Our pews are full, but our heads are empty. Our spirits starve for truth.
Perhaps these pews are full because our heads are empty, having been spoon-fed a gospel of convenience, ease and worldly accommodation. The hollow theology pouring forth from American pulpits today may have attracted quite a crowd, but for the most part these are little more than gatherings of rebels come to loot the honor of God as they relentlessly seek to conform Him to their will.
The economy crumbles and every imaginable alarm is sounded. Our understanding of God’s nature collapses and barely anyone is left aware to notice. The scope and magnitude of this tragedy cannot be overstated.
We’ve dismissed His holy Word. It now often serves merely as a prop or pretext; a place for us to yank comforting expressions out of context so that we might go about the business of building self-esteem through the perpetual redefinition of God and His will to accommodate our wicked inclinations.
We’ve fled from His loving instruction. “Dogma” and “religion” have become mostly pejorative terms. At best, this has produced a state of perpetual spiritual infancy. At worst (and the worst here is sadly commonplace), we’ve seen heresy embraced and exalted by minds utterly devoid of the knowledge and wisdom His Spirit inspires and provides.
We send our children to be “educated” in a system boldly operating under a formal declaration of war against our God and then comically feign puzzlement at the predictably catastrophic consequences. In order that the wolves might inadvertently ingest some tiny bit of spiritual goodness, so goes our logic, we freely feed them our children. Such is the level of distortion that has come to our view of evangelism.
We’ve trampled His sacred name. We will do anything with it. We will wear it on our backs, our bumpers, our hats and even on our feet, as if figuratively treading upon His name just wasn’t blasphemous enough.
We’ve mocked His sovereignty. We simply cannot abide the surrender of all glory to Him. As such, we tenaciously cling to “our share” of honor and power by reducing the sovereign, holy Lord of creation to the role of a helpless doorknocker begging hopefully for entry, powerless to open the door without our ascent and assistance.
And we do all of these things in His name.
We are fools by fallen nature, and that natural inclination towards rebellion has been accommodated at every turn as we’ve come to conform to the world that we were commissioned to transform. Our seeker sensitivities have enabled the church-based cultivation of a rampaging horde of secular philosophies and lifestyles.
The passion for soul sustaining truth that should define His people has been diluted to the point of dismissal. Our once burning desire to know and worship God with all of our minds, bodies and spirits has given way to a feeble parody of worship and life.
Untethered to a perfect, sovereign and holy God, we must wither and fade. We are withering and our great fade continues to this very day. We are a people in peril. Our pride has had its way with us. We have forsaken our commission and forgotten our God.
Most graciously, He has not returned the favor.
“Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” ~ CS Lewis
“The Word and Spirit go together. Doctrine and life go together. To separate them is to frustrate the work of sanctification within us and to grieve the Holy Spirit. To separate them is to avoid the integrated, committed life that pleases God.” ~ RC Sproul
A Missionary Alliance pastor named AW Tozer summarized the pathetic state of the church this way:
“The church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic. This low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.
With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words, “Be still, and know that I am God,” mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshipper in this middle period of the twentieth century.
This loss of the concept of majesty has come just when the forces of religion are making dramatic gains and they are more prosperous than at any time within the past several hundred years. But the alarming thing is that our gains are mostly external and our losses wholly internal; and since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions, it may be that our supposed gains are but losses spread over a wider field.”
Pastor Tozer recorded this observation in 1961.
The church has withered and faded much since then.
As I write these words, Joel Osteen has emerged as the most recognized evangelical leader in America, the Trinity Broadcast Network is the most powerful evangelical media force on earth and Benny Hinn still has a gig.
So it is that we find our story unfolding today in a most disconcerting manner. The slide from truth to error, away from God and towards oblivion, continues seemingly unabated and as we contemplate the scene before us, our hearts are rightly inclined to sink.
This is where God wants us today, at this very moment. He has brought us to this low place for great purpose. The author of our tale is unshaken. He is unchanged. And He has taken us here so that we might come to know Him more fully and ultimately glorify Him completely.
This saga was born, as all good things are, in the mind of God. From the very foundation of the cosmos, He crafted this tale. His is a holiness without blemish, a sovereignty without question and a love without flaw. He is the source and goal of every good thing, including stories such as ours.
This truth is no small thing. It is everything.
Candy Christianity’s Kinder, Gentler God
“Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” ~ Acts 12:23
“I hope you have become nauseated with the tawdry entertainment that passes for the true worship of God in many of our churches and, like the saints of the past, are longing for more of the deep truths of the inerrant Word of God.” ~James Montgomery Boice
As the origin and object of all that is good, He alone is worthy of glory. The harmony here is both apparent and essential to Christianity. If we believe that God is the author and objective of every good thing, then it is impossible to conceive of a valid justification for the assignment of glory – any glory – to anyone other than Him. He is the beginning and the end – the alpha and omega – of all that is good.
