I am writing out of great concern for many people in the church right now. I have been thinking about this the past couple of days, and only now is God allowing me to put it on paper. I realize that many will not like much of what I will write here. My prayer however is that they will know my heart behind it. I encourage anyone to reach out to me if there is something you would like to talk about concerning this post.
The apostle Paul wrote several letters while sitting in a Roman jail. One such letter is the book of Philippians. Many commentators speak of Philippians as a book of joy, which is certainly true. In the opening chapter, Paul is telling the Philippian believers how he prays for them. In verses 9 and 10 Paul says he prays, “that your love may abound yet more and more in the knowledge and in all discernment, that you may approve things that are excellent so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” Paul is praying that the Philippian believers would have and use discernment. Discernment is related to wisdom, but takes it a step further. To discern something is to make a determination about something or someone. It is the ability to look deeper than what is readily seen or known on the surface. Why was Paul concerned about the Philippians having discernment? He says in verse 10 that they need discernment so that “you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” Paul was concerned for the holiness of the Philippian believers. He knew that the power of the Gospel came from the Holy Spirit, and flowed through the life of a believer who was pursuing holiness in their life. A polluted life lacks the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is where my concern for the church comes in. There have been several events over the course of the last week that have caused this angst in me. But on top of that, I am concerned about what we as believers are allowing into our lives. Last week, news broke of a particular author passing away after battling an infection. She proclaimed to be a Christian, and authored several best sellers aimed at Christians. I will not get into a debate on whether or not she was genuinely a disciple of Jesus or not. Only God knows the heart of a person. Yes, we are to look at the fruit of a person’s life, and that will give us an idea of where they stand with God. But ultimately, only God knows. My concern came in two waves. The first was reading many social media posts about this particular woman. If you didn’t see who they were talking about, but only read what was being written, you would have thought they were talking about Jesus. We can and should celebrate the life God gives us, but we should understand anything truly done for the kingdom is empowered and inspired by the Spirit, not us. As Paul says, “there is nothing good in me, that is my flesh.” My other cause of concern was how many took to social media to blast this particular woman, and in some instances appear to actually be celebrating her death. One went as far as to say that while they aren’t happy she is dead, they are pleased that she can no longer lead people astray with her false teachings. Leaving your personal feelings out of this, this was a married woman with children. Her husband and children are suffering the pain of losing a wife and mother. There is a time and a place to debate proper theology, and I love a good debate as much as the next person. However, the morning after a person dies is not that time, and certainly not on social media where her husband, children, or family might and will most likely one day see it. In both cases we see a lack of discernment. On top of this, I’m concerned with what we as Christians are allowing into our lives in the form of entertainment. We will willingly watch shows or movies that use inappropriate language, having sexual content, and take the name of the Lord in vain. In many cases, we become so desensitized to it, we don’t even notice it. This is the dulling and searing of our conscience that the Bible speaks of. I realize that if we didn’t watch every television show or movie or listen to every song that had those things we wouldn’t have much to watch or listen to. But I wonder if we realize what we are allowing into our lives. Because whatever enters through our eyes or ears makes its way to our mind, down into our heart, and ultimately out of our mouth and life. I certainly don’t want to sound holier than thou, because I am just as guilty. But as a pastor who gets to walk alongside believers and tries to help as the Lord allows, I see the devastating effects a lack of discernment is causing. It causes me to wonder in my mind, could this be why the church seems so impotent in our culture? Could this be part of the reason why many millennials and those younger are choosing to walk away from the church? When I bring this up, I hear people say, “well pastor you know that the closer we get to the end, the worse things will be, and the more people won’t care about God.” I agree with that for the most part, but that doesn’t mean that those who claim the name of Christ should be a part of it. That’s like when someone laments that their church isn’t growing, and someone tries to comfort them by saying, “well, it’s not just your church, it is every church.” I don’t want to be like the 75% of churches that have plateaued or are declining.
As believers, we are given a command in Scripture, “be holy for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). That is an Old Testament quote that Peter uses that is found in Leviticus 11:44. Paul would say that we are to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The word “transformed” there is the same word used in Matthew 17 to speak of the glory of God that shined through Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. In that moment on the mountain, the glory of who Jesus was shined through. It was a visible change because of what was on the inside. That is what Paul was getting at in Romans 12:1-2 when he talked about being “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Because the grace of God saved us, and the Holy Spirit lives inside of us; we are to be altogether different that we were before God saved us. Day by day as we surrender our life and will to God, He will change us and make us more like Jesus. But that won’t happen unless we let go of the things of this world and instead pursue Jesus.