Looking for God to restore

We complain about the demise of the Church and ask God why He is not advancing the gospel. We do not realise that He is! He is returning us to reality! We live in a time of disgrace for the church of God. The cry of many is –

Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation. (Psalm 85:4-7NIV)

In times past, the hope of the church seemed to be the Evangelical Movement bringing Christ. At the time we were criticized for a shallow approach: “All you need is to receive Jesus, and God will do the rest.” What we failed to appreciate was the context of a culture striving but failing to live for God. In this context the simple message was good news.

Now our culture has little interest in seeking God. The old message is exposed as simplistic. Many have taken it literally and with their ticket to heaven secured they abandon God and give themselves to sensuality.

The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps. (Psalm 85:12-13)

Are we ready for the Lord to do new things, preparing the way with His righteousness, bringing fruit as He understands fruitfulness?

Choose Jesus’ way

Jesus talks of how we choose to receive His word. An emphasis on visible results has pushed us towards –

The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.

Results are easy! We can count green shoots of decisions and boast of fruitfulness. But easy come brings easy go –

But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.

Noticing the failure trailing this approach, many abandoned the focus on decisions for a journey into the Christian life. This sounds good, but the thorny issues of life are not dealt with in repentance. So –

The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

Protecting ourselves and others from Jesus’ cross is producing a fruitless faith. There is however another choice –

But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Mat 13:18-23 (NIV 1984)

Jesus is clear about what this choice involves–

…  unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24

Let’s choose Jesus’ way!

Show not tell

We live in a culture that is so bombarded by messages that none are listened to. How then can the gospel break out? Isaiah’s prophecy on Jesus in Isaiah 52&53 gives clues. Isaiah 53 shows the frustration.

Isaiah 53 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

The Lord himself is blanked out!

So will many nations be amazed at him
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.

The final outcome  is clear: ‘The nations are amazed’. So the Lord breaks through. Who is the person the Lord uses?

Isaiah 52:14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him –
his appearance was so disfigured.

In the world of messages, the Lord’s servant doesn’t stand a chance. His appearance is all wrong. This is a message that brings us hope. God is not limited by our appearances.

Isaiah 52: 13 See, my servant will prosper (NIV Margin)
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.

This person, who breaks through despite appearances, is identified as the Lord’s servant. He is living the faith in every area of life; walking with the Lord wherever He leads. Living this way, the Lord feels comfortable to exalt them.

For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.

We need to live the message so people can see in a culture where they will never hear. This takes time, but the lives affected are affected more solidly.

 

 

You will find the fuller study from which this is drawn at biblebase2adaringfaith

Where did all the Christians go?

It seems they believed the message that all you have to do to be saved is pray the prayer …

I have been perplexed for many years that when I was at University there were about 6-8% of students who were active Christians. Now it has collapsed to about 1%. What happened?  Surely a movement does not collapse so quickly!

I was talking with a friend who chats on line at Christian chat sites. His comment was that 90% of those he chats with would call themselves Christians while saying something like, ‘I prayed this prayer, so I know I am going to heaven, but I don’t need to go to church or live by any of the Christian teaching that I don’t like.’ Many of them have parents who are active Christians but few would be recognisable as Christians from the way they live. So, they are there but one would not know by looking at their lives.

When the fruit is suspect it is good to look at the health of the tree it came from. Looking at the message that was prevalent 10-30 years ago, there was such a drive to rescue people from hell that the gospel was presented as a ‘Get out of hell free card’. It seems we are reaping the consequences of salvation without discipleship.

May God have mercy on us! What will He do to save His Church from the mess we have presented Him with?

What of the gospel that is being lived and preached today?