Enter: Pride. The hand that claims honor for any self outside of Him; the wide and welcoming gateway through which all other evil marches.
We are intensely prideful selves by fallen natural inclination. We yearn for significance. We desire glory. We have seen His glory and acted upon that desire.
As pride-filled and sinful men and women, ours is a relentless thirst for self-significance. This self-significance requires self-glorification. In a mad quest for validation of our selves, we’ve sought to make His sovereignty our possession and plaything. We’ve mocked His holiness. We’ve turned from His perfect love.
We’ve become pirates and pretenders seizing upon His honor.
We are the thieves who’ve sought to steal His glory and in doing so have instead transformed our great and beautiful adventure into a terrible, dark tragedy. At the end of the day, we’ve each stolen nothing but our own happiness, peace, joy and even life itself.
This is the price of the theft of His glory.
Though it was our intent to pilfer His prestige, we’ve only managed to secure a pirate’s nightmare payload of fool’s gold: Crushed spirits, soft bodies, weak minds, rudderless families, sterile churches, a crumbling nation and a depraved culture are but a few of the more spectacular gems that we’ve managed to acquire.
What a deal!
Who said crime didn’t pay?
Indeed, such thievery does pay. It pays in death: the death of a body, the death of a mind, the death of a spirit, a church, a culture and a nation. In choosing to rob our God and mock His holiness, we have chosen death in every way and at every level.
As we rob Him of glory, we rob ourselves of life. As He is given glory, we are given life. Peace, joy, happiness and fulfillment in any true, lasting sense can only be known when God is given glory. So it is that our attempted theft has stolen only hope from our future.
But what we have intended for evil, He will use for good. He always does.
This is sovereignty.
This is perfection.
This is love.
It never could have been any other way.
With all praise and thanks to Him, let us now prayerfully and thoughtfully consider the wicked path that we have chosen and from which He has saved us.
“God made man in his own image and man returned the compliment.” ~ Blaise Pascal
“Any view of the human will that destroys the biblical view of human responsibility is seriously defective. Any view of the human will that destroys the biblical view of God’s character is even worse.” ~ RC Sproul
“The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide.” ~ CS Lewis
Our will has spoken.
With great enthusiasm we’ve exchanged the perfect, sovereign, holy God for something much more comfortable. Something warm, fuzzy, fluid and kind. Something we can wrap our minds around and to which we can relate. Something sensible. Something less intimidating.
A kinder, gentler god is just what we wanted – exactly what our hearts desired – and now we have him.
He is not sovereign. We are, at least practically speaking, and practicality is the bottom line with this god and his people.
His word is not holy. We pick, choose, spin and distort his recorded pronouncements without hesitation or shame. We’ll go as far as to attribute our own words and thoughts directly to him, printing them out neatly and signing his name at the bottom as a sort of unintended punch line.
His name is not holy. We print it on t-shirts, bumper stickers and posters, shoe-horning it into every Madison Avenue spun secular mold imaginable. He must be sold, after all, and what better way to accomplish this noble task than to cloak him in counterfeit Coca-Cola, Calvin Klein and McDonald’s logos?
If we could dip him in chocolate and put a bow on his head, we surely would. Anything to entice the poor, lost sinner to choose wisely, of course.
All’s fair in love, war and evangelism.
Holiness can be compromised. Sovereignty can be explained away. The rebellious will be made to feel welcome, warm and even cherished.
Once this wonderful, harmonious relationship is established, there’s nothing left to rebel against, is there? What could be more perfect!
This permissive god will be adored and we will carry his message of respectful inclusion to the four corners of the earth. We’ll exhaust and embrace every option as we spread his name and his oh-so-marketable brand of love throughout creation.
We will attach his name to any secular enterprise, from the benign and banal to the vulgar and vile. This god is sure to be gratified every time someone picks up a copy of “Girls Gone Wild, Bible Style” from their local church coffee shop and book store.
After all, sex sells and we’re all about the numbers.
Numbers, numbers, numbers!
Numbers are good. Numbers are success. Numbers are the goal. Size matters most. More is always better, and ever-increasing quantity is this god’s given mission.
Hitting those targets, filling those pews, selling those tickets, books, albums and god-wear have become favored ways of spreading his seeker-sensitive message. With such great effort made towards secular accommodation, the counterfeit kingdom has grown at a frightening clip.
