While listening to sermons on tithing, I’ve heard preachers say that the way people spend their money is one of the best indicators of their true values, and I believe there’s a lot of truth in this statement. But let’s switch it around and apply this statement to the church instead of the individual. I don’t think anything reveals the true values of the institutional church quite like the way it spends money.
Every Sunday morning, lots of people head out their door to “go to church”, or as some people put it, to attend a “church service”. The vast majority of these services will have a remarkable similarity, no matter what brand, denomination, or non-denomination the church is. Everyone will sit shoulder-to-shoulder, facing a stage on which a select few people will be actively involved in “ministering” to everyone else. There will probably be a greeting, a time of singing, some form of announcements, a sermon, and possibly an altar call. The style may vary to some degree but the format will be pretty much the same in every church; so much so that you would think there must be some place in the Bible that clearly outlines this particular format that everyone is following. But the reality is that nowhere in the scriptures does the Bible give any kind of support for an order of service at all, much less the particular order of service that most churches follow so religiously.
Man’s highest calling is to put God first. Jesus made this clear when he said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matt 22:37). This statement encompasses everything within our being, and Jesus drives the point home by using the word all three times. All that we are is to be directed towards God with loving devotion. Jesus’ statement of man’s ultimate purpose has great clarity in its simplicity, yet is very profound in its all-consuming goal.
Just as man’s highest calling and purpose is found only when we put God first, our greatest failings have their roots in putting ourselves first. Original sin was the result of Adam and Eve putting themselves before God, putting their reasoning before His command, and giving in to the temptation that they were somehow missing out if they remained under God’s authority. When man chose to put himself first, sin, and all the suffering and misery it brings, found entrance into the world (Rom 5:12), and our relationship with God was broken by our rebellion (Rom 1:21, 25).
The gospel is God’s message to fallen man, telling us how we can be restored to right relationship with Him. Since the root problem is man putting himself first, the goal of the gospel is to restore God to His rightful position of being first in our life in every way. Yet, the gospel is frequently reduced to a people-centered message of personal salvation. The message I hear many Christians and churches proclaiming is “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. While this is true, it’s only a portion of the truth and lacks the power of the gospel of the Bible that restores man back into right relationship with God.
Most Christians consider preaching to be a fundamental requirement of the church, and the Sunday morning sermon is commonly revered as the most important event that takes place in the church each week. While there’s no doubt the Bible strongly endorses the ministry of God’s word, is the church’s traditional notion of preaching consistent with the way preaching is presented in the Bible?
The Bible has a lot to say about the love and goodness of God, and these truths are incredibly positive and reassuring. But it’s a mistake to isolate personally encouraging scriptures and treat them as if this is all the Bible has to say about God; as if he is always this way and cannot be any other way.
The definition of cherry-picking is to choose and take only the most beneficial items from what is available. This approach to the Bible is a temptation that is quite easy to fall into, but it results in a distorted view of God himself, and an inaccurate assessment of where we personally stand with him. If we value an honest and healthy relationship with the Lord, we must persistently seek and welcome everything that God says to us throughout the scriptures.
In Christianity, there are beliefs and practices that are sacred. They are sacred because they originate from God; things that God has instructed his people to believe and to do. If something is sacred, then it should be honored, advanced, and defended. There are many things that Christians should rightly treat as sacred. However, there are things that many Christians hold to be sacred that are not sacred at all, but are merely traditions. The way we know what originates from God, and therefore is sacred, is the Bible, the word of God. If a belief or practice is not taught or modeled in the Bible, then it must be treated as a tradition, not as something sacred.
There are several passages in the Bible that talk about truth being “hidden” from some people while being “revealed” to others. Seeing, understanding, and walking in truth is foundational to a right relationship with the Lord, so it’s rather disturbing to read in the scriptures that some people have important truths that are kept from them. The problem isn’t that the truth is too complicated or too difficult to understand. The problem is that people are being denied the opportunity to see and understand truth that is actually right in front of them. This doesn’t happen indiscriminately. God doesn’t draw straws to determine who gets it and who doesn’t. There are principles at work that determine whether truths are hidden from us or revealed to us, and ultimately it’s the condition of our heart that sets us up to see or leaves us in the dark. Continue reading “God Hides Things From The Wise”