In today’s postmodern climate, truth means nothing, and personal preferences mean everything. OK, we expect that from the secular world. But what happens when the church soaks up this dangerous attitude big time? We end up with a church in crisis, a church in decay, and a church which has lost its way.
We see examples of this all around us. People who call themselves Christians have sold their souls for a mess of ungodly porridge. They have imbibed deeply from the pools of relativism, amorality, and selfishness. The only thing that matters in life for so many believers is this: me and my happiness.
Thus anything that makes them happy they will pursue with a passion, regardless of how wrong it is, how unscriptural it is, how contrary it is to God’s standards. But we should not be surprised with this. If for decades now we have been preaching a me-centred gospel, then why should we be surprised when Christians live a me-centred life?
Far too much of contemporary Christianity is proclaiming the false gospel of personal happiness and fulfilment. As if Jesus died a cruel and horrific death on a cross so that Christians could just gorge themselves on selfishness and personal happiness.
I am not aware of any verse in Scripture that tells us that God’s desire for us is that we should simply be happy and live comfortable, self-satisfied lives. There are plenty of verses which tell us that God wants us to be holy, and to live a life of self-denial and mortification of the flesh.
But because so many churches no longer preach this message, hoping to woo unbelievers instead by offering them instant gratification, a problem-free life, and a me-centred eternity, we have reared a generation of Christians who think, “It is all about me”.
Of course Christianity is nothing of the sort. It is not about you and me at all. It is about the one true God of the universe who deserves our worship, our praise, and our obedience. It is not about what goodies we can get out of life. It is not about getting a new self-image, getting a new car, getting a great career, feeling good about ourselves, or losing weight for Jesus.
In our efforts to “win” people to Jesus, we have soft-peddled the gospel and watered down the clear demands of Christ. Gone is repentance, the forgiveness of sin, taking up our cross, and denying ourselves. It is pampering self, coddling the flesh, cozying up to the world, and making peace treaties with the Devil.
As a result we have some of the softest, flabbiest, lukewarm and self-centred Christians that the world has ever known. And I am speaking about the so-called evangelical churches here, not some of the spiritually dead mainline denominations.
There are far too many examples of this. A fellow I know who for a long time was a follower of Jesus decided at one point to dump his wife, dump his kids, and dump his faith. He is now shacking up with another woman. How does he justify all this? “I have never been happier in my life” he said. Oh really?
The Bible of course already speaks to this. It tells us that the pleasures of sin are but for a season (Heb. 11:25). Let him have his jollies now, but one day he will stand before his maker and have to give an account of his life. Do you think his “I have never been happier” line is going to cut it with a holy and righteous God? I don’t think so.
In the same way Hollywood hunk and one time Catholic Mel Gibson walked out on his marriage of 28 years and his tribe of kids, so he could make whoopee with his new Russian chickee babe. Of course that didn’t last too long. Now they are splitting up after just a year. And of course they now have a five-month-old daughter out of this bit of pleasure. What about her?
And now we hear that a famous gospel singer has declared that now she is a lesbian. Oh, and she is still a good Christian, she wants us to believe. Christianity Today had a lengthy interview with Jennifer Knapp, in which she tells us about how happy she is in her lesbian relationship. There’s that ‘H’ word again. As long as I am happy – that’s all that matters.
Who gives a rip about what the Bible says on this? Who gives a rip about what God calls sinful? Who gives a rip that living in known, unconfessed sin puts one outside of the Kingdom of God? But hey, what the heck, at least she is happy.
She informs us that she is now “living my life with a great deal of joy”. Indeed. Never mind what God thinks about her choices. Never mind what he has already declared on this issue. Never mind that he is God and he calls the shots, not us.
But I can already hear people saying, “But Bill, you are judging her!” No, there is no need for me to do that – God already has. He has made crystal clear his views on the matter. Hear what Paul says on this in 1 Cor. 6:9-11:
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
It does not matter what your sin is. This message is strong and clear. The same for this fellow I know who is now in an adulterous relationship. Sure, we must pray for him. We must pray for Jennifer. But if we really love them, we will tell them the truth as God has declared it.
It is not at all loving to make excuses for sin, and seek to call white what God has called black. We either agree with God on these matters or we call him a liar. That is our choice. But please do not drag false notions of tolerance and acceptance into this, which reflect the world’s values, but not God’s
This decision by Jennifer is just one of many. Thus no need to single her out. She just happens to be a somewhat more public, high-flying example of the crisis we are in. But it is happening everywhere in the church. We are rejecting God and his word, and attempting to justify our clearly sinful and selfish behaviour.
As always, A.W. Tozer had much to say about such matters. Let me close with a few of his thoughts on this:
“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, worshiping men. This she has not done deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic. The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us.”
“Christians today appear to know Christ only after the flesh. They try to achieve communion with Him by divesting Him of His burning holiness and unapproachable majesty, the very attributes He veiled while on earth but assumed in fullness of glory upon His ascension to the Father’s right hand. The Christ of popular Christianity has a weak smile and a halo. He has become Someone-up-There who likes people, at least some people, and these are grateful but not too impressed. If they need Him, He also needs them.”
“In every Christian’s heart there is a cross and a throne, and the Christian is on the throne till he puts himself on the cross; if he refuses the cross he remains on the throne. Perhaps this is at the bottom of the backsliding and worldliness among gospel believers today. We want to be saved but we insist that Christ do all the dying. No cross for us, no dethronement, no dying. We remain king within the little kingdom of Mansoul and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of a Caesar; but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility.”