As this fiction-founded faith snakes its way into congregations and pulpits, the church body begins to rot from within. The bridge we’ve built to a God hating culture is now overrun by enemy forces eagerly seeking our destruction and happy to accept our helping hands in the process.
In countless ways we have forsaken His kingdom for the kingdom of the age. We have forsaken holiness. We have forsaken Him.
Our kingdom has come. Predictably, it is little more in overall quality than a well-landscaped subdivision of Sodom. We are cuddling and nurturing a world of God-haters. With the sovereign, holy Christ removed from its center, ours is a philosophy doomed to spread death to all it touches – all with a warm, happy smile, of course.
We’ve lost our way and are leading the world accordingly. We’ve hit the dimmer switch where brightness is needed most, we’ve smiled and shrugged at profound deviations from truth and sought to avoid conflict at any and all cost – and make no mistake, the price of this aversion to confrontation has been enormous in scope and catastrophic in nature. We’ve taken the Neville Chamberlain approach to dealing with the enemy and our enemy is quite pleased.
We are determined to be liked; adored even. The god of our age is a staunch advocate of a Barney the Dinosaur approach to life, and you can be sure that he is appreciative of our compliance. Hand in glove with this guiding principle, every worldly standard of goodness, kindness and warmth seems to have been coddled, appeased and accommodated.
We have accepted and subsequently fostered the notion that God can be known without being feared, and this was the first crucial step toward our replacing Him entirely with the kinder, gentler god we’ve come to support if not consciously embrace.
Amazingly, the notion of a god who is “Savior but not Lord” has gained currency in the church. Lost entirely is the concept of our slavery to Christ. We have been bought with a price. We are His. Consequently, we are to seek and submit to His will completely and joyfully. His sovereign lordship requires this of us.
Of course, this Sovereign Lord is incompatible with the spirit of the age. That spirit inspires and permeates the counterfeit kingdom. We have come to perpetuate this favored perspective of the enemy through our flight from the essence of lordship.
The Devil’s Favorite Flavor of Religion
The god of this permissive kingdom is not necessarily to be feared. He is neither holy nor sovereign. He is open to interpretation and just as open to your input. He changes and grows. He is the author of many truths. Many paths lead to him. He will be your savior if you feel the need for one, but he need never be your lord.
And he absolutely loves “Girls Gone Wild, Bible Style”.
This shining savior is the bright and morning star; the prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit that works through and towards disobedience. He is the father of lies.
He reviles the sovereign and holy God. He is a murderer from the beginning and a thief of God’s glory. It must come as no surprise that he would so delight in making us accomplices in the plundering of God’s honor. In accepting his invitation, we’ve brought a wide smile to the face of the enemy.
As he smiles, hope always fades. Hope for any good thing cannot exist apart from the sovereign, holy God who is so despised by this rebellious world and its temporary ruler.
This is what the theft of our Lord’s glory has wrought.
We’ve trampled His holiness, dismissed His sovereignty and made every attempt possible to claim His glory as our own.
All in the name of Christ.
We’ve succumbed to our fallen nature, once again becoming god-lovers and God-haters. By human standards we have judged the God of scripture and found Him wanting.
While we may have discarded Him, we may take eternal comfort in the fact that He, by His sovereign grace, has chosen not to repay the favor.
Our perfect, sovereign and holy God has a plan. It is a flawless plan. He clings to us even now, as we have carefully, thoughtfully and diligently sown the seeds and cultivated the path of our own destruction.
“The unregenerate world of sinners despises the Holy Spirit, ‘because it seeth him not.’” ~ Charles Spurgeon
“And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” ~ John 3:19 (NLT)
Up is down. Down is up.
True wisdom is foolishness to the world.
True love has been substituted with a pale imitation that knows nothing of discipline and depth. Most congregations are hand fed a watery mix of pop psychology and feel-good, non-confrontational religion while the world burns around them.
The favored myths of the enemy now course through our veins. We have co-opted, assimilated and repackaged each and every one of them for Christian consumption, and the result has been the fermentation of an increasingly Christ-less, and therefore impotent, Christianity.
All by design.
The myths of neutrality and mediocrity have rendered our lives virtually indistinguishable from the God-hating population of a fallen creation. The myths of ease and independent personal ability have us spinning our wheels at the bottom of the pit, digging only deeper down, perpetually inspired by the ridiculous notion that we can do even the slightest good thing apart from Him.
With but one step back from the sovereign Lord of creation, we’ve managed to acquire every bit of freedom that our fallen wills could have ever hoped for and much, much more.
Our birthright as sons and daughters of the King has been sold, or, more accurately, given away. At least that was our intent.
