There is a subtle war going on in many churches today; a war between clarity and mediocrity.
The great sadness is, that often, we don’t see what we have become.
Doesn’t Proverbs warn us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish?”
To illustrate what I mean…
Let’s take a look at a conversation that takes place in the beginning of the second chapter of the book of Habakkuk:
What’s God going to say to my questions? I’m braced for the worst.
I’ll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon.
I’ll wait to see what God says,
how he’ll answer my complaint.
Full of Self, but Soul-Empty
And then God answered: “Write this.
Write what you see.
Write it out in big block letters
so that it can be read on the run.
This vision-message is a witness
pointing to what’s coming.
It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait!
And it doesn’t lie.
If it seems slow in coming, wait.
It’s on its way. It will come right on time.
“Look at that man, bloated by self-importance—
full of himself but soul-empty.
But the person in right standing before God
through loyal and steady believing
is fully alive, really alive.
“Note well: Money deceives.
The arrogant rich don’t last.
They are more hungry for wealth
than the grave is for cadavers.
Like death, they always want more,
but the ‘more’ they get is dead bodies.
They are cemeteries filled with dead nations,
graveyards filled with corpses.
Don’t give people like this a second thought.
Soon the whole world will be taunting them:
[Habakkuk 2: 1-6 The Message]
Sin and today’s Church
Sin alone is not the greatest failing of today’s church.
If we are honest with others, and ourselves, we are all saints who sin, because we have “the flesh” that we must continually contend with, and bring before the Lord for cleansing and healing.
Therefore, we understand our desperate need for a Savior-Shepherd, His word, and the power of our indwelling Holy Spirit.
If the Holy Spirit thrives in our souls, we are well aware when we sin, and in our “awareness,” there is the great chance for redemption—for when we are aware, then we can confess; we can repent; we can be made clean again by our indwelling fountain of Living Water. We can stand before our God, knowing for certain, that we have a “blood covenant” with God through what His Son, Jesus Christ, has accomplished for us.
Yes, there is great hope for the sinner who sees clearly, he is a sinner!
Losing sight of ourselves
But what happens when we no longer see what we are?
Are we then become the Laodicea of John’s Revelation? Are we so “full of ourselves,” that we have become, “soul empty?”
Aren’t many of our churches “The Church of Laodicea” that has become, “so rich that we believe we are in need of nothing?”
I wonder… and so I am asking, “Can we see God the way we once did? Are we face-to-face with Him? Does His Presence manifest in our hearts and in our lives? Do we hear His Voice?” Or, have we become temples of mediocrity, so lukewarm, indifferent, and tepid, that even The Lord Jesus Himself can no longer bear us?
Losing sight of Christ Himself
Can you imagine, having everything, yet possessing nothing?
I believe that is the Church of Laodicea: Beautiful buildings, filled with beautiful people, who have completely lost sight of what is really important.
In Laodicea, love is merely a word on the page of their bibles, while slander and gossip are what really rules our hearts, and the day.
Money rules attitudes, choices, and behavior.
In Laodicea, we abhor the thought of “those types of people” entering our doors.
We love our soft chairs, and the sound of our own celestial voices. We insist on short sermonettes, “… with the appropriate number of bullet points, please.” We smile and applaud ourselves; for what we must endure from society, but frown with disdain over any idea, of anyone expecting us, to change ourselves or the things that are wrong around us.
“Tasteful luxury” is our unwritten motto…
While “Fortressing in place until Jesus comes” becomes our unspoken creed.
The thought of ever joining with such a Church absolutely terrifies me. (And, fearfully, so it should.)
She (Laodicea) is described in the King James Bible as,
“… rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
Jesus Himself says to her,
“I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” [Revelation 3: 17-18}
Face-to-face with God [2 Corinthians 6: 1-10 The Passion Translation]
Now, since we are God’s coworkers, we beg you not to take God’s marvelous grace for granted, allowing it to have no effect on your lives. For he says, I listened to you at the time of my favor. And the day when you needed salvation, I came to your aid.
So can’t you see?
Now is the time to respond to his favor! Now is the day of salvation! We will not place obstacles in anyone’s way that hinder them from coming to salvation so that our ministry will not be discredited. Yet, as God’s servants, we prove ourselves authentic in every way. For example:
We have great endurance in hardships and in persecutions. We don’t lose courage in a time of stress and calamity. We’ve been beaten many times, imprisoned, and found ourselves in the midst of riots.
We’ve endured many troubles, had sleepless nights, and gone hungry.
We have proved ourselves by our lifestyles of purity, by our spiritual insights, by our patience, and by showing kindness, by the Spirit of holiness and by our uncritical love for you.
We commend ourselves to you by our truthful teachings, by the power of God working through us, and with the mighty weapons of righteousness—a sword in one hand and a shield in the other. Amid honor or dishonor, slander or praise—even when we are treated as deceivers and imposters—we remain steadfast and true.
We are unknown nobodies whom everyone knows. We are frequently at death’s door, yet here we are, still alive! We have been severely punished yet not executed. We may suffer, yet in every season we are always found rejoicing. We may be poor, yet we bestow great riches on many.
We seem to have nothing, yet in reality we possess all things.
In his book, The Way Of The Warrior, Erwin McManus makes the following observation:
The wise know that if the edge is unsharpened, more strength is needed. The warrior understands that behind one strike of their sword are ten thousand hours in which they have wielded their sword without an enemy present. It is no different in life, that we are not pulling back bows or swinging swords or carrying the weapons of conventional battle. Every life is a series of battles, of conflicts, and of wars, and of course the war we speak of is the one that rages within. You cannot win the battle for your soul if you choose to live the life of a fool, neglecting the health of your soul and not taking time to refine who you are.
The battle may look different for each of us, but the battle line is the same: it is at the intersection of our passions and desires. Solomon tells us to love wisdom. He knows that in the end we become what we love. We do not become fools because we lack the right information; we become fools because we love the wrong things. The only way you can care for your soul is to nurture your love for what is good and beautiful and true.
Oh, God, forgive us for what we are not.
Come Holy Spirit and fill our hearts, and our churches, with your cleansing Holy fire!