I read a rather interesting article published by Down East magazine. It makes the claim that there is a revival taking place in Central Maine. This is largely based on climbing attendance numbers at some of the large “churches” in the area. An interesting fact, but honestly indicative of nothing other than higher attendance.
I’ve been labeled “religious” by some, and “un-Christian” by others, depending on which side of the fence they are on. Neither is truly accurate. That’s the trouble with labels. I have a deep faith in God that touches each and every area of my life. It influences my decisions, my behavior, and of course, my writing. There is nothing religious about me, despite the fact that I grew up attending several religious organizations weekly.
Don’t misunderstand me, the experience was not all bad. I’ve been involved in a number of different denominations over the years. In every organization, I’ve learned something, I’ve been encouraged, I’ve had opportunities to do wonderful things, and I’ve developed friendships that have stood the test of time. In those very same organizations, I’ve been snubbed, lied to, lied about, manipulated, taken advantage of, and generally just stabbed in the back…
Why is that? The answer is surprisingly simple. Because people are people. We’re all evil at heart, and because of that, life is messy. No matter who we are or what we do every Sunday morning, we will hurt people and disappoint them. We’re selfish, and we don’t care about others. The only good fruit ever borne of our lives, must be due to the work of God in us. Even Paul wrote about his own evil nature with brutal honesty.
“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” — Romans 7:14-25 KJV
We can probably all agree that none of us are righteous. I doubt that many would argue that point with me. Despite this, we still expect more from the organizations that claim to be representatives for God. We expect their members and especially their leadership to set a better example than the rest of the world. A very old story comes to mind at this point.
“And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” — John 8:3-11 KJV
How many stones have I cast at those who were no more or less guilty than I myself am? How many have you? The leaders of the religious organizations of the time were more than willing to cast stones at one woman, all for the purpose of advancing their own agenda. They didn’t expect Jesus to stop them cold in their tracks. Maybe we need Him to do that to us.
It saddens me that we “Christians” have become so adept at hurting people and destroying their lives, all in the name of God. I wonder how much it grieves and angers Him…
I can’t begin to count the number of lost souls that I’ve met in my short lifetime who wanted nothing to do with God because the “Christians” that they met at work or at school were more two-faced and uncompassionate then they were. I can’t argue with them, because they have usually been right. How many people are going to spend eternity in hell because we are gossiping Pharisees?
Higher attendance is all well and good, but there are two other numbers that I’d be interested in. How many have you driven away with your “righteous condemnation”? How many will never set foot in your door because of your “testimony”?
Revival has nothing to do with Sunday morning attendance statistics. It has to do with the heart. If we’ve really been transformed by the renewal of our mind, then why are our fruits still rotten? Revival begins when I take an honest look at myself, and understand the full impact of my own guilt. Only in understanding the utter wretchedness of my own black soul, can I ever begin to grasp the concept of God’s truly amazing grace. I’ll close by quoting Paul once more.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” — I Timothy 1:15 NIV