Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. --Psalm 86:11

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Embracing the Unholy Church

It’s been said that the greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. As a Christian, I can certainly understand these sentiments and I might add that the same factors may be the greatest single cause of stagnation and frustration within the church.
I’m certainly aware of my own shortcomings. But as a student of God’s Word, I’m constantly confronted, with God’s desire for his people’s holiness and wholehearted devotion. As a member of the Christian community, I’m constantly confronted with our compromise and half-heartedness. If the God revealed in Scripture is really God, then he demands and deserves all our worship, service and allegiance. If Jesus really did witness to the truth, then we ought to follow him with reckless abandon even when it doesn’t make sense by the world’s standards (which it rarely does), even those tough teachings that we tame so they are palatable to less-than-sold-out disciples (e.g., Luke 14:25-35; Matthew 6:19-24; 7:13-27; 13:44-45).
I’m learning two things about the problem of church. First, if I’m going to be a positive member of the church, I’m going have to get over it. I’m have to constantly humble myself and remember that
  1. I’m not perfect either
  2. God’s grace to me compels me to show grace to others
  3. God is working even in immature believers, and he takes his time with them just like he does with me!
Second, I’ve learned that the flawed and fractured church is actually, paradoxically, a demonstration of God’s brilliance, grace and power for those with eyes to see it. It’s seems ridiculous to us, but God somehow finds joy in partnering with imperfect human beings to establish his kingdom on earth. He uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary. He uses the weak to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). He displays his power through weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He triumphs by dying (Rev 5:5-6). It seems crazy to us, but this “broken” church is actually God’s preferred method of displaying his glory to the world (2 Corinthians 3:7). He does it by transforming us, ever-so-slowly, by the power of his Spirit, into new creatures who display his glory in ever-increasing measure (2 Corinthians 3:18).
The truth that God loves and uses imperfect people to accomplish his perfect will should cause both frustrated believers and critical skeptics to pause and consider whether the source of our discontent is actually source of God’s joy and the exhibition of his wisdom.

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