When one looks back at the trends that promised to take the Church and Christianity by storm and start a World –changing revival, we can only marvels how many of them departed as quickly as they came.
Those who seek to debunk and de-construct the Gospel and thereby the Church, find at last that they have nothing real and substantial to offer in its place.
Others who seek to embellish Christianity with devices that amount to gimmicks and lures, discover that the crowds which throng their meetings come only for a cheap thrill and leave when they are bored , seeking fresh excitement elsewhere.
Genuine Christianity is not appealing to the unconverted sinner and the self satisfied man of the World, it never was. The things of God are above and beyond their understanding and do not appeal to their predilections and desires.
Yes, they would like to think that they will go to some nice place when they die they find the way of Salvation too humbling and the cost of following Christ to expensive in self denial and sacrifice.
The gospel promises great things to come for those who believe and persevere in the faith but the fact remains that despite the promises of “prosperity” gospel-lers, to be a follower of Christ is not easy and often galling to flesh and blood.
It is only when a person is “born again” that they can begin to find the strength and peace in Christ necessary to counter ,endure and yes even rejoice in the midst of the trials and tribulation which beset the people of God for Christ’s sake.
Anyone can put up their hand or sign a card or go up the front.
This may be enough for many of our local churches and denominations because it swells their membership books and adds to their offerings but only those who show in themselves the work of the Spirit by newness of life are those whom God counts as being His people.
When we have sifted through all the googols , gimmicks and gimcracks of past and all the “nine day wonders” and finding them barren .wanting and false, we are left solely with the proclamation of the old gospel of “Christ and Him crucified “ as the power of God unto salvation Romans 1:16.
Amiability, no proof of Christianity
We often meet people who, in the old parlance would be referred to as “nature’s gentleman” or generally as the “salt of the earth”.
These people by their speech and behavior engender all that is best and admirable in human nature. Like the rich young ruler they are loveable, greatly admired and sought after as friends.
I myself have many numerous people who would fall readily into this category.
These “paragons” of virtue often have many of the characteristics’ of Christians yet do not regard themselves as such or at least do not associate themselves with the visible body of Christ.
Others do indeed pass current in the local church and are universally accepted as Christians of legal tender.
In our tender heartedness we tell ourselves that God Himself must have a soft spot for these upright and humanitarian people. At least we can hope that if not actual Christians yet they are not far away from the “kingdom of heaven”.
These “rough diamonds” in the church may be accepted by all as genuine believers and born again Christians. It is not our place to judge anyone’s heart and the complete knowledge of anyone’s spiritual state is only truly known to God.
However we often find with these wonderful people that come to our churches and sit in our pews come to a point in their profession of faith that is a spiritual “bridge too far”.
They are taught what the Bible says about renouncing our own righteousness and clothing ourselves in the righteousness of Christ and seeing ourselves as God sees us as lost sinners, clothed in rags and it “ sticks in their craw”.
Whatever the trigger may be they find that the reality of Christian teaching and practice are more than mere “flesh and blood “can take.
In many ways the “good” person is further away from belief in the gospel than the unpretentious sinner. Jesus said himself said that He came not too called the “righteous” or rather those who viewed themselves as such but sinners to repentance.
However never let it be said anyone is beyond the reach of the power of God in Salvation.
The “rich young ruler” found, in himself something lacking spiritually, but when Jesus put his finger on the problem he was unwilling to receive the cure.
Others under the invisible work of the convicting Spirit, would humble themselves and take it.
The world may be a better place for lives of the great public benefactors and “good sorts” but the true Christian is one who has been lifted up to a higher and heavenly plane.
True, he may not always be what he or she should be and many times the amiable and worthy “non Christian” may exceed them in good works , generosity and kindness, but if they are grounded on the foundation of Christ and indwelled by Him, they will grow in righteousness and holiness, for they are truly the “salt of the earth”.
No one likes being told how to order and run their life.
Especially so in this “anything-arian” age when most lifestyles and indulgences are tolerated and even applauded.
(Of course this is only up to a certain and ever receding point where peoples scruples and sensibilities are offended.)
History teaches us that people veer from listening to nobody, to listening to anybody, no matter how wrong.
