Many years ago, before surrendering to Christ I was in the Army and spent two years in Vietnam. That war was different than previous wars because it was hard to identify the enemy. Due to that handicap situational awareness was of utmost importance. A war was being fought that we had not been prepared for, guerilla warfare. The Vietcong broke all the normal rules of conventional warfare. It was much like the war that the early Americans fought against the British, but now the tables were turned. Today the Church is in a similar situation, and likewise, it has not been prepared. Conventional rules do not apply; the Devil fights dirty. Consequently, the field of battle must be re-evaluated, old lessons re-learned, and our radar activated.
My conclusions are mine alone, deduced from a life with both eyes now open. But even with eyes open in a world of universal darkness a flawless map is my only hope. Many others having destroyed their idols and exposed the truth of pharisaism have exchanged them for, what? For exactly nothing, which they then preach with remarkable talent. It appears to me that there is no Christian life, either individual or collective, that reveals a true and simple Christian faith.
Excuse me if I say so, but Catholicism, Protestantism, and Anabaptism live like everyone else, think like everyone else, and react to everyday situations like everyone else. They are overcome by technology, share the same hopes and fears, feel crushed by world events, follow the same news, and regurgitate the same worn-out sermons as everyone else.
Let’s not kid ourselves. If this is the way it is, it means one thing, Christianity has become worldly. He ingests the same influences and is concerned and troubled over the same things, in the same way as others, with the same reactions. These reactions do not mean that this Christian has been sent into the world, but rather that he is of the world, worldly. I am not supposing that there are no ancient lingering characteristics of Christianity, I am sure there are. This does not mean that there isn’t a certain vocabulary brought over and other habits of piety, along with some inward faith, which has long since settled into a mere formality and survived.
On the one side, these Christians are mingled with the world, and on the other side, there is a strict forbearance from outside influence. The fact remains that for a long time, the Church has been nothing but an artificial gathering of essentially worldly people. Unfortunately, in one way or the other, the world has been brought into the Church.
Christians who are conformed to the world appeal to the world for correct value judgments. Whether they be proper family government, providing for the self and/or community, work ethics, modesty, science, and technology, or purity from such things. They believe in action, efficiency, and economics. These things take first place. This is the world, and it has defined who we are. The Protestant thinks like the world and uses its means to promote Christ since those means work so well in his worldly profession. They can’t understand why those same means shouldn’t be used in the Church, after all, they are effective.
Why can’t the same marketing and sales devices be used to promote Church growth and book sales? Why shouldn’t God bless marketing and Church growth if the word “Christian” is incorporated in its advertising somewhere? Why shouldn’t good marketing be used to encourage giving and promote development? These methods are just tools of the trade, so why not use them? It has been shown that God can and will use good marketing if they are sanctified enough with prayer. People must be convinced in some way, and good, even sensational, promotions are known to work.
The average Christian or person is unaware of any difference between a good sales campaign and a good sermon. The standards of the average Christian, between sales and sermons, are so vague, and the demands of his faith so shallow, that he is unaware of any contradiction between the world’s ways and the life of true faith. One person adopts television or radio, another the internet, another book sales, and never questions the psychological use and effect of these devices. If they are sold and distributed as “Christian” then they are valid. If they come with a known or reputable endorsement, we relax our guard. If our particular brand of Christianity is approved, we join the party. We are so concerned about being accepted by the group that swallowing a camel is not a great concern. Is it logical that since the Church uses all these devices of the world, they should make the things of the Spirit dependent on them also? And no one sounds the alarm.
I admit that I too live in the same dark world as everyone else. I know that I need more light yet even the flame of a candle can expel some of this creeping heavy darkness that hides the path. The lures of competing salvation come in from every angle each with a different message claiming, “This is the way follow me.” So many saviors and so little time. Of course, a few are more credible than others, but they all want to box you into their designer escape routes, lay a heavy yoke upon your neck, and claim you as their own. What is a person to do? The answer is “Rest.” Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The rest and freedom given by the institutional Churches do not give the rest and freedom prescribed by Jesus. “They tie up heavy loads (rules and guidelines) that are hard to carry (or consistently maintain) and put them on people’s shoulders (make them obligatory), but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. The world of men is made of rules and laws that must be obeyed, and penalties imposed for disobeying. Men, having no understanding of what Christ did for us cannot comprehend a world without laws so they understand Christ to be replacing the old laws with His own Laws. How is it possible for men to live without the constraints of law and punishment in a sinful world? The whole power of the law was its ability to condemn the person for non-compliance. So, did Jesus remove one law just to replace it with another? What kind of salvation is that? The whole idea of rest and freedom is the removal of that thing which made it impossible to find rest or freedom. Christ gave us freedom by nailing the harsh demands to His own cross and taking it out of the way. In this way He opened the door for us to keep the law without enduring the penalty for guilt and non-compliance. Where there is no law there is no guilt.
This was the whole idea of re-writing His New (Last Will and) Testament and canceling out His Old (Last Will and) Testament. Jesus changed His “Will” and then He died sealing His wishes forever. Anyone who will stand before the Great Judge on Judgment Day and plead their case from a Document that has been superseded by a more current Document will be handed over to the Bailiff for trying to perpetrate a fraud, thrown out of Court, and punished. Nearly the whole Church today is putting Christians under a Law/laws that our forefathers were not able to keep. Ignorance will be no excuse on that day.
Christ has released us from ALL laws, we are free, totally FREE. But don’t let your freedom be an excuse for the flesh, and don’t let anyone condemn you by putting you back under a law that they themselves cannot keep. Freedom is not understood, even by the Church. The Prodigal son was given his freedom to live lavishly in a foreign land, but when all the resources were gone, he came to his senses and crawled back to his father pleading for forgiveness. His father did not condemn him, but his brother who lacked understanding and worked hard in his position as a son expected a “favored” status; but that lost sheep was now saved and welcomed home, not to the shackles of strict obedience but to the freedom of true love, which he now understood totally.
The situation called for something totally different, freedom and rest.