What Should THE Church Be Doing? pt. 2
Posted by wordforit on March 22, 2008
Preach Faith and Repentance
Christ not only preached the coming Kingdom of God, He also urged His listeners to “repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). His message of repentance had been foreshadowed by John the Baptist’s (Matthew 3:2). The Apostle Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost also emphasized the importance of repentance from sin (Acts 2:38).
Even so, many churches today have become disoriented on the issues of sin, repentance, and faith. Writer Mike Regele explains that in the 1980s, Christianity in America underwent a significant shift away from morality and the acknowledgement of sin, and toward a false gospel of “personal growth.” “[In the 1980s], the awakening was over, and the inner-directed age of therapy was center stage. Sermons on the depth of one’s moral and spiritual depravity simply did not feel very good. In inner-directed eras, people want to feel good about themselves” (Death of the Church, p. 39).
That false “feel-good” message is not from Jesus Christ! He did not bring “smooth” words when He came to Earth (Isaiah 30:10). He brought a strong message, designed to convict His listeners of sin and motivate them to change!
Read carefully what Christ told His listeners in Matthew 5, in what is often called the “Sermon on the Mount.” People sometimes mistake His words for some kind of sentiment that weakens or does away with the need to repent and to obey God’s law, but the truth is quite the opposite. Christ said that He came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it (v. 17). He said that not one part of the Law would fail (v. 18). He condemned those who would break even the least of the commandments (v. 19). He cautioned His followers that their righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, but without the Pharisees’ hypocrisy (v. 20). He taught not only that murder is wrong, but also that the spirit of murder is worthy of the death penalty (v. 22). And He taught not only that adultery is wrong, but also that even the thought to commit adultery merits the penalty of death (v. 28).
Please do not misunderstand. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins (1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 12:10-11), and we cannot “earn” salvation-it is a gift from God (Romans 6:23). But why would Jesus preach “repentance” with belief unless turning from sin is compulsory for true Christians today? Will Jesus Christ grant eternal life to anyone who is living in rebellion to Him and His Laws? Christ Himself said that if we want to enter eternal life, we are to “keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). Those commandments include keeping the seventh-day Sabbath and the seven annual Holy Days, which most professing Christians today reject.
Even secular observers recognize that a “Christian” message solely about personal growth, without a deep acknowledgement of sin and a turn towards repentance and belief, simply has no spiritual substance. “It is curious that one of the countervailing criticisms of the past twenty years has been the increasing privatization of personal faith…. A near obsession with personal growth within faith traditions is maintained under the banner of ‘getting to know God.’ We wonder if perhaps it is not just a way to justify another manifestation of self-indulgence, a behavior pattern completely consistent with the ‘mood’ of the inner-directed era” (Regele, p. 40).
Jesus was concerned about healing and helping those who were broken and hurting. He healed the broken-hearted, and released the oppressed (Luke 4:18). He healed the sick (Luke 7:22). He came to ease the burdens of those under the yoke (Matthew 11:28-29). But He did not bring a gospel of “self-indulgence” or “rebellion against law.” He taught true liberty under the “law of liberty” (James 1:25).
Are you truly conforming your life to Christ’s message? Are you asking God to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4; Luke 5:32)? Are you bringing forth “fruits worthy of repentance” in your life (Matthew 3:8)? Preaching repentance and belief is part of the true mission Christ carried out-and that He also entrusted to His Church.
The True Commission-Or Passing Fads?
Well into the first decade of the twenty-first century, many churches find themselves scrambling to find meaning and purpose. When churches ask their congregants for feedback on their “church experience,” they receive a dizzying array of conflicting responses, as author Brian McLaren observes. “Complaints range from sensible to incoherent to mutually exclusive: It’s too boring. It’s too entertainment-oriented. It’s too shallow. It’s too deep. It’s too intellectual. It’s too emotional. It’s too contemporary. It’s too traditional. It’s too passive. It’s too active. It’s too demanding. It’s too easy” (The Church on the Other Side. p. 43).
“Mega-churches” now cater to those seeking an energetic mixture of fellowship and self-help programs with a casual atmosphere. Yet some are already beginning to see that these institutions may attract numbers-but may not attract true disciples. Columbus, Ohio, radio commentator Bob Burney reflected on this phenomenon in his column at http://www.townhall.com: “If you simply want a crowd, the ‘seeker sensitive’ model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it’s a bust” (“A Shocking ‘Confession’ from Willow Creek Community Church,” October 30, 2007).
At the same time, fragmented “mini-churches” are proliferating at an astounding rate. According to researcher Mark J. Penn, there are almost 10,000 unique religions around the globe, with two or three new ones born each day. Most are fringe movements splintering off from larger organizations. “Americans may be witnessing the rise of mega-churches-those sprawling God-o-plexes that offer everything from liturgical enlightenment to teen rafting trips-but worldwide, the opposite is true. What’s flourishing is Mini-Churches: small, and seemingly faddish, new groups of intensely devoted followers” (Microtrends, p. 312). As new religious organizations splinter and proliferate, confusion grows about the meaning and purpose of the Church.
Thankfully, you do not need to be confused about the role of God’s true Church today. In our time of rapid change, you can be sure that the true Church which Jesus Christ built will faithfully be doing what He did, until His return (Revelation 1:7). It will not be blown off course by social fads and trendy distractions, nor by corrosive heresies. It will be proclaiming to the world the good news of Jesus Christ’s coming Kingdom (Matthew 24:14). And it will be blowing a bold “warning trumpet” of repentance and spiritual change. As Isaiah wrote: “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1).
This is what the Church that Christ built will be doing, even in the twenty-first century, just as it did from the beginning. Are you a part of that Church?
By Rod McNair