There’s a mad dash to soften the Christian Faith for our very sensitive generation, and the pace keeps getting faster. Our historic faith can seem rigid, anti-scientific, even intolerant; but everywhere you turn there are experts, authors and theologians who know just how to fix this.
- Many believe the faith is a turn-off because so many Americans believe in an ancient earth. They’re looking for ways to read a few million years into Genesis 1, and perhaps they can. We’ll see.
- Others insist we are way too dogmatic. We need to stop pushing moral categories, and welcome sinners just as they are. That depends on what you really mean by the word welcome.
- Another segment of church marketers argue that our structures are all out of date. Everything has to change: the way we communicate, the way we advertise, the way we approach ministry. We are still far too 1950’s. It’s a given.
There’s surely some truth in all those ideas and many others like them. In fact, I have said some of those things myself in recent years. Churches can drift into empty tradition, angry morality, and narrow mindedness . It’s easy to fall out of step with a generation on the move, particularly when they are running away from you as fast as they can. But it has finally become to dawn on me that the ultimate ministry challenge facing the US church in 2014 is broader and deeper than ministry style or communication techniques.
Genesis is emphatic that God created the universe, and that he did this with specific standards in mind. Forget about the hours in a day for a minute. He concluded that everything was “good,” until the sixth day when he evaluated it as “very good.” God has the authority to measure by those standards because he created everything for his purposes. That means he has the authority to critique us, correct us, and even condemn us when we fail to live up to those original purposes. We are the pinnacle of creation, and the Creator put us there for his own reasons.
And that’s the problem the Gospel will face in these United States even if we all joyfully embrace evolutionary theory, interactive sermons, gay marriage, and pot smoking. We would still be promoting a God of authority to a generation of people who reject all authority except their own. Twenty-first Century Americans want the freedom to do our own thing; write our own values statement; be our own gods. It’s not new, of course. That’s all Eve wanted way back at the dawn of time– to be like God. It’s what Americans want once again today- and not just the secular ones. Many churches are SRO with New Age consumers who want it their way- not The Way.
Only God can make hearts like these receptive to a Truth like his. We will never be able to make the true church cozy enough for humanists who utterly reject the authority of a Holy God. And that is the Spirit of our Age. Pray that the Creator will make our generation desperate enough that his holy fire can soften our hardened hearts. It is proud hearts that need to be softened.
And lift up the Cross!
You don’t have to visit Africa or Australia to experience a different world. Just return to the Book of Genesis and take off your sunglasses! I’m serious! The mysteries and the majesty of the first book in the Bible can stop you in your tracks and take your breath away- unless you insist on seeing everything through a set of colored lenses! Here’s what I’m talking about:
- Some people visit Genesis to prove their faith. They have points to make, details to argue, and skeptics to defeat, so they read this amazing book looking only for debate points. It’s all about measuring the intensity of commitment.
- Other people come to Genesis to discount it. They are certain that scientific advances have left the accounts of creation in a shambles, but they still hunger for some reassurance from Scripture. They want to respect the accounts of Genesis, just not believe them.
This year, go for a completely different experience: read Genesis just to see what God has to say. Don’t worry about how long the days are; just concentrate on how big the Lord is! Don’t be distracted by what Dawkins or Hawking might say. Listen for a few minutes to what God says.
- Read the very first verse; then stop and take a deep breath. The heavens and the earth are all there and you’re only one verse in! Be still and reflect on the spectacular content of just those ten words.
- Then read the next verse and imagine what that might look like: a lonely planet submerged in water; and the Spirit of God cutting through the darkness and hovering just over the surface as he does his work.
Genesis devotes only two chapters to creation; fourteen to one period in the life of a young Hebrew named Joseph. God is clearly not going to great lengths to tell us how the world was made or how mankind came to be. Instead, he wants to tell us why. I have been reading the first eleven chapters of Genesis over and over again for the last three months, trying to forget everything I ever heard and listen only to what God wants to say. No exaggeration– I am awestruck like never before. I cannot stop thinking about it.
My challenge to my friends: in 2014, take off your shades and read the first eleven chapters of Genesis. You might see the beginning of time like you’ve never seen in before! Who knows, when the light comes on, you might even see God.
Lift up the Cross!