SIMPLE TRUTH: Unless the churches repent

Published 9:23 am Thursday, August 8, 2013

By Charles Christmas

Trustworthy polls and statistics reveal that among those living in some lifestyles and practices which are absolutely contradictory to the simple teaching of the Bible, the percentage of participants is about the same among the members of churches as among non-members. This would include such things as pre-marital sex, sexual relationships outside of marriage, other sexual sins, divorcing and greed, to list a few. If this were not true, many state and federal prisons could be closed, many courts would not be needed, a large percentage of lawyers would go broke, the police forces would be significantly reduced, the overload of DHR would be solved and school discipline would return to the distant past.

The entire teaching of the Old and New Testament is that genuine persons of faith, genuine members of the family of God and true members of Christ’s churches are to become different from others: in attitude, speech, action, purpose, values, life style, commitments, motivation, guidelines and inner character. Take a sample from the Bible anywhere; this will be true. And God does not exempt his real or imitation church or churches from his wrath, his earthly judgments or his judgment beyond this life. Large portions of the books of the Old Testament are simply accounts of God’s faithful blessings upon his obedient people and his wrath, curses and judgments upon his disobedient people. The central truth of the New Testament’s 27 books is that the Lord’s action and purpose in saving us sinners is that we might become different, with a wonderful difference, from the society about us that is called “the world.” This difference is described as light opposed to darkness, seasoning as opposed to blandness, a wonderful perfume as opposed to a stench, and finding life as opposed to a lost life.

Is there at least a partial simple analysis as to why this reality exists in the churches? I submit at least some insight as I accept my part of the blame. First, we have made God into whom we would prefer him to be rather than to accept him as the God of the Bible. We prefer to see him and present him as the God of love, grace, mercy and forgiveness only without adding the truth that he is also holy and God of wrath and judgment. We like to quote Jesus when the self-righteous men brought to him the woman taken in the very act of adultery: “He that is without sin cast the first stone.” We like to announce that he said, “Neither do I condemn you.” But we don’t desire to go further and hear him say that all of his acceptance and forgiveness is not to approve what she had done, but rather to change her life so that she could “go and sin no more.” We like to read in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 the great list of all kinds of sexual sins and other wickedness and hear God say, “And such were you church members before you turned to Jesus Christ, but now all these sins have been washed away and God has accepted you as if you had never sinned, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God.” But, we leave out three words: “You are sanctified” in the name and by the Spirit. You have been “washed” and “accepted,” but for the purpose that your mind, spirit and every part of your body be used to glorify God. And you are to “flee from sexual sins” and all that would lead to such.

Second, we have placed a large emphasis on the beginning of the Christian life (turning to Jesus as Savior and baptism) and very little emphasis on living the Christian life. Even a superficial skimming of the 13 Letters by the Apostle Paul, Hebrews, the two letters by the Apostle Peter, James, Jude and the four letters by the Apostle John will convince us that our approach is horribly and devastatingly out of focus and out of balance. In each, the necessity of the beginning of the saving experience is explained and emphasized, but the living out of the saving experience occupies most of the content of these 22 New Testament books, as well as a large part of the four Gospels and The Acts of the Apostles.

Unless the churches repent: what? We will have very little influence with God. We will have very little influence on the world about us. We will have very little influence on our nation. We will be ill prepared for the return of Christ, inasmuch as we are exhorted to “be diligent to be found of him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2 Peter 3:14). To three of his churches in Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus said, “Repent or else.” To a fourth, he said, “I have given time to repent.” We can awake and turn around, and do as it was meant to be done according to the Simple Truth.

—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.