Most thankfully, in this instance and in the ultimate sense our intent is of no account.
No matter the level of betrayal, idiocy or stupidity we demonstrate as we persist in catering to the standards of a world that hates the God we claim to love, He is faithful and utterly undeterred. The sovereign creator and ruler of the universe has a plan. It is perfect in all ways, at all times and for all people. It cannot be thwarted, compromised or even ever-so-slightly adjusted by the will of demons, angels or men.
Christ’s Call to Battle: Supernatural Christianity’s War Against All Counterfeits
“The Christian should reject decisively the thought that eternal life is to begin when this physical life is over. We read on a tombstone that a man “entered into eternal life” on the day of his death, but the Bible teaches that for a Christian eternal life begins, not on the day a man enters heaven, but on the day eternal life enters into the man through the new birth.” ~ Donald Grey Barnhouse
“And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.” ~ Ezekiel 36:27
Failing and unfaithful as we have been, He has appointed this hour to bring glory to himself through the very thieves who attempted to steal it from Him.
Put another way: He has chosen us.
He has given us His Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells within us for great purpose. He calls and equips us to otherwise impossible knowledge and action.
His people are blessed beyond measure. We are honored and privileged to play a role – a great and vital role – in the same fantastic adventure that we so nearly stole from ourselves by seeking to steal glory from Him.
Where we merited death, He has instead chosen to impose abundant life. In this all glory is due Him.
From the very moment He spoke the universe into existence, He ordained that you and I would come together in this way and on this day. He lovingly planned this intersection from the foundation of the world.
There was never a chance of any deviation. Life never could have unfolded any other way. While from our cloudy, fallible, finite perspective this seems to be an impossible or even unpleasant thing, for Him it is not only possible and good but, by His nature, it is essential. His sovereignty is complete.
This is the God we are called to serve, and as He has given us ears to hear and a spirit to heed His call, we can do nothing else. This is a most beautiful truth.
My poor use of words and your kind, patient interest in them will of course come to no account without His intervention. We are nothing. It is through Him, by His sovereign choice and pleasure, that you and I are appointed to play these crucial roles in an odyssey that will ultimately culminate in the regeneration of creation and the restoration of all glory to Him.
If that doesn’t inspire you, nothing will.
We have a mission.
It is not a passive role that we have been assigned. We are called to action.
A God given fire and passion for His nature and truth is ours to cherish, adore and fan into a bright and brilliant demonstration of His glory. This is our one and only ultimate goal: The proclamation of His truth and nature so that all glory might be laid at His feet.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
We are not here to convince. We are here to give answers.
We are not here to compromise. We are here to proclaim.
We are not here to conform. We are here to shine.
We are not here to be silent. We are here to be bold.
We are not here to be adored. We are here to be hated.
We are not here to convict. We are here to exalt His holiness and truth.
We are not here to win. We are here to fight.
We are at war.
Sharpen your sword. Prepare your armor. This is the most brutal and violent of conflicts. The very identity of our God is at its center. There is no place for compromise here. There’s no haggling to be done. There is life only in Him and apart from Him there is only death. Every good thing has its source and goal exclusively in Him. Apart from Him, no good thing can exist.
These are not notions that go over well at a negotiation table. They are not favored concepts of the diplomacy minded. They are unwavering, unshakable, unyielding truths.
They do not bend, however much ours is a world built upon bending, twisting and distortion.
Look for the middle ground, the fence, the “happy medium”…they’re nowhere to be found. In the absence of that quiet, peaceful, neutral place that our enemy so advocates and adores, there is only hatred. Hatred of truth.
We are to be hated and hated we shall be. Such is the nature of truth’s advocates to a world dedicated to darkness. The fallen world’s rebellion cannot abide by the truth of our Lord, and thus war is inevitable.
This is the war that we were destined to fight since the dawn of creation. It is the war we were destined to win since the foundation of the world.
How can boldness not result from such assurances as these?
How can we have allowed for weakness and cowardice to take root in our minds, our homes, our families and our churches?
While we have long neglected our duties, ignored the call to battle and dismissed His command to combat the enemy, He remains faithful. From the moment that He created moments, He ordained that we would be equipped for the completion of the task before us.
So let’s get to it.
Soli Deo gloria…and let’s roll!
If you’d like to read more along these lines, please head on over to the Fire Breathing Christian site, where everything from theology and education to movies and pop-culture is tackled head on from a Christ-centered and Gospel-fueled perspective.
Thank you for your time and interest in these things!
Soli Deo Gloria,
This is a compiled version of four articles posted previously at the Fire Breathing Christian blog. Please see also: