The Flashier. The Better. - As Seen On Sunday
you have given us everything we have,
in you, we live, breath, and have our being,
do not let us replace you with material wealth,
let us see you as our portion,
The Israelites had grown to have hope in and trust in material wealth. Their city was coveted by other nations. Yet, their wealth was nothing but a burden to them in the end. The blessings that they had accumulated had been taken and anything that was left now could not even support the dwindling population. Babies cannot eat. Those who were accustomed to a high quality of living now are the poor.
In a religious sense, the very gold and precious things that God had instructed to be used to worship Him, He made worthless. The very thing that people looked to as the representation of God’s power, was now taken away. God allowed His place of worship to be tarnished to punish His people and to bring them back to Himself.
Today I would like to talk about the Church’s failure to see our church privilege. Even Empty Church as 4 people is very privileged with the opportunities and technology that we have access to. We just up and decided to get a domain and a website builder. We are all blessed to have quality computers and smartphones that have software capable of creating quality stuffs.
Our small little operation isn’t alone. Churches far larger than us look for bigger and flashier lights. We have adapted an attraction model of church, but the things we’ve cloned are the shallow aspects that draw in consumers who leave as soon as there is something better or different to consume. First world problems say our suffering is that “our iPhone is 2 years old.” Our expensive computer could use more ram. Our fog machine and lasers don’t make us “oooo” and “ahhh” like they used to. Our eye is caught from one sparkly thing to the next.
Humanity seems to run in a cycle where we forget where everything came from and start to love the things rather than God. God punishes us because He is just and He wishes for us to be reconciled to Him which only comes through humanity realizing what we deserve and then seeing God’s mercy.
Lamentations 4: 11-13 says,
11 The Lord gave full vent to his wrath;
he poured out his hot anger,
and he kindled a fire in Zion
that consumed its foundations.
12 The kings of the earth did not believe,
nor any of the inhabitants of the world,
that foe or enemy could enter
the gates of Jerusalem.
13 This was for the sins of her prophets
and the iniquities of her priests,
who shed in the midst of her
the blood of the righteous.
I can hardly think of what people would do in the event God gave full vent to His wrath against “Christians.” No one thought that anyone was going to overtake Jerusalem but then it happened. In the same way, I don’t think anyone thought that the church could “be in decline.” That the church would start to lose its political power. No one thought that the church would not be the “normal” thing. But We have seen all of those things start to happen. I say start because by no means is the church still not privileged. We still have presidents who say they are Christians. Churches STILL have tax exemption. People still say God bless America and claim that we are a Christian nation. God is still on our money and in our pledge of allegiance.
But what will the church look like if God did punish us for corrupting His message and turning people away from Him?
If Christianity was oppressed or outlawed in America, how many of us would continue to follow Christ? Is Christianity just a self-help feel-good option or is Christianity a real relationship between us and our creator? Could we as Christians lament over what had happened or would all the Christians decide that God either doesn't exist or isn’t one they want to believe in? People say that all the time if pressed about some of the more radical things in the Bible like mass genocide or the punishment of Israel. Would Christians accept what god was doing if it was not all about making people feel good? Would people stop going to church if it didn't offer free child care and comfy seats? What if the band didn't play perfectly every time and there wasn't a light show? Would we continue to worship God if all of the wealth was taken from the church?
“But Sean, would God ever put His hand against us now that we have Jesus?” you ask. I believe the answer is yes. Yes, because God reproves those who He loves. Yes, because Jesus tells the churches in revelation what He has against them. I understand the argument of grace, but it is grace that we are not dead. Paul says that we cannot sin so that grace can abound. To think that we are somehow fully immune from the effects of sin and the wrath of God is to forget the seriousness of sin. The wages of sin is death. Paul also said that those grafted in (non-jews) cannot become prideful in being grafted in since if God would cut off branches from the original vine, surely He would cut off grafted in branches as well.
God had laid out rules and rituals for the Israelites to follow as a way for them to be set apart from the other nations and as a way for them to connect with God. Israel was meant to be a nation of priests but they didn't look any different from the other nations. The wealth began to represent the same things as the other nations and in turn, God turned all the sacred things over to the other nations.
What if faith was a 24/7 thing, like God asked of the Israelites, something that actually shaped who we are and what we do, with the church helping facilitate it but didn't try to make you come every day or only once a week. If faith was something more than church. We talk about “Jesus culture” but are we merely appropriating His name for our own pleasure rather than being transformed by the renewing of our minds on a daily basis? I think we then would truly be grafted in.
Can you legitimately say that you or the church gathering you attend could worship God without all the extra?