This message does not come from a place of piety or self-righteousness but is delivered to you with a heavy heart. Over the years in ministry I have become acutely aware of the drift away from a transforming relationship with Christ and reverence for God’s Word. I desire that we as believers would get on our knees, recognize our errors, repent, elevate Scripture to its rightful place, and allow the transforming work of the Holy Spirit to overtake us again.
“For the time will come [and is now here] when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
2 Timothy 2:3-4
Our culture is changing and the church along with it. The lines of “right” and “wrong” were clear–no longer. As our culture becomes more progressive and accepting, churches have begun to follow suit. “Feel good” sermons have become the norm, replacing sound biblical preaching.
The church needs to change. It has failed in the past and lost any relevance it had to the culture it desires to impact. This surely must change. The author of our Faith, Jesus, was seen as a radical, a drunkard, a sinner. Yet He taught “as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” His way of living polarized the culture. Ordinary men gave up their lives to follow Him while the religious leaders of the day cursed and mocked Him. He was not interested in ear tickling. Have we, the Church, become so interested in attracting crowds that we water down the clear teaching of the Bible so as not to offend sinners (“of whom I am the worst”)? The way Christ lived and taught forced a reaction and changed the known world; most churches just try to get by without rocking the boat.
This is not to say that we do not adapt to the culture for the purpose of spreading the gospel. Even the Apostle Paul recognized the need for meeting culture and was seen doing so many times.
“19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
For Paul, people coming into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ was everything, so much so that he “wish[es] that [he himself] were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of [his] brothers.” He would rather die apart from Christ so that others would not have to. He would become all things to all men to make the Gospel–that is, Christ came, lived a perfect life, died to pay the penalty for our sins, and rose again to give us life–known. He would quote Greek poets and philosophers, make references to unknown gods, anything short of sinning (Romans 6:2), to reach his audience.
But as the Church begins to look more like the world and sin becomes a more nebulous idea, what is the relevance of the gospel? What are people being saved from?
The world has the mindset “what’s right for you isn’t what’s right for me.” Slowly the church is picking up on this, though typically we explain it in much more “spiritual” words. If that’s true, and sin is relative depending on the individual, then is anything sin anymore? “You may think it’s wrong to cheat on your wife, but I don’t.” If we leave scripture behind, this is where we are heading. If we, the Church, get to a place where sin isn’t sin any longer, then who needs Jesus? What is our message? If there is nothing to be saved from, did He suffer for nothing? If His death meant nothing, why accept Him? Why align yourself with the Christian faith at all? If Christ’s death and resurrection was meaningless, then your faith is useless and we are to be pitied. Who needs Jesus? The Church needs Jesus before anything else can change.
What we believe about God’s Word matters. How we react to sin in our lives matters. There is grace. There is forgiveness. Don’t cheapen it with excuses.