 12:14 says that without holiness “no one will see the Lord.” Where is the message of holiness in our churches today? It’s gone because even a child knows that the message of holiness cannot coexist alongside the message of acceptance and accommodation that most of the American church preaches today.
Let me be perfectly clear. This is not a diatribe against the institution of the Church. The New Testament makes it crystal clear that the Church is God’s will to the extent that Christ died for her (Ephesians 5:25-28). Those who are “neglecting to meet together” (Hebrews 10:25) are living in disobedience. But those who are meeting together have by and large embraced “a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). It is a gospel devoid of repentance or sacrifice. It is a gospel of salvation through legislation and government with the Supreme Court (rather than God and His word) being the final arbiter of truth. The heart of that gospel is the self. Judgment is what ignorant and evil religious fundamentalists do and not something a loving God would ever dream of doing.
It is a gospel of emotional and intellectual enlightenment. And Jesus was prophetically and categorically right when He noted that if that is what you call light, then “how great is the darkness!”
What the church in America fails to grasp is that by accommodating culture, rather than resisting its sinful bent, it is delegitimizing itself in the eyes of said culture. A secular humanistic culture has no need (in the future) for any kind of religious expression even if it is an accommodating one. Read the following passage from Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer and see if it is not chillingly similar to today’s American church:
The German church was in turmoil. Some church leaders felt the church should make peace with the Nazis, who were strongly opposed to communism and “godlessness.” They believed the church should conform to the Nazi racial laws and the Fuhrer Principle. They thought that by wedding the church to the state, they would restore the church and Germany to her former glory, before the Treaty of Versailles and the chaos and humiliation of the last twenty years. The moral degeneration of Weimar Germany was self-evident. Hadn’t Hitler spoken of restoring moral order to the nation? They didn’t agree with him on everything, but they believed that if the church’s prestige were restored, they might be able to influence him in the right direction.
There was at this time a group that stood solidly behind Hitler’s rise to power and blithely tossed two millennia of Christian orthodoxy overboard. They wanted a strong, unified Reichskirche and a “Christianity” that was strong and masculine, that would stand up to and defeat the godless and degenerate forces of Bolshevism. They boldly called themselves Deutsche Christen (German Christians) and referred to their brand of Christianity as “positive Christianity.” The German Christians became very aggressive in attacking those who didn’t agree with them and generally caused much confusion and division in the church (p. 151).
This is what Jesus meant when He said that when the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness. It’s getting darker in the American church today.
In yearning for acceptance the church is finding Jezebel in the center of all it is doing. Jezebel was the woman who swore to end God’s influence in Israel and kill his prophet (Elijah). In Revelation 2:18-29 we find the letter to the church of Thyatira and the accusation from Jesus “that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who…is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality…” (verse 20). Don’t the words “tolerate” and “sexual immorality” seem familiar in our situation?
When any part of the community of faith embraces the practice of sexual immorality as described in the Bible Jezebel is in the middle of it and darkness is growing. The church will wake up when Jezebel tires of giving it any voice even if it has been a supportive and accommodating one.
When pastors are told they do not have the option to decline to marry anyone in any kind of arrangement the church will begin to awaken. When preachers are told that the message of salvation in Christ alone is intolerant and will not be permitted, then the sleep will be wiped from the eyes. When the Supreme Court decides the interests of the State outweigh and therefore overrule religious freedoms, then the American churchgoer will sit up and take notice.
Until then, we will continue to believe the go-along-to-get-along policy that the German church tried in the 1930’s and early ‘40’s is the way to go. The President knows better than Jesus. Lawmakers know better than the Bible. The Supreme Court rules the lives and hearts of the American people, not the Son of John 3:16. And it is growing darker and darker in our church.
(Be on the lookout for Part 3!)