If there is one thing that angers me, it’s Christian malnutrition. Actually, my anger is against the Christian teachers who cause Christian malnutrition.
Nearly everywhere I go, I run into believers who are guilt-ridden, and desperately trying to “walk” with Christ. They feel blessed because they are “saved”, but guilty because they still don’t do what they are told to do. They are hearers of the word, and not doers, and I believe a large part of the reason why they are is because of what they are taught by “Christian” leaders.
Picture if you will, a preacher, well known, standing in front of a television audience, in some large auditorium somewhere, talking about “faith”. Here is something he might say. Heck, never mind the “might”, he definitely will say this, or something like it. I have heard it hundreds of times. Let’s listen to what he has to say.
“I have traveled the world over, and preached the gospel of salvation to hundreds of thousands of people. I have seen many come to know Jesus, simply by putting their trust in Him, and that’s all it takes people.” On and on he would go, for a few minutes, until we get to the part where he wants to start teaching us something. Here goes.
“Brothers and sisters, if you want to follow Christ, you have GOT to stop making excuses for yourselves. If you want to obey, then obey. You aren’t useful to God if you aren’t obedient to Him. God can’t USE you if you don’t obey Him.”
Wait a minute there…what?
God can’t use us if we aren’t obedient? I beg to differ. God can use the mouth of a donkey to get His message across. He can pour forth water from a dead rock. He can raise the dead, give sight to the blind, and feed thousands with a few loaves of bread. Which God can’t use us if we aren’t obedient? Not my God!
Let’s rejoin the well-known pastor.
“God is this, and God is that, but He isn’t going to be anything to you if you don’t stop sinning. My goodness, read the Bible! That’s what it’s there for! How can you say you love God if you don’t read His word? How can you say you love Jesus if you haven’t preached the gospel to everyone you meet? I’d say you might love Jesus, but not very much…blah blah blah…blah blah,….. blah blah blah blah.”
It is caused most often by preachers such as this fellow who with one hand, feed you the truth, and with the other, sock you in the gut, and cause you to vomit up what little truth you just learned. It’s no wonder so many believers are starved for the truth. How can they be satisfied, when they are constantly being fed conflicting messages?
Grace requires nothing of us for it to be effective. That is one truth we should all know. What would I be if I now told you that if you didn’t read the bible every day, it only shows you don’t really love Jesus all that much?
I would be worse than a Pharisee. Believers all around the world are taught about the love of God, yet often in the same sentence, they are also taught that their walk must match their talk, or they will not experience the “fullness” of the Spirit.
In time, we all have decisions to make, and we have been given great freedom to make all of these decisions, without fear of being condemned. Through these decisions, we may falter, we may fall, we may flat-out lose heart. But one thing remains, and that is our faith. Why? Because we didn’t earn our faith.
We can earn money, we can earn accolades, and we can even earn respect. But the one thing we can’t earn is faith. It’s given to us, by God’s choice. So no matter how hard we try to please God, we will always fall short of the glory of God, not for lack of effort, even though we may have given up trying. No, we fall short because it is our old nature to fall short.
But is there now a blessed hope? You bet there is, and this hope isn’t something we have to wait for. We don’t have to live any longer waiting for death to be in the Kingdom. We are in the Kingdom right now! God is here, in our midst, right now, and what’s more, He has deposited the Holy Spirit within us, who helps us in all sorts of things, such as prayer, obedience, and grace. That’s right, I said the dreaded “O” word.
I have never met the Christian who didn’t desire to be obedient to God. The willingness is there, but the doing isn’t. And for a very long time, the church has been hearing the same message, “Try harder!”
It’s time to admit that this message doesn’t work, and it’s time to admit that we don’t REALLY know what we are doing. Nicodemus was told to forget everything he ever knew, and start over, literally, be born again. So it is with us. We can’t get there from here, if here is two conflicting messages, one of grace, and the other of efforts and works.
Works do not pour forth from effort, they pour forth from love. In this world where we have many different things to pour forth our efforts into, why would we add to that the ever increasing burden of finding, and doing “good works”? We don’t have to find them, they are put in front of us every moment of every day. Can we plan? Yes. But do we have to? No. God has prepared good works for all of us to do, all we have to do is ask, and receive, open our eyes, and obey.
There’s that “O” word again. Let me say something about obedience that might help take the edge off of it. Once you stop hearing condemnation for your lack of obedience, and instead start being taught the true God, the glorious God, God as He is in all His beauty and love, obedience will follow naturally. And anything that is now natural for us is not of flesh and effort, but of the new Spirit within us.
Why aren’t we doer’s of the Word? Because for many of us, we have either never heard the Word, or have had it socked out of our guts the moment we heard it. This is the truth, and I see it every day. I hear it all of the time. And I’m sick of it.
Obedience is a good thing, not a bad thing. But it isn’t drawn forth from a downtrodden spirit. It’s drawn forth from the heart that is loved and KNOWS it, like a well freshly dug, and once it starts pouring out, it doesn’t stop.
A good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit. The human race has known about fertilizer and nourishment for plants for a long time. We know it takes good water for a tree to grow, for if we starve the tree, the tree dies. We know if we don’t fertilize a plant, it won’t grow to its fullest potential. We also know that if we don’t water the plant, it will die.
For too long Christians have been malnourished, being fed truth with a spoon, and having it sucked out of them with a straw. The conflicting messages believers are hearing are starving them of the only nutrition that can cause them to grow to their fullest potential. That nutrition is the truth. Don’t you think it’s time to stop vomiting the truth out every time you swallow some? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one day, we heard a preacher say, “Today, I’m only going to say a few things. Today, I’m going to preach from the Psalms, and I’m going to teach you about how lovely and strong our God really is. Put away your checklists, put away your guilt. Come listen to a story about a God whose truth is like a lamp for your feet in the darkest of places.”
If only he would stop there!!! But too often, he would continue, and say, “If you don’t read these Psalms, if you don’t love God enough to know them, there is no hope for you.” His words might be a bit more flowery than that, but the basic message is the same.
No wonder we have so many people who reject the “truth”. The truth is, they have never heard it.