Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fighting against a Fluffy Gospel

I am concerned for the American church.
I am concerned about what we are teaching, and what we are being taught.
I am concerned with how easily we accept and digest fluff.
We are consuming empty calories, friends.

This morning, we attended a Presbyterian church down the road from where we are staying this summer. The sermon preached was lacking, to say the least. To sum up, the basic gist of the Reverend’s message was as follows:

Don’t be a slave to the law. Christianity is not a list of “dos” and “don’ts.”
Rather, we must listen to the Spirit of God inside of us. He will guide us.
St. Augustine said, “Love God, and do what you will.”
Notice Augustine said, “Love God” first, and then do what you will.
So love God.

I’m pretty sure my eyes were visibly squinty and my head crocked to the side. He gave the congregation short, yummy bites of good things, but no meal.

Now let’s just say I’m an average congregant. I attend church on Sunday, which is where I receive most of my Biblical teaching for the week. What does this message say to me? How does it become incarnated in my life?

Christianity is not a list of laws.
That’s great! So what IS it? What’s this Christian life all about?
We must listen to the Spirit.
How do I know it’s the Spirit, or merely myself?
St. Augustine said, “Love God, and do what you will.”
What does that mean? Does that mean I can do whatever I want? That doesn’t sound right. What’s the context of this quote?
Love God.
Um. Ok. I think I love God. I FEEL like I love God. But what does love actually MEAN? How does true love for God manifest in my life?

I wonder how many people today were asking these questions. I sincerely hope they were, because they are legitimate questions to ask.

One of our teachers for New Staff Training, Jerry, told us a story about his encounter with a Starbucks barista. The barista asked Jerry what he was reading, and Jerry (a pastor) answered that he was preparing for his sermon next Sunday. The barista said something like, “Oh, the Bible. I can’t really get into an ancient book that tells me what I can and can’t do.” Jerry replied, “The Bible isn’t about what we can and can’t do. It’s God’s revelation to us about who He is.”

I’m there with the Reverend about how Christianity is MORE than “the law.” We’ve been taught that again and again. But if we are to live a life of freedom in the Spirit, we need to know what the Lord wants. We need to have a clear understanding of the revelation of the scriptures, and how we fit into the Biblical narrative. We need to spend time truly seeking the Lord with our whole hearts, asking God how we might be transformed to see his Kingdom on earth.

Yes!, the Christian life is a free life. But as we learn more about God through our study of the Bible, our prayer is that our desires will line up with those of Christ Jesus. And how do we know when we are in line with the Spirit? Our actions and desires must reflect the teaching of the Bible and our Lord.

And as we read the Bible, friends, I would caution us all against the habit of reading to “get something out” of scripture for ourselves. Let’s remember that the scripture is God’s story to the world, and we are currently a part of that story. As we read, let us keep in mind that our charge is to bring glimpses of the glorious restoration of ALL in His Kingdom to a fallen world. What has been started will be completed in the coming of Christ.

“Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God's Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.”

2 Corinthians 1:20-22, The Message