Saturday, April 17, 2010

"The gospel can't be shared with the general public..."

Years ago, Gary met a co-worker who is a churchgoer (I’ll call him Roger), and we and this man and his wife (call her Cheryl) have gotten together on various occasions. He considers himself a Christian, it’s plain, but we’ve noticed how often he is easily agitated and angered, and that one recurring aspect of his character made us wonder about how true his relationship with Christ could be.

Tonight we met Roger and Cheryl at a concert given by their church. I have to say, the music was God-glorifying; the pastor opened in prayer; all in all, it seemed like a very Christian presentation. It was intended for the community, and the pastor started out by saying that they were doing this concert so the community could just come and enjoy, with no obligation on their part, where no one had to stand, or to sing, or to do anything. I wondered just how far the lack of obligation would go, since when the gospel is given, it obligates the hearer to respond…

The music continued. The various church choirs sang their God-glorifying songs, or rang their bells in the bell choir to their God-glorifying songs, or played their violins or flutes or piano or organ to their God-glorifying songs…all good…it was beautiful and clearly took a great amount of practice and skill and organization and effort.

The end came, and the pastor thanked everyone for coming, thanked the musicians and choir members for their performance, and dismissed us. As we walked out of the sanctuary, Cheryl asked me how I liked it. I said to her, “It was a lot of talent; the music was terrific. But I don’t understand. Your church put out all this effort, and no one gave the gospel message? Why would they not do that?” Her response amazed me. “Well, this is a concert. The point is for people to come and enjoy the music. This is to the general public. You can’t do that.” We entered the narthex. She went off in another direction and her husband was close by, telling us how wonderful he thought the music was, but I gave him the same question. His anger rose quickly to the surface. “This is the public. If you want the gospel, come on a Sunday. Our minister preaches from the Bible.” He was very clearly vexed at my lack of appreciation, and said that he thought it was time that we needed to go, wasn’t it?

As you might suspect, I am more convinced than ever that this couple doesn’t know Christ. The possibility is that most of that congregation doesn’t know Christ. They may have been singing these songs because they know a lot about Jesus, they know He died on the cross, but do they know Him? Has He transformed their lives? Or is church just a social club, and are these songs just a reassurance that whatever this strange historical event, these singers feel helped by knowing it happened?

I wish I knew how to approach this subject without angering these people. I wish I were more circumspect in dealing with the gospel, as long as the message of it or the necessity of it wasn’t compromised. I know I have lots of room for growth in that regard…but I’d rather offend by bringing it up than never offend because I valued their friendship more. I wish more churches were ready to offend with the gospel in order to save the few who are ready to receive it, rather than just love and entertain everyone right into hell. What do they think the Bible means when it says, “Make the most of every opportunity”? Maybe grab all the cookies you can before you leave…

It makes me thankful for my church, where the gospel is shared. It makes me thankful for those who are bold with the gospel, and for the Holy Spirit who alone can come alongside to truly make the need for Jesus Christ known in the darkened human heart. It makes me thankful for knowing the truth and having the capacity and the urgency to share it where possible. And it devastates me that there are churches, and people, who are convinced that the opposite is true, that the gospel is some dirty offensive secret, and so many will assume that these churches are the real deal. I can only say, America’s churches need prayer…lots of prayer, for the Holy Spirit’s conviction and correction. Probably often for their leadership’s salvation.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

I am Gladly a Fool for Christ

The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good. Psalm 14:1
Today I turn 50...and all my life people have had fun with the idea that my birthday is April Fool's Day. I have had times in my life when my foolishness would fit that above, maybe not such that I would have said that there was no God, but in living like there was none. But God reached down into my foolish heart and gave me a better kind of foolishness...He made me realize that apart from Him I have no wisdom that can help me escape the penalty for my sin...that I am foolish and weak. So, He has brought me to acknowledge that I need Him, that in Jesus Christ I have found forgiveness that is His gift to me, not because I have earned it in any way. Not because of any human will, or strength, or wisdom, but because of His grace. As it says in 1 Corinthians 4:10, we are fools for Christ's sake...and that sounds as if it were undesirable, but in fact it is desirable. It is the best thing to be, the only kind of fool that can be lifted out of our incapable and helpless circumstance of being sinful creatures. It is like we were sheep, lost, stuck in a muddy mire, caked and dirty, with no way to get ourselves out. And the Chief Shepherd came along and found us there and in His strength pulled us out, and is cleaning us us...and promising us a bright future with Him. That foolishness that knows its need is not so foolish after all...because God has come alongside us and helped us, and with His help we are adequate for every good work, we are equipped, we have the mind of Christ. Fools for Christ are no fools at all with God's help, ...because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men, 1 Corinthians 1:25.
So if being a fool means I have to acknowledge that I am incapable of saving myself, and I need God, may I never cease to be that fool! If you think that is some poverty, think about how you would save yourself. Are you sure it will work? No, I can't imagine that you have that assurance. Look to Christ, who alone can save you. His promises are true, and He is mighty to save. As missionary Jim Elliot said, who gave his life to seek to save the lost, "
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."