|Vol. 16 No. 12 December 2014||
Several articles appear around our brotherhood from time to time dealing with comments made by some who have left our fellowship. One emphasized how preachers are leaving our pulpits due to the church enforcing tradition as truth, specifically in rejecting instrumental music, which the author said to be a church of Christ tradition. Jeff Jenkins, Gospel preacher in Lewisville, Texas responded to such, “Isn’t it interesting that when some want to change the church they state that any doctrine they are not happy with is just ‘our tradition’?”
I also read a post on Facebook where a Gospel preacher rebutted the idea another offered that the church is losing members because worship is antiquated and irrelevant. The focus was how we need to change if we’re going to keep younger members and attract others. Years ago, these concepts were expressed in the Gospel Advocate magazine where an older preacher recounted his conversation with a younger preacher. They were talking about the current state of the church, and the older preacher emphasized the need to remain true to Scripture. The younger preacher responded, “Your generation has had the opportunity to make the church what it wanted, now it’s our turn.” The emphasis implied that one can do with the church whatever he feels is needed or desirable for the age in which it exists.
Obviously, from these examples, there are those advocating changes in the church. There are changes that need to be made, certainly, to lead us to a greater zeal for worship and service to God, to a more committed walk of faith and to a deeper focus on that which is spiritual. As God is supreme (Hebrews 12:28-29) and all authority in heaven and earth belongs to Christ (Matthew 28:19), He being head over His body, the church (Ephesians 1:22-23), we must make sure everything we say and do conforms to His will for us. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Of course, we must always ensure our worship is in spirit as well as in truth; both are equally essential. However, in all the hubbub for change, there is one factor that has been forgotten, an essential truth that must be taken into consideration. Our worship, our lives and all that we say and do is not meant to simply please ourselves, to gratify our desires and to have us simply go away feeling good about ourselves. The focus of all we say and do, especially in worship, but also in all of life, is to glorify God. God comes first, not us. His will supersedes our fleshly desires. We don’t need others to try and convert the church into establishments that do this for us, as the world is already filled with such and are eager for more to join them. The church is to be radically different from the world around it; it confronts us with a holy God and our sinfulness, with a Savior who loves us and shed his blood for us from that love and a people whose thirst for righteousness and holiness can only be quenched by a dedicated relationship with a righteous and holy God.
Our feelings must be conformed to God’s will for us. The word of God is truth, which separates us from the world to Him (John 17:17), and offers us what we so desperately need. We don’t need an emotional Band-Aid that can’t fix our problems, but the cure for sin’s condemnation. Should we feel encouraged after worship? Of course, because we have emptied ourselves of ourselves and allowed God to fill us according to His will, not ours. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Paul affirmed this of himself when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
One popular author has commented:
Instead of teaching the New Testament Gospel—where sinners are called to submit to Christ—the contemporary message is exactly the opposite: Jesus is here to fulfill all your wishes. Likening Him to a personal assistant or a personal trainer, many churchgoers speak of a personal Savior who is eager to do their bidding and help them in their quest for self-satisfaction or individual accomplishment.
This is the world’s view of Christ and Christianity, but it must not be ours as New Testament Christians. Allow God to be God in your life and become His willing slave, glorifying Him and yielding your life to His transforming touch. Don’t seek the world in the church, and in you, but to be transformed into the image of Christ instead.
Do you not know, that to whom you yield yourselves as slaves in obedience, his slaves you are whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? Thanks be to God, that, though you were slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart the pattern of teaching which was delivered to you, and then, having been made free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:16-18)
[Editor’s Note: So called Christendom and even some members of the church and several congregations among the churches of Christ resemble, in a sense, a dog that is experiencing uncontrollable convulsions – the tail is wagging the dog instead of the dog wagging the tail! Whenever any religious person or church thinks that pleasing human desires is the first order of business, it is as unseemly and tremendously more tragic as a tail wagging the dog. Likewise, whenever people or a congregation imagine that worship can be any way fickle humans want, the tail is wagging the dog again. If the Bible is not God’s Word speaking to us today, then mankind has no communication from God and no guidance by which to please God now and make preparation to meet God in Judgment (Amos 4:12; Hebrews 9:27). On the other hand, if the Bible is God’s communication to us today, then we must abide by the authority thereof now and prepare to meet God up close and personally. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
According to an AP news report, archaeologists have unearthed a 3,500 year old door to the afterlife. The door came from the tomb of User, the chief minister of Queen Hatshepsut, a long ruling 15th century B.C. queen from the New Kingdom, with a famous mortuary temple near Luxor in southern Egypt. User was vizier for 20 years, acquiring the titles of prince and mayor of Luxor. He was in charge of running the day-to-day bureaucracy for the kingdom.
The door found in User’s tomb, actually a recessed niche, is something found in nearly all ancient Egyptian tombs. It was meant to take the spirits of the dead to and from the afterworld. It was covered with religious texts, which would aid one’s entry to and from the afterlife. For the ancient Egyptians, the tomb was not just a place to lay a corpse, but it was the home of the deceased, supplied with all the goods needed to exist after death. This door, then, allowed the souls of the deceased to travel in and out of the burial chamber.
Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end” (3:11). That every culture has some type of belief in life after death affirms humanity does indeed have eternity set within us. The problem is finding the correct way to life after death, to eternal life. Reading incantations on a false door is no stranger than what other civilizations have concocted from their imaginations to give them some meaning for life. However, as Solomon also pointed out, while we have eternity set within us, we are finite beings, and we are unable to ascertain the will of God on our own, without His help, without His revealing it to us.
There is a door through which entry to eternity is available, but that door is Christ. Jesus said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). The way to Him as our door to eternal life is narrow, and few find it (Matthew 7:14). The reason so few find it is so few are willing to truly listen to what Jesus says in His word. Jesus told His disciples, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63). We can’t dilute the message of salvation with our own ideas, for then we have created a different gospel, not the Gospel of life (Galatians 1:6-9). It is the words of our Lord that will judge us on the last day (John 12:48), so we must yield our will to His will, conform our life to His, walk in His path and enter through Him to find life. “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
Jesus wants us to find eternal life through Him. To the church in Laodicea He said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with Him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). The path is available, the way to the door open to everyone and the promise of life real. Eternity is set in our hearts, but only when we set our hearts on Christ will we find it!