Saturday, September 10, 2011

Avoiding a Shipwreck

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
Hebrews 2:1

So many Christians these days are bored with the gospel. Both the seeker and emergent models of church and ministry are sad testimonies to this truth.

Many seeker churches express their boredom with the gospel through their push to entertain the unsaved masses with songs crafted to make the person in the pew feel good about themselves, with the worship of God as an afterthought. Diligent study of the Word of God is relegated to home studies, for the seeker pulpit is given over to pep talks and monologues.

The gospel, if and when it is accurately proclaimed in such churches, is all-too-often not a message to which the congregation looks forward. Instead, the gospel is looked back upon as a message that was intended for a brief and specific moment in time in the life of the believer, which facilitated a person joining the Christian country club. Sometimes in seeker churches the gospel is even looked down upon as being a message that is beneath the now experienced club member. Christians in these churches see themselves as having moved on to more creative and relevant ways of expressing truths about Jesus Christ--turning to flawed, man-centered methodologies like "friendship evangelism." And they look to things Francis of Assisi didn't say for methodological justification, instead of looking to what the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles said and did as their source of evangelistic direction.

In response to the Vegas lounge approach to ministry of many seeker churches, the emergents have shunned philosophies of ministry that have turned some pulpits into pathetic comedy club stages and have turned some "worship teams" into the stuff of which American Idol blooper reels are made. However, many emergent churches, having no more love for the gospel than the seeker churches, in an attempt to right the evangelical ship, have swung the methodological pendulum in the opposite direction, whizzing right past the position of equilibrium (biblical balance) to an amplitude that extends well-beyond the realm of biblical Christian faith.

Instead of the glitz and glamor of the seeker churches, the emergent churches have donned what can be called a new gnosticism. They believe they have attained a new level of spirituality and knowledge of the Divine, preferring a mix of mysticism and post-modernism, warm candlelight and conversation, to the spiritually shallow Foosball and pizza meetings of their youth group days. And in so doing, they have set aside the true gospel of Jesus Christ for a more sophisticated version of gnosticism and the social gospel. In an attempt to rebel against the theology and ministerial philosophies of the evangelicalism of their parents, the emergents have denied, even mocked, doctrines such as the depravity of man, the wrath of God, Hell, the substituionary atonement of Christ, justification by grace alone through faith alone, and the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

The result: the apathetic shipwreck of millions of souls--professing Christians comfortable in their sin and bored with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The cause: a loss of the centrality of the gospel in the personal life of the believer. "Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it."

As Christians, we must proclaim the gospel to ourselves every day of our lives. This is not to say that the Christian needs to be reborn again every day. Not at all. But we must continually look back from whence we came. The apostle Paul encouraged his son in the faith, Timothy, to do the same. "Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Timothy 6:12). Paul told Timothy to continually look back to that moment in time in which he first publicly professed his faith in Jesus Christ--the time when he declared his belief in the only gospel that has the power of God for salvation.

The writer of Hebrews has a nautical scene in mind. He uses the emphatic phrase "pay much closer attention," having in mind a ship securely moored to its dock. Christian, the gospel you first believed is the gospel to which you must remain securely fashioned. You will never outgrow the gospel. You must never, in your mind, become so spiritually mature or theologically astute that the gospel becomes little more than a quaint remembrance or something too elementary to restore your joy, reform your heart, rekindle your passion, and renew your mind.

If you allow this to happen, if you loosen the gospel tether holding your Christian life in place, you will soon be adrift on a sea of apathy, heading to a spiritual shipwreck. That's what the writer of Hebrews likely had in mind when he penned the phrase "lest we drift away from it"--the picture of a boat that has slipped away from the dock, set adrift and heading for the rocks.

The leaders of the seeker and the emergent movements allowed this to happen. They failed to stay securely fastened to the gospel of Jesus Christ and are now the Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:19-20) of our day.

Avoid this at all cost, Christian! Avoid the apathy that has shipwrecked the faith of so many present-day professing believers. Avoid the indifference toward and the loss of excitement, motivation, and passion for the gospel that has overtaken so many. Do not become like them.

Preach the gospel to yourself every day. Let it resonate in your heart and your mind. Remember. Look back to what the Lord did for you through the proclamation of the gospel. Look back to the day when you first made the good confession in front of witnesses. Hold fast the gospel! Do not allow yourself to be set adrift onto a sea of spiritual boredom.

Evangelists, never let the gospel become little more than something you do on the weekends. Let not the highlight of the gospel be your preaching of it, but rather let it be your believing in it and your loving of it that brightens the darkest day and warms the coldest night. And remember, you are not the gospel. Jesus Christ is the gospel.

May the gospel and its Author forever be the source of your passion, excitement, zeal, and love--love for Christ, love for His Church, and love for the lost.

Don't quit!