October 3, 2014
If you have been a Christian for any length of time you have seen people come and go. Some are famous people who everyone rejoices over at their conversion hoping it will influence many people only to see them convert to something else six months later or just stop talking about Christ. Sometimes it is someone you love or a friend for whom you have been praying for years. They come to church and make a profession of faith and then something the preacher says makes them turn away.
Also, if you have been a Christian for any length of time you have gone through times when circumstances have caused you to have doubts or fears. People may have hurt you or an unwise comment from the pulpit made you think about quitting church. It may have been someone speaking the truth in love about your pet sin that made you want to run.
We could speak to the parable of the seed and the sower, as many use that to explain people leaving church, and sometimes even God behind. However, they often use it to judge forgetting that the harvest is not until the end and what seems like a crop failure may ultimately yield a harvest. It may not be a hundredfold or sixtyfold, but even the good ground allows a thirtyfold.
It is heartbreaking to you, pastors and church members to see someone who was coming so faithfully and seemed to be growing just disappear. They don’t answer their phone. They never seem to be home and they changed their email as well as blocking you on FaceBook or some other social media site.
A great many people do not understand church so they do not attend for the right reasons. They have little or no knowledge of doctrine. They change churches every two years or so and may go from Left to Right and muddle in the Middle because they go for the things that are alluring for a time and when they get bored they move on. They may go because of friends or networking. That particular church may be close by or has Saturday night services or three types of services on Sunday morning; Traditional, Contemporary and Zombie Apocalypse/Emo/Goth/Vampire. Sunday School classes teach financial planning, dating skills or how to be holy in ten weeks and maybe even how to power pray in just sixty seconds a day to get God to have it your way. They think the Epistles are the wives of the Apostles and Ezekiel had a close encounter with UFOs. The band is rockin’ or hip hoppin’! Maybe there are plenty of possible mates. Indeed, they go for many of the same reasons that people frequent a particular bar.
While some of the more sedate topics I mentioned have some merit to be addressed from a biblical basis it is possible that many would not like to hear what the Bible has to say on some of those issues. They would prefer the annotated and culturally relevant version that might not be as strict, judgmental, legalistic or “harsh”. True, some have gone Pharisaical in those areas, but tossing the baby out with bath water, as the cliché says, is not the proper redress of those extremes.
While not all mega-churches are compromising their brains out trying figure out the next Madison Avenue ad campaign to increase their numbers, you do have to look at Scripture and see how many of those type of churches ever existed. Three thousand were converted on Pentecost, but many of those where only in town for the Passover and went back to their homes to preach what they had just received on that day. Laodicea was a big church, but all messed up, lukewarm, wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. Corinth had all the gifts, but was super carnal. Not exactly a pattern to follow, but that pattern is amongst us today in denominational, non-denominational and even Baptist churches.
I, and others I know, have pondered what would happen if some of the mega-churches would start dropping some of the things they use as lures or to maintain a crowd and just had solid expository preaching. Dump all the myriad of age group and special interest group Sunday School classes and just have one class from 18 until glory. How many would they lose and yet, the older are supposed to teach the younger, but they are never together in a teaching context. Even in the morning service they are not together since the old folks are in the Traditional service, the middle aged in the Contemporary and the young adults in the Alternative service.
Tone down the band so that there is good music without the band looking like they just came back from traveling with some secular Heavy Metal or Rock group. Make the sound level to where the still small voice of the Spirit can actually be heard and not drowned out by the drums and amplifiers. How many would they lose?
Dump the Starbucks and you might have an insurrection. Make the kids sit with their parents from about the age of ten on. We preach and teach on a third grade reading level these days so that would fit the spirit of Nehemiah 8:3 “And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.” Sounds like they did not worry about the length of the service keeping them from getting to Luby’s on time.
Jesus did do that. He stopped the miracles and feeding the masses. He gave them some hard doctrine and what happened to His crowd? At one point, He had four and five thousand heads of families who at least some of them had family members there since it was a lad who gave up his lunch to be used in a miracle. On the day of Pentecost the assembled congregation was only 120.
John 6:64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
Notice as the crowd dwindled He did not question His methods when He did this. Jesus said many hard things. No fluff and make you comfortable stuff just to please the crowd. He comforted those who needed it and angered many others. What He did was not in any chapter of a modern church growth manual. That would have been a sermon lesson suggested only for the inner circle and not the masses.
Yet, it was very wonderful material. He was trying to teach them a spiritual lesson that they should have understood from their own daily life. As we eat food its structure changes to nourish us and it becomes us. When we take in His words they nourish us and changes us to become like Him. They did not get the analogy because they were only there for the miracles. They took it in a literal sense as many did over the centuries and accused Christians of cannibalism. They could not understand Him because they were only interested in the next miracle and their stomachs. They did not believe in Him as God in the flesh. He was a free buffet and source of entertainment to them..
