What Is Happening to Those Folks?
I struggle everyday as I peruse the news, crying out in prayer and trying to understand and identify exactly what is going on in our country and in our churches. It’s like the horror of a bad car accident on the highway. One can see the carnage, but does not know, at first view, exactly how the crash happened.
Recently on a long auto drive, out of the blue I mumbled to my wife, “What’s happening to those folks? Where is it going to end up?”
“Who knows?” she said. Her voice was soft and sad.
Hopefully we’re past the trite analysis that posits “Well, this is just a generational thing, and things always change.” This is true enough but is not the right conclusion about the tragic spiritual carnage of our day. What we are seeing today, if I may be so bold, is a deep and determined (and in some cases, organized) departure from the fundamental truths that undergird our very faith in God and His Word. And running parallel to what’s happening within Christianity is a reckless departure from constitutional democracy in America.
But to the point: are there root causes for the spiritual confusion that exists today? I think those who love the “way of righteousness” should be mindful of the Apostle’s admonition: “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2 Peter 2:21).
From the Apostle’s warnings, we may see in part an explanation of the loss and destruction that develops when the ugly primary motivation of covetousness takes control of our ministries and leads to the ‘merchandising’ of the church and of people, and which then develops further into the raw use of people, the church, and power to advance oneself and one’s man-made agendas. Such passions quickly began to ignore the call to righteousness, the true mission, and the care of the flock. The investigator at a fire scene or train wreck with his trained eyed knows where to look and what to turn over. He notes the language in the rubble. This is what the Apostle is doing. He is answering the question “What happened here?”
Secondly, even the most casual first look at our spiritual crisis reveals a broad departure from the Word of God. In my view, there appears to be a fear to take a stand, to draw the sword. There exists a notion that we can attract the masses through compromise. And we can attract, maybe; but make true Disciples? Not likely. The level of compromise is shocking. As Paul said to the Galatians (1: 6-11) “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel… For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” The casual dismissal of the Apostles’ doctrine is tragic. Pentecostalism without a Pentecostal experience is a train wreck. We are in a struggle for righteousness and must war against the merchandising of ministry and the intellectualization of the Bible. We are meant to LIVE the Word not merely discuss it.
A library full of books may be something we just catalogue without ever experiencing anything that is written in the books. People can walk into a room and give a lecture or preach a sermon about things they have never felt. Living in Christ is quite different than talking about others who have lived in Christ. Suffering is to suffer. This is different than becoming a professor and talking about the fact that another suffered. Knowing that others have been born again of water and Spirit and acknowledging the same is different than being yourself born again.
Allow me to summarize by quoting the Jewish Novelist Franz Kafka who makes the point that ‘the book’ and great books in general are meant to move us, not leave us unchanged:
“If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skull, why then do we read it? So that it shall make us happy? Good God, we would also be happy if we had no books, and such books as make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves. But what we must have are those books which come upon us like ill-fortune and distress us deeply, like the death of one we loved better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice-axe to break the sea frozen inside us.”