Should churches be required to have warning labels? Without a doubt, many of the secular elites who dominate the media believe that we should. Warning: use of this product can result in unacceptable attitudes and incorrect behaviors including intolerance, superstition, changes in habits, personality changes, discriminating thinking, unwillingness to compromise, conservative values, strong convictions, ethical thinking, and a belief in moral absolutes.
Maybe that’s why so many of our friends in the Faith seem so eager to portray the church as harmless, just a place where nice people drink coffee, enjoy good music, and talk about relationships. Many have described this as the “dumbing down” of Christianity. It strikes me as a flashy but desperate attempt to repackage God.
And it begs the question: is God safe, really? Jesus warned his budding followers that his ideas would turn their families against them. He promised his disciples that they would be hated, hounded, reviled and persecuted simply because of him. He encouraged people who wanted to believe that they should first count the cost: ideas have consequences. See Matthew 10: 34 – 38; Luke 14:28; Matthew 10: 16 – 25. There are many places around the world in our own era where followers of Christ are persecuted, forced into hiding, arrested, and even put violently to death.
The same New Testament that teaches God is love also asserts our God is a consuming fire (1 John 4:8; Hebrews 12:29.) Jesus strongly advised his disciples not to be afraid of the people who wanted to kill them. Rather, he admonished them, “Fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4) Hint: it’s not Satan.
That flies in the face of well-intended saints who reassure us, “God doesn’t send anyone to Hell. People send themselves.” Jesus does not agree.
There’s no doubt the New Testament is very different from the Old. We don’t rely on the Law but the Spirit; don’t build temples because each of us lives in one; don’t relate to Mount Sinai the way we relate to Mount Zion. God doesn’t shroud himself in darkness and warn us not to come in, the way he did in the Holy of Holies. But despite the dramatic difference between the two Covenants, it’s the same God. God is not ashamed of the Old Testament, the way we sometimes seem to be.
What has changed is the way we are able to approach the Creator God of Eternity. It’s different because of what Jesus Christ has accomplished. He has become the covering for our sins and selfish defiance of His Father.
That means that going to worship is not at all like visiting the mall. What happens in worship and devotion makes true believers less comfortable with the evil ideals of our secular culture, not more at home here. And the hottest thing in a church building should not be the Starbucks coffee. I’m praying for the rediscovery of awe and wonder among the saints and our churches all across the USA in 2017.
To hear Sunday’s exploration of this idea, Lost in the Mountains , click here.
Lift up the Cross!