There are always those who never ask for or take advice and follow guidance. Indeed this is often seen as a mark of strength and independence.
These people follow their own whims and desires and “woe betides: anyone who gets in their way.
Contra- wise at the other extreme, there are many people who are suggestible and pliable and will jump on someone’s bandwagon, and in their blind adulation take onboard everything they do and say.
In proof of this we can only ask why so many seemingly reasonable and decent people followed Adolph Hitler to their destruction and caused a holocaust of unspeakable suffering.
Our sinful and self sufficient tendency is not to listen or even welcome advice from those who are wiser than ourselves, sometimes we even resent it.
When we do seek guidance we turn to those whose advice will forward our own carnal ,sinful desires and ends even if it means using dubious and “dodgy “ means.
Fundamentally we look to our own ideas and instincts to lead us forward and are slow to admit that we are not always sufficient of ourselves to cope with the problems and perplexities of life…
It is blatantly obvious from our own experience and our observations of the ungodly people around us, that the last place we, without Divine help, will seek for guidance and wisdom is the Word of God and by prayer.
When we finally come to the end of ourselves and look for fulfillment and the meaning of it all, there are a great many “Worldly –wise men” who will volunteer to show us the way to happiness and to the achievement of all we desire.
They may have a great deal of seeming wisdom and common human experience on their side but the motives they act from and the guaranteed results they promise prove false and delusions.
When we are finally led to the scriptures and read them with an open heart and mind we find truth that speaks to and answers our fundamental problem and shows us the means to cure our spiritual bankruptcy.
We find the solution to the questions of “why we are here” and “what has gone wrong”. We also discover that Christ has paid our debt and blazed a trail for us that leads us to eternal joy and peace. It is only for us to believe and obediently follow Him.
While the “scales” of sin are upon our eyes, we remain blind to this answer to all our needs and questions. It is only by the power of God in giving sight to the spiritually blind that we can see the gate of salvation opened before us.
Even on the more mundane level of day to day existence, the Bible gives guidance and simple common sense advice for all our dealings with people, money and those in authority over us.
In the Wisdom writings of the Old Testament as reinforced by the New, we find out that how we treat others often dictates how they react to us and treat us.
We discover that while money may seem to “answer all things” it is not to be an end in itself.
Rather, it is to be saved and used in ways that benefit the welfare of others as well as us.
Indeed we are given a sense of urgency for the generous use of our money and riches for good purposes because our wealth is only lent to us by the Lord and of themselves have wings to fly away.
Our family relations are not neglected by the Word and were the guidance given more widely followed many marriages and families would have stay intact and not splinter apart.
All this is laid upon the foundation of our restored relationship to God.
Our reconciliation with Him is the spur and impetus to seek reconciliation with others and they, in turn to find peace with God.
The Scripture are full of great advice and wisdom freely offered and we should gladly receive it because it comes from the ever wise and loving God.
One of the great advantages that the Germans had in World War 2 was the high quality optical equipment they produced.
It meant they could see and engage targets at great distance and with great accuracy.
In spiritual matters to it is vital necessary to see things clearly and as they are.
It is our inherent blindness and lack of perception which causes us to see things different from the way they actually are and often leads us into Spiritual danger.
We all need to pray that God will gives us eyes to see the truth that he shows us in His Word and to differentiate it from the “ miasma” of lies and distortions which surround us.
The Puritans often refer to the ancient anecdote about a philosopher called Bias.
As I recall it he was shipboard during a violent storm at sea.
While observing the panic and frantic prayers to the “gods” by his otherwise profligate and pagan-istic fellow passengers, he bade them cease their prayers.
He told them that prayers in the ears of the “gods”, coming from such people would only remind the “deities” of their (i.e. the passengers and crew) many sins and wicked deeds and provoke their hoped for saviours to increase their affliction and peril and possibly destroy them.
So when we feel the need to pray, it is often the reminder of past and present sins that makes us reluctant to come before our holy God.
This is the reason why we need to keep short account of our sins and be ever seeking their forgiveness , our cleansing from all unrighteousness and grace for a ever holier life.
This should also make us ever thankful to Jesus Christ who is our great intercessor with the Father and an ever present help in time of trouble.