Saturday, December 31, 2011

Passing Thoughts from a Curmugeon

It's been almost a year since my last posting. I can't believe had kept my mouth shut for that long. But thanks to a kind friend who has encouraged me to start up again, I decided to attempt this project one more time. I'll not post frequently, because, since I'm still a working man, my time is limited.
I've done a lot of observing this last year. Both in my personal life and in the life of Christianity in general. Today, I want to pass on some random thoughts that have crossed my mind in recent months. It is no secret that Christianity is in crisis. Evangelical has lost much of it's meaning for many people. I dare say, most of those people in the average church haven't a clue as to what I'm talking about. As the old fable goes, many of us are a bunch of frogs, swimming happily in our little pond, not realizing our little pond is a pool of water in a pot being slowly warmed to a boil.
What is my clue? Just sit in the average church today. Where are the Bibles? In the pew rack or in the laps of hungry people anxious to hear what the Lord is saying through the word to us. Worse yet, how many pastors are preaching from an open Bible? How many sermons have you heard that make only passing references to a text to support the thesis of the sermon? How many sermons are drawn more from psychology or science or current events rather than from a careful study of scripture and how that scripture is then applied to life?
You see, I contend we've lost our authority when the Bible ceases to be the central focus of our lives, both in public worship and private worship. How many of us even crack open our Bibles during the week? Why don't we? The Bible has become just another book. An old fashioned reading that seemingly has no authority to speak to our daily lives. The Book has lost it's authority over us. We have become the judge of the value of the book.
What do I mean? We have become the authority that determines the value of the stories, events, and history represented in the Bible. How many of us even read the Old Testament?
Our personal authority grid has told us the blood and guts passages are no longer relevant to the 21st century thinking mind. We have become the gods who determine the value of what is in the Bible. We have become professing Christians who are actually practical atheists. Our practice defines our true belief.
Now before you become offended, mind you, I'm speaking to myself too. I've become quite offended at myself over this many times. So let me be the proverbial pea under the mattress. The stone in your shoe.
Let's just begin with this observation. There are a lot of churches where the Bible is never seen in the hands of those who attend. Why? It's not the important focus of the church or individual Christian. We aren't challenged to think.
On the other hand, how many churches have you attended where the Bible is in the lap of everyone with a pencil and notepad in the other hand ready to grasp at anything the pastor has to say from the word? Which is better? With the Bible or without?
I'm going to surprise you on this one. I learned a phrase many years ago in my line of business. The phrase is, "It Depends." Take first my last scenario. The Bible and notetakers. You see this a lot in many of the conservative churches like the Southern Baptist or Reformed Churches. I think it is a great practice. But in many, and I suspect most cases, what is happening is that the teaching from the pastor's notes passes directly to the note pads of the listener without ever passing through the mind. And so the result is, we get Jr. pastors. We get hero worshippers. We get people who are passionate about their pastor and their shelves are lined with his books or whatever he recommends. The result is a form of idolatry. Or, as Paul puts it, some are of Apollos, some of Cephas, some of Paul. In our day, we have some of R.C. Sproul, some are of Sinclair Ferguson, Some are of J.I. Packer, some are of John MacArthur.
On the other hand, considering the first scenario, where people come to many of the churches today that we may call, "seeker sensitive" or evangelical or big box churches, people are drawn to the music or the pastor is dynamic and preaches a message that appeals to daily living, but the Bible is only an addendum to the messages. The result is often the same as the previous group I covered. Some are of John Ortberg, some are of Greg Laurie, or some are of Zachary Tims, or some are of Rick Warren or whomever. The result is the same. We often end up idolaters. The Bible isn't even considered and the only people who have any influence on is us our pastor. And, often in these latter cases, the service is simply a diversion from daily activities.
Now, I know I'm speaking in generalities, but my point is this. We have to take responsibility for our faith. But authority comes from God. The Bible will have no authority over our lives until we recognize who is the author. Pastor's sermons are only as good as the authority in which they are preached. I'm not talking about the pastor. A sermon has authority when the Holy Spirit delivers it through the Scriptures, via the pastor to the ear of the listener. That authority is based upon the power of God. The pastor has none of that authority until he is possessed by the Spirit of God to deliver the sermon in the authority of the Holy Spirit. And the Bible will only have authority in our lives when we submit to the Holy Spirit who takes the Word and ministers to us according to His power.
I guess what I'm saying with my rambling thoughts is this. Start thinking about what you believe. What has authority in your life? Does the Bible have a prominent place in your daily activities? Do you pray though your Bible on a daily basis? Have you set up a plan to read the Bible through this next year?
Does this make you a greater saint? No. If anything you sense a greater frustration if you think all that work will make you better. God has already done that work for you though the substitutionary work of Christ on the Cross. He makes you a saint by his death, burial and resurrection. Repentance, (which is a change of mind and direction) is an act of obedience according to the faith provided to us by Christ in the cross that brings about changes within us on a daily basis. Allowing the Bible to become the authority in our lives is an act of obedience. Put Christ and his word first and you'll understand authority.
We'll those are some of the scattered thoughts that have been pestering me lately. I hope they pester you too.