Crossways Concepts

Because it is all about the cross...

Insights from the scripture as lead by the Holy Spirit

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Where Were You On Sunday Morning?

It is your birthday.  Your good friend comes to you with this lovely gift.  You just have to stop for a moment and admire the sheer beauty of the wrapping and the bow.  Your friend explains with obvious pride, how they had worked for weeks to find the perfect wrapping.  Then you open it up and find, to your great surprise, that the beautiful package is empty.  You look up questioningly and hear, “Oh my, I never thought about putting anything inside!”

The wrapping isn't the gift.  No matter how pretty, it doesn't make a gift.

I have been struck lately with how little church has to do with real Christianity.  Church is that wrapping paper that enhances the experience, but will never be the real deal.  Having church without having Christ in your life, is like having an empty gift box.  It is the trappings without the substance.

Yet, even today, as I found myself praying for a friend that was raised in the church, but does not go to church, I prayed that God would get him into a church.  While church can be a means to walking with Christ, it does not equate.  We go under the assumption that anybody that goes to church is Christian and that everybody that does not go to church has rejected Christ, however both assumptions are often false.  There are some dedicated Christians who, for one reason or another, do not go to church.  Furthermore, our churches have a shamefully-large population that do not walk with Christ.

Within our churches we have many, many people that are not CHRISTians so much as they are CHURCHians.  They seek the church, church activities and church friends to satisfy their needs. This seeking the things of the church precludes a seeking for the things of the Lord.  Notice how many new churches have 'Community' in their name; this trend shows a clear emphasis on the human interaction aspect of the church.  This comes at the cost of the Christ-relationship true value of a church.  It is not a surprise that concepts like the Holy Spirit and miracles are going out of vogue, those concepts are associated with a life in Christ.  Many modern-day church goers don't need Jesus, they have the church.

This problem is not unlike what Jesus saw in the Pharisees.  They sought to please God through careful attention to follow specific actions.  For us, we can easily find actions like going to church and participation in a Bible study as “doing our duty” toward God.  We see this as a quid pro quo situation in which we do these things for God and He is obligated to give us Heaven when we die.  It is a shame it doesn't work that way, especially for those that are counting on it.

For by grace you are saved, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift – not from works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Church can be an amazing, growing experience for the person who is truly seeking Christ.  There is no doubt that church can serve a valuable function in the life of a Christian.  It is just essential to remember that a non-Christian can also go to church and go through those same motions and not grow in Christ at all.  We have likely sat next to people in church that have no real walk with Christ.  Sadly, we may have sat next to them in leadership meetings or we may have even seen them in the pulpit.  Just because a person can say prayers in public or quote Bible verses does not mean that they love the Lord with all their heart, mind and soul.

We think of our mission field as being “out there”, but in many cases there are people who need rescued from eternal damnation that are right there in our church Sunday after Sunday.  This is especially sad, because these people may honestly believe that they are doing everything they need to be doing, so how could they possibly be headed anywhere but Heaven?

They have the wrapping paper without the gift.  It looks all nice on the outside, but it is empty inside.

You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men's bones and every impurity.  In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27-28)

We need to recognize that church-going does not necessarily equate to Christian.  Evangelism cannot end just because we are within the walls of our church, because there are still people that need Christ in there.  We also cannot assume that people who do not go to church are not our allies in the battle for the kingdom of Christ. The important thing isn't whether people are churched or unchurched, but whether they have Jesus.  We need to be open to see the people around us as Jesus does, not as the world does.

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Lexington, Ky