I have noticed lately that many churches and Christians seem to embrace a Christianity void of any genuine, transforming life change. I believe there are churches all over the state in which I live suffering from a lack of revival, a lack of evangelistic energy, and a lack of believers bothered by either one. People seem to be content to attend church services on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and possibly even Wednesday night. They are willing to serve on this committee or that ministry team. They even (grudgingly, it seems) put some money in the offering plate as it passes by. According to their own self-imposed standards, they are doing their part to sustain the kingdom work of God’s church. The problem is their lives seem to be no different from what they were before allegedly encountering the Creator of the universe.
What can be learned from people who will stand up and be counted when they are in the assembly of the righteous, but are content to fade into the crowd of carnality when going about their business in the community? I believe we can learn a great deal from this all too familiar phenomenon. The words of Christ are recorded in Matthew’s gospel account as He reminds us how to recognize false prophets. Jesus warns, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15-20, NASB). It seems logical that this litmus test could also be used for recognizing false Christians.
I am saddened that evidently many churches have decided to choose comfort over commitment, moderation over maturity, and satisfaction over surrender. Many seem to have traded in the concept of holiness for the much less controversial virtue of tolerance. I recall, however, English poet G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Tolerance is the virtue of a man without conviction.” There is indeed a clear distinction between holiness and legalism. Legalism demands we become more like certain people. Holiness demands we become more like Jesus.
If the church is to return to a position of influence in the culture, then I believe we need men and women of God who are not afraid to plant their feet, square their shoulders, and declare, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ I believe we need Pastors who will stand with boldness, taking up the mantle of the prophet of God, and call sin, sin, and righteousness, righteousness, leaving the consequences in the capable hands of Jesus.
A.W. Tozer, in his book We Travel an Appointed Way, writes, “It is time for Bible-believing Christians to begin to cultivate the sober graces and to live among men like sons of God and heirs of the ages. And this will take more than a bit of doing, for the whole world and a large part of the church is set to prevent it. But if God be for us, who can be against us?”
If God is for me, then who can be against me? That just may be all the motivation I need.