It has occurred to me lately that many churches and Christians in the world seem to embrace a Christianity that is void of any genuine, transformational life change. There are churches all over the state in which I live that are suffering from a lack of revival, a lack of evangelistic zeal, and a lack of believers that are bothered by either. People are content to attend church services on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and even Wednesday night. They are pleased to serve on this committee or that ministry team. They even (grudgingly, it seems) put some money in the offering plate as it passes them by. By their own self-imposed standards, they are doing their part to sustain the kingdom work of the church of the living God. The only problem is that their life on the other days of the week are apparently no different than they were before they allegedly came face to face with the Creator of the universe.
What can we learn from people who will gladly stand up and be counted when they are in the assembly of the righteous, but are content to fade into the crowd of carnality when going about their business in the public square? I believe that we can learn a great deal from this all too familiar phenomenon. In Matthew’s gospel, the words of Christ are recorded for us all to read as He reminds us how to recognize a false prophet. “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'” (Matt. 7:15-23 NASB) It seems all too appropriate that this litmus test be applied to recognizing false Christians as well.
I am saddened to say that evidently the church has decided to choose comfort over commitment, moderation over maturity, and satisfaction over surrender. We have traded in the concept of holiness in favor of tolerance and acceptance. What we as the church have failed to realize is that there is a big difference between holiness and legalism. Legalism demands that we become more like men. Holiness demands that we become more like Jesus. Where are the men of God who are not afraid to plant their feet, square their shoulders, and declare, ‘Thus saith the Lord?’ Who will stand with boldness, taking up the mantle of the prophet of God, and call sin, sin, and righteousness, righteousness, leaving the consequences in the powerful and capable hands of the Lord Jesus Christ? We need men of God such as this if the church is to return to her proper state.
“Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Romans 13:11-14 NASB) A.W. Tozer echoes the words of the Apostle Paul as he offers us some timely instructions in his book “We Travel an Appointed Way: “It is time for Bible-believing Christians to begin to cultivate the sober graces and to live among men like sons of God and heirs of the ages. And this will take more than a bit of doing, for the whole world and a large part of the church is set to prevent it. But if God be for us, who can be against us?”
Well…..what are we waiting for?
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.'” 1 Peter 1:14-16 (NASB)