These are strange days.
It seems like the Lord is requiring more and more from us with each passing day. All of those things that are not pure must go from our lives and from our churches. These are the days of the solemn assembly, where the people of God gather themselves together and are purified by Him.
Those things that have been in our church services that are man-made have been required of Him. That is not to say that they are bad, they are just flesh.
The worship service with its 3 fast songs and 2 slow songs had to go. And God showed how real worship was you laying yourself upon that altar, caring for widows and orphans and remaining unspotted from the world. And until we do those things, we can no longer offer to God the lies that we sing to Him week after week. Because our lives showed our love, our real love. We sing “I Surrender All” when we surrender nothing but that which we can easily do without. We sing “He Touched Me” when at the very moment His hand touches us to be sanctified or sacrifice, we recoil and beg for mercy. And here at these churches, we were no longer allowed to sing, but rather, to show the poiema of what God has done in our lives. Someday we will sing again as congregations and on that day, by the grace of God, our lives will be sung first, a sweet sacrifice, pleasing unto God.
The altar call and ‘sinner’s prayer’ that has been used for so long has been required of Him. Because it became form and we have worshipped it as a third sacrament in the church. But what prayer can you pray without the inner witness that you have been brought from death to life? When did we stop the altar, the time when you sought God with your whole heart until the ‘strange warmth’ of Wesley filled your heart and you knew, beyond any contestation, that you had been born again? How long have we taught people to bear the false witness of salvation, your own witness without any corroborating evidence?
“Are you saved?” we have asked.
“Yes, I am saved.”
“How do you know that you are saved?”
“I just know. I prayed a prayer and accepted it by faith.”
“Have you repented of your sins and made restitution where it was possible? Have you been humbled by His grace and now your life has become a repayment of a debt to God that you have no hope of ever repaying?”
“Then have you become aware of your inner sin and been filled with the knowledge that it is no longer your master but that you have been given mastery over it, that you no longer have to obey it?”
“Well, do you have the joy of lowness? Are you hungry to go lower and lower for God, to be spent, wrung out for Him? Do you aspire to be the lowest of all, to serve, to reckon others better than yourself, to give up all? Is your constant prayer, ‘Lower, Lord, lower’?”
“Then surely you have the joy of instant, literal obedience to God with no consideration of the personal cost, right? You are prepared to sell all that you have, distribute to the poor, to travel far from hearth and home to serve God in a remote village or foreign land, if the call should come? When you see a need, do you sacrifice what you have to fill that need? Do you live with only the necessities so that you have more to give into the Kingdom and for the care of those who are hurting and needy?”
“No. But I prayed a prayer and I believe that Jesus died and rose again”.
“So do the devils, and tremble at the thought.”
We have sacrificed conversions for decisions and disciples for numbers. We have lowered the bar until nothing is required and nothing has a cost and then sat back and wondered why we have no disciples, no missionaries and no sacrifice.
God help us.
Here, we have been asked to give up self-importance and to become aware of the myth of fingerprints. To look and see that we are fascinated by the world and all that it has to offer us, the clothes, the homes, the stuff that we surround ourselves with. The desire and hunger for things that we consume upon our own lusts, new this, better that. We are sanctified consumers, spending our lives in service to Wal-Mart and mortgages, television and the internet, our cell phones and text messages. We are surrounded by the world on every side and live with a constant hunger for more. We live as if we are defined by what we possess, the amount of money in our bank account, the success of our fleshly lives.
We need new clothes, fashionable ones, the trendiest haircuts and the expensive gadgets.
We are so busy worshiping at the Cult of Me, a religious order built upon the foundation of the life of the individual and all that defines you in this world (that looks strangely like a great golden calf) that we have utterly forgotten about body life and the servant’s heart.
“Pastor, I can’t give much for the poor or evangelism or for your food or even to keep the lights on at the church. You see, I have a mortgage, two car payments for our new cars, a cable bill so I can watch my shows, internet, insurance, the grocery costs; the kids need haircuts and new clothes. Little Jimmy has soccer and Susie has Ballet. We have to put away for retirement and get a new TV (ours is so old now, it’s practically an antique). I like to have some spending money for hair, nails, tanning, hobbies, and to shop a bit on EBay. So you see, Pastor, we just don’t have much. Believe God with us that we will get better jobs so that we have more to give. And pray that we will have better hours so that we can be at the Church more without cramping our lifestyle. And by the way, if you could do a series on having your best life now, that would be great. I really wish we could help the poor or help support a new church plant or a mission but we just have nothing left after our flesh is completely sated.”
The true life for a Christian is the life found in the body and the joy of spending and being spent in service to the King. Nothing that this world has to offer can compare with the feeling of sacrificing what comfort you have so that others do not experience lack.
1Ti 6:7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
Shouldn’t the question be “How little do I actually need surrounding me in order that I can give to others and serve God with my time”, rather than, “God can have the tiny bit left over after I have all I want.”? And we thought this pleased Him, that we gave anything at all. Why not rather have far, far less? Friends, I think that the world has us lock, stock and barrel. This I believe is what Jesus meant by ‘the deceitfulness of riches’. Is this world our home or isn’t it? Are we passing through or residing permanently?
God has required all of these things from us as we have progressed; He has asked for a sacrifice of the pride of life and the satisfaction of conformity that you gain from the world. To sit back and have very little and give what you do have has brought great joy and great freedom to our hearts. Will it last forever? I am not sure. I have told the people that I am growing a big bushy beard until I learn to stop being so self-important and begin to love it. But it is more than that.
Revival is coming and God has called for a sacred assembly, a fast and a time of sanctification from His people. These are the days of purification, sanctification and consecration. To put feet to our faith and show God that we are serious about drawing near to Him. We desire Him so much that anything in our lives that does not tend to godliness must go.
Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
These are strange days but they are days of cost and fire and I would not trade it for anything in the world.