Thursday, December 13, 2012
Building People of Substance for Works of Power
No lap dogs Friend,
I am embarrassed. My dog is officially domesticated. When we found him, he was in the animal shelter. His hair was all knotted up, and he was covered in burrs and ticks. He had survived in the desert, no one knew how long. He was good-natured, but unintimidated by any obstacle – animal, vegetable, or mineral. When we walked, he climbed every rock pile and would dive headlong into cacti or open ditches in pursuit of prey. This morning, however, only one year later, I watched as he daintily tiptoed through a patch of landscaping gravel to find the smooth surface of the sidewalk. His feet have become soft and, I suspect, so has he. His hair is carefully brushed every day. His food is delivered to him in measured amounts and at regular intervals. He would rather sleep on a comforter than under a bush. He is a house dog, a domestic animal. The dictionary tells us that a domesticated animal is one who has been tamed to live in close association with human beings as a pet or work animal, usually creating a dependency so that the animal loses its ability to live in the wild.
I don’t really mind that my dog is a little less of a commando these days, but I do get concerned about the church. I fear our Christianity, especially in the United States, has become domesticated, kept a pet by the culture at large. Like a little dog, we stay in our holy yard, protected by the fence, barking at the terrible state of our land. But if the gate is opened we run whimpering back into the house. In the book of Acts, I see a wild, passionate, powerful, committed movement. How does that compare to the Sunday meeting of our religious clubs?
- Acts 2 is marked by Holy Spirit power being carried into the streets. Our day is marked by Holy Spirit power being covered up, apologized for, or relegated to TV sideshows.
- Acts 3 and 4 chronicles the persecution of the church for doing miracles in the street. Now our only persecution comes when we complain too loudly about our nativity scenes being displaced at Christmas.
- Acts 5 is marked by a church where hypocrites drop dead in the service and unbelievers are afraid to come in. Too often today, the church has dropped dead and the Christians are afraid of the unbelievers.
- Acts 6-8 tell us of a church where the ministers are obsessed with the Word and prayer, and the deacons are full of power and faith. They do miracles at the potluck and start churches while running from persecution. Many or our churches have degraded into fashion shows/rock concerts, attracting fans rather than producing fanatics.
- From Chapter 9 forward we read of the adventures of a group of men and women who took this simple message to the known world through every conceivable hardship. Paul, and Peter and Barnabas and Silas and Timothy and Luke and Priscilla and all the gang, walking dusty roads, riding stinky donkeys, and sailing in rickety ships to preach and teach the simple message that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and He is alive and well. When they write the history of our churches and the people who were discipled here what will the story line be?
We sing a lot about how much God loves us, but demand precious little of the love for others that goes with loving Him. We are adamant that God wants us to be prosperous, but seem comfortable with watching the rest of the world go hungry. Our sermons extol His sacrifice for us, but we can’t endure a lengthy service or a hard chair, much less a whip and a cross. We interpret our songs of grace as tacit permission to tolerate sin, rather than as inspiration to recoil from it. We celebrate license, not liberty. In our desire to be inoffensive, we condone by our silence the Hell-ward descent of others. Have we become lap dogs, or house dogs, when the world cries for a few junkyard dogs? I hope not.
Somebody Said We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Scripture Reading: The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. (Ephesians 1:23 MSG)
I am convinced that our Christianity is supposed to be a gripping saga of love and hardship and heroic deeds, and even the occasional derring-do. It is designed to impact our culture, not reflect it, or please it, or even ignore it. We are here to be different: vibrantly, joyously, obviously, and aggressively different. That is the essence of what it means to be “holy.” Domesticated? Never!
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