A guest post by a friend of mine. I really like this article because I believe it is very relevant to the general state of the modern-day church.
In our culture today, even among many self-identified Christians, obedience to Christ is equated with oppression. The word “holiness” is generally only uttered in sounding an alarm against the “holier than thou.” The mention of “righteousness” is immediately reinterpreted to mean the same thing as “self-righteous. “
Meanwhile, the “brokeness” of our human condition is elevated, celebrated, and idolized. The Good News from Christ only comes into play after we die. Emotions, not truth, rule the day. The kingdom of God is not at hand. God is not near.
For these Christians, Christ is the merciful forgiver, but not the ever-present, powerful Redeemer, Reconciler, and Restorer. For them, the promise of happiness found in the gratification of individual desire, though elusive, is the essential doctrine of their orthodoxy. They go to church. They consider themselves spiritual people. They “believe” in God and yet believe that God could not have really meant what is said in the Bible. They may be committed to their church and regular in their times of private and sincere prayers to God. Yet, in every other area of their life, you would not know that there was any difference between them and anyone of any other faith or of no faith.
Private “quiet times” of prayer and public or corporate forms of worship do not constitute devotion to Christ; but prayer and traditionally recognized forms of worship, whether private or public, are particular types or instances of devotion to Christ. Devotion to Christ involves a whole, entire life given, or devoted, to the living God.
The person who has devoted themselves to Christ is the one who no longer lives according to their own will, or the norms and spirit of the world, but to the sole will of God. They consider God in everything. They serve God in everything. They make all the particular details of their ordinary life elements of worship, by doing everything in the Name of their Lord and Savior, and under such directions – can we say “commands” ? – as are designed for His glory.
We seem ready to admit that God alone is to be the One who determines the appropriateness of our prayers; that we are to pray according to the manner in which He taught His disciples to pray; that we are only to pray in such a manner, for such things, and such ends, as are suitable to His purposes, will, and glory.
Now, if anyone can understand why they ought to adhere to the instructions of Christ with regard to prayer, they will find the same, equally strong reason to be as strictly obedient in all the other parts of their life. For the very same reason why we should make God the arbiter of our prayers and pray only according to His will is the reason why we should look only to Him as the rule and measure of all the other actions of our life. For the entirety of our life; all application of our talents, our time, our money, our words and deeds that are not strictly according to the will of God as He Himself has indicated are vain, wasteful, temporary, and ultimately just as much utter failures as prayers that are not according to the will of God.
For the very same reason that our prayers should be according to the will of God – why they should have nothing in them that is not wise, and holy, and godly; there is no reason that our entire lives should not be of the same nature, full of the same wisdom, holiness, and godly attitudes, so that we may live for God in the same spirit that we pray unto Him. Furthermore, if we do not possess lives that are governed by godly reason, devoting the actions of our lives to God, walking before Him in wisdom and holiness with our minds “set on things above,” doing everything in His Name, and for His glory, then our prayers will be utterly absurd; they will be like prayers to become gods ourselves.
Just as it is wise to pray for the Spirit of God, so is it wise for us to yield to the rule of the Spirit in all our actions. Just as it is our obligation to rely entirely on God in our prayers, so we are obliged to live entirely for God in every area of our lives. Yet, we cannot live for God unless we live for Him in all of the ordinary details of our everyday lives. This disconnect; this dichotomy between the sacred and the secular results in totally absurd ways of living. The result is people who are committed to attending to certain times and places of worship and devotion, but when the service is over, they are no different than those who never go to church. Their ordinary life; how they spend their time and money, what they really care about, what they fear, what gives them pleasure, how they conduct “business” is just like the rest of the world. And so you have a significant portion of our society who thinks the church is a joke; full of hypocrites and worthy of ridicule and derision.
Jack is very conscientious about not missing Church services on Sunday morning; all his youth group friends assume Jack is sick if he is not at Church. Jack also regularly attends Church youth group events and goes on short term mission trips once each year. But if you were to ask Jack why the rest of his time is governed by the whims of self-gratification? Why he “hangs out” with a group of peers dominated by the fads and fashions of pop-culture? Why his thinking is regularly occupied with finding ways to strike a new pose that will elicit gushing praise from his Facebook followers? Why he is always up for any movie or concert, no matter how coarse, crude, or absurd? If you were to ask him why there is no television program or video game too trivial to please him? Why his life is oriented around weekend parties and “hanging out?” Why the content of his conversation is focused on the drama and gossip of his peer group? Why he is subservient to the demands required to retain his good standing among his “friends” who neither want nor deserve such an honor? Why he cares more for the well-being of his “friends” than for his own immediate family? Why, despite knowing that he is to love everyone as himself, does he allow himself to adopt the foolish hatreds and resentments of his peer group against outsiders? If you ask him why he never puts his words, his time, and what money he has under the rules of discipleship to Christ? Jack has no more to say for himself than the most worldly person. For the course of thought that runs all throughout Scripture stands as much against such a life, as against immorality and drunkenness: he that carries on such a wasteful existence lives no more according to the way of Christ, than the narcissistic hedonist.
– William Ruhl