As everyone was going away, He turned to Peter and asked if he was also leaving. Peter said there was nowhere to go as Jesus had the words of eternal life. Indeed, you are weary, fearful and doubt ridden, where will you go? Only His words can address those issues and give you eternal life.
Those of you who lusted after the leeks and onions of Egypt, are you content with what you found? Are the words of eternal life in the old worldly life you returned to or has that return only brought heartache, pain and even death of relationships and other losses? Come back to Jesus. Only He has the words of eternal life and He is willing to take you back.
Some have turned away from relationship with Him and look for eternal life in religion. Hey Pharisees, neither you or the Sadducees are spot on. In fact, you are so far off it is sad. Words that Jesus speaks are life. The letter kills as much as unbelief. You can never find Him in rituals, rules and good deeds. God expects perfect and even our good works are tainted as filthy menstrual cloths. There is no hope of eternal life there. Come back to Him and hear Him to find life!!!
Have you left Jesus because science seems to conflict with His words? There is no conflict between God and true science. He created the universe the pseudo-scientists have a problem understanding. There is much of what is called science that is more Sci-Fi and faith than empirical science. They can portray a whole human family scene based on one tooth that later proved to be the tooth of an extinct pig. They come up with colors and skin patterns when only bones are found. Grand imagination, but not real science. When they come up with something that destroys their theories, they mock it, but will not admit the facts or investigate further. That is blind faith, not science.
While we have made some great strides in modern medicine and technology there is no eternal life in science. Indeed, if we manage to eradicate disease and people live to a thousand on a myriad of Class M planets it will be useless as the universe is dying. They say energy is dissipating and one day there will be nothing but cold lifeless rocks in the universe. The hope of modern science is death of the entire universe no matter what we do or achieve. Time to return to Jesus who is the way the truth and the life that holds the universe together with far better plans for eternity then even empirical science.
Will you find salvation in government? The Herodians and Zealots thought their politicians could improve their lives. Governments come and go. If you look at history and what is going on in Iraq, it is easy to see that there is death involved in the transitions between take down and set up and often during the regimes. Often the words used by the politicians promise life but even if sincere they have no real power to bring it to fruition. Only the King of kings and Lord of lords can give you words that bring eternal life.
There is no eternal life in stuff. Many have turned away from God for materialism believing that he who dies with the most toys win. Solomon had it all and in Ecclesiastes he called it all vanity. You cannot take it with you so he who dies with most toys dies with nothing. Many rich people get into trouble or are depressed because after a while you have basically bought everything you can use and much of what you will never use. What’s left? Same old things.
There is a story of a great prince who would stop by routinely at the house of one of his subjects. The man and his wife were very poor and yet the prince would stop by and ask for a bowl of the wife’s butter beans. This went on for some time and finally the man got the nerve to ask the prince why he would come eat a bowl of butter beans when he had all the luxuries and dainty delicacies of the palace.
The prince asked the man what his favorite food was and he replied that though he had only had it once as a child he loved Pate de Froie Gras. The prince said that he would see that he would have that dish sent to him every day for a month. There would be enough for him to have three meals a day and he must promise to eat nothing but that for the thirty days. The peasant agreed with great glee.
As promised, the prince promised enough of the delicacy for the day arrived and it was a glorious day for the peasant. Each day he awaited with anticipation the delivery until about two weeks in. Then it was not as great and by the third week he longed for when he could eat his last bowl of Froie Gras and have some of his wife’s butter beans.
The day after the last bowl the prince came by for his bowl of butter beans. He asked the peasant if he enjoyed his meals the past thirty days. The peasant lowered his head and thanked the prince for his generosity and kindness. He then relayed how the month went from joy to boredom to hating to get up in the morning so see the Froie Gras and how great these butter beans he and the prince were sharing. The prince told him that now he knows why the butter beans are so good for a prince who has all the grand food of the palace. From then on, the man always welcomed the prince to his table. To keep the peasant grateful for his life, the prince sent one meal of Froie Gras every month to his favorite peasant.
Materialism is like the Froie Gras. At some point, it becomes a bore and no longer has the sweet taste it once had as you realize you are trading your life for things that do not last, lose their satisfaction and are ultimately left behind at death. Come back to Jesus. He has the words of eternal life and promises you will never thirst or hunger again if you drink His blood and eat His flesh.
What about you? Have you turned away? How’s that working for you? It may satisfy for a season, but there is no life in it. Are you thinking of turning away? To whom will you go? There is nowhere to turn or no one to turn to that will suffice. Only Jesus has the words of eternal life. Go to Him if you have turned away or if you are thinking about it. He will there for you. Maranatha!!!