Repost from Facebook Notes October 25, 2015
“We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
I have had reason to contemplate this verse this week, and the implication it has for all who claim Christ as Lord in this day and age. As we read the news over these last months and years, there is an increasing call of men to cease and desist this living, teaching and speaking in this name. The courts have ordered people to perform services that they state violate their faith. Businesses have been demonized and boycotted because they are founded and run by Christians who carry their faith into the way they conduct their business. Public officials have been jailed for refusing to perform services where no current law governed the situation and it violated their conscience. Christians who go out to pray in public are vilified and shouted down. Public speakers are disinvited from speaking engagements. The world around us here in the US is growing ever louder. While nowhere near as dangerous physically as most places on earth for Christians, this is rapidly becoming a place where the loudest cry is to silence the Word of God.
Oh, they are content for Christians to serve the poor, as long as no effort is made to share the bread of life along with the bread of man. It is perfectly acceptable to hand out money for bills, or food for the hungry, or clothes for the naked. But, keep your Christ inside your church where He belongs. If you serve in ways that treat the sick or care for orphans, or teach the young, do not let your Christ dictate the way in which you serve them, you must comply with man’s decree, or risk legal action. So, hospitals and clinics close, adoption agencies close, food banks close, schools close… and the world cries out that the prisons are full, families are broken, crime is rampant, the poor are getting poorer, the hungry have no help.
Inside the church it is no better. We find ourselves in squabbles over styles, symptoms of sin, legalistic battles. We operate in a world where the words “well church is the least likely place to find honesty” somehow make sense to people. We operate in a space where too many of us are content with a comfortable lie in place of an uncomfortable truth because we are afraid of what others might think. We fear we’ll lose our relevance if we do not embrace the cultural whims of the day. We fear we’ll lose our members if we don’t find the right mix of music, or the right style of preaching, or the right color for the walls and hymnals. And if we do not speak words that make everyone comfortable. And I sit and shake my head and sigh.
When did we forget what the church is? When did we begin to believe the pap that the choice is between a hospital for the sick or a hotel for the happy shiny people? When did we start to embrace the idea that lying to one another to keep each other comfortable was an acceptable state in God’s house? When did we succumb to the society around us enough that one of us might ask another “Do you mean you will follow God no matter what we say?” How did we get here? More importantly, how do we get back?
How do we stand before the Sanhedrin of our day and proclaim “We must obey God rather than men?” The church is neither hospital nor hotel, it is the body of Christ. The truth-bearer in a world currently overrun by the father of lies. If we cannot even be honest with ourselves, and embrace that honesty with humility, seeking above all else God’s will, what hope is there that we could ever be relevant to anyone, least of all God? As I read the news, and listen to those in power in most of the mainline denominations, I often hear the lament that the church is losing membership and has been for more than four decades. I hear the cries that we must do something, and I see the reports and programs and suggestions as to what it is we might do to stem the tide of stagnation and death. My heart breaks, because in almost every instance we miss the mark. The focus is on the wrong things, the wrong place, because it isn’t on God.
We scramble around looking for the magic bullet, the perfect bullet list prescription for fixing what’s wrong. And we shout into silence anyone who dares to speak the one thing that will save us. We are God’s church. We are the body of Christ, called to grow up into the head who is Christ. We are the vessel for Holy Spirit to move in every area of life. But… but. We must first be made holy. We must first give our lives as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. We must believe the words we mouth in creeds and prayers and Bible readings. We have to stop honoring Him with our lips and leaving our hearts far from Him. There should be no room for lies in God’s house, even as there is room for infinite grace. We must remember that faith was never meant to be comfortable and be excited when we find ourselves squirming. We as a people must once again learn to live the proclamation “We must obey God rather than men.”
Pray always and glorify the Lord.