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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Airbag Christianity: Cushioning the Blow of a Head-on Collision with Jesus Christ

There comes a point in every Christian's life -if you are serious about your Faith- that you'll be faced with a decision that will cost you. Mine came today.
Last year, a friend of mine I've known since childhood took his stand. He is a pastor back home, and when Delaware was voting on same-sex marriage, George decided he could not stand by and watch the state legislate this law into existence without speaking up. He did. It was his crossroads moment. Whether you agree with him or not, he made a conscious decision on principle and he stood.
I became a Christian at a fairly young age. I was eight or nine years old. So I didn't get saved from much as far as a personal history of sinful behavior. Nor was I simply bull-rushed to the altar after Sunday School and told to repeat a prayer. My first Sunday School teacher was a sweet man named Bill Bell, and he carefully explained to me that I was a sinner, just like everyone else. One sin or a million sins was not the issue. The issue was my nature. I prayed with him that Sunday, and I got saved. Saved from my nature. Saved from the same condemnation that awaits all mankind. I was born again. Because the first time only resulted in a lost soul entering this world. You don't hear these terms much anymore. You hear "engage" "interaction" and the ever popular "relationship."  Listen...I have a relationship with the mailman, because I need my mail. But I don't know a thing about him. We don't hear clear-cut messages about salvation anymore. We hear about "manifestations of the Spirit" "Prosperity" "God wants you to be super duper awesome" "God is love" "Speak the Kingdom into your life!" and "Go claim your destiny in Jesus name."  Around Williamson County, where I live we hear about well-drilling in lower Bungaloor, we hear 10 weeks about the Holy Spirit and His work, we hear about the latest Duck-call maker and how he is our new buddy, but we don't hear "Don't be so surprised that I have told you, you must be born again!"  (John 3:7)  We announce on Social Media when the Governor visits our church, or the grand opening of a brand new satellite campus where no teaching pastor actually exists and instead the main pastor drops down on a viewing screen like the jumbo-tron at Cowboy Stadium. "Heeeeeeere's Pastor!"
We have prayer lines where believers stand and get prayed for. That's wonderful. But then we close the service and send the masses home with a gesture of the hand and pronouncement of a benediction, but without the opportunity to avail themselves of the altar, and do their business with God.
We'll occasionally applaud the story of how brother so-and-so came to church, loved it, and then a few weeks later he prayed with his neighbor and accepted Jesus. Meanwhile, we ignore the fact that every single week hundreds of brother so-and-so's are in the seats in our mega building and we preach an awesome sermon about the Christian life without ever asking them, directly and forcefully, if they actually have that life within.
The Cross of Calvary is the defining moment of world history. It was the head-on-collision moment between mankind and God. One does not come to the cross and leave unphased. One does not meet the Christ of God in his torment and suffering on Calvary, and it deliver only a glancing blow. Calvary is a face-first, head-on collision. Your metal gets twisted and your frame is bent. The window through which you viewed this world gets shattered and the paint that made it seem so beautiful gets scarred. And when the impact is over and you grind to a halt on the path that lead you to this hill on the outskirts of do not continue on the same path. You awake from the fog of the way you have been living, and you shake your head to clear the cobwebs, and you check to see what it was that you hit. And then you see the fearsome menace of the cross and you see it has not moved.  The Cross of Jesus Christ is the immovable object and the irresistible force.
It draws you to itself and then it breaks you on impact. It is not a sideswipe. It is not a glancing blow. It is most definitely not a hit and run...Jesus doesn't just drop in, make a few corrections, and then leave you with his insurance card in hand. You slam face-first into the cruelty of Calvary. There is blood. There is damage to your old frame. There is noise and violence as the nature you were born with is demolished and destroyed and the new life of Christ Himself is put in it's place. There are no airbags to cushion the impact.
But the church today has tried to become just airbag to soften the impact of the most impacting moment in human history.
I can't play that game anymore.
When I was 14, I sat beside a campfire at Summit Lake Camp in Emmitsburg MD. My church didn't have a Youth Pastor at the time and so we didn't go to summer camp.  I went with another church because some friends invited me. That Friday night I sat by that fire, and listened to the preacher, and heard God calling me. I said yes. From that day forward, He has had a plan in place. I spent my entire high school years thinking about that plan and hoping to see it happen. One day I read in Ezekiel this verse, and it radically changed my life. It's Ezekiel 22:30  “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one."
I don't know why that verse would leap off the page at me at age 14. I don't know why in 1977 I was already so acutely aware of the path we were on as a nation and how big a role the Church was playing in where we were heading. In hindsight, this played a large part in my affinity with Liberty University, and with Dr. Falwell. I saw that verse as literal. And I saw "the land" as America. No, I do not believe this verse specifically applies to America. I believe this verse is typical of any nation that claims Christianity as it's base and it's founding doctrine. I believe this verse applies to any nation that is founded upon principles derived from Christian doctrine. I do not believe America was ever a "Christian Nation" in the classical sense. We are not a Theocracy. But when the founding Fathers decided to build this nation on principles, they chose the principles outlined in the Bible. They chose to build a nation based on Faith in God and they crafted laws that favored the practice of religion, particularly Christianity
I look at that verse today -36 years later- and it still feels as ominous and still moves my soul. There is a gap in the wall. The hedge has fallen down. God is seeking righteous men to stand in the gaps and make up the hedge so that He would not have to destroy the land, but He finds none.
He is not finding the voices of ones crying in the wilderness. He is not finding clarion calls to repentance and redemption in the Osteens, Paula White's and Rob Bell's of this world. He is not finding it in the mega churches of Williamson county where half the population starts their Sunday morning and leaves without a clear-cut presentation of the doctrine of salvation. How is it that Tennessee is the most churched state in America, and the most corrupt( list of corrupt states )
Because we have preached a grace that is a disgrace in the eyes of God.
I believe in grace. My life was changed by reading “The Ragamuffin Gospel” because I had become enslaved by legalism. But we have overreacted to the legalistic chains of the 60’s and 70’s and 80’s and bound ourselves with a chain just as insidious. The chain of deception that everything is permissable. We do not preach a Cross-of-Christ experience that bends our metal, and twists our frame, and scars our paint, and breaks the windows we see ourselves through. We've preached airbag theology. We've softened the impact of the very cross that Jesus died on. Jesus Himself made this bold self-pronouncement in Matthew 21: 40-44
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?  “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.  Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
That’s not a fender-bender. That’s not a cheap-grace, imitation gospel. And that’s not universalism. You have two choices and those choices become your destiny. When you come to the Cross of Christ you will either fall on it in surrender, and be broken and rebuilt...or the Cross of Jesus will fall on you in Judgment, and you will be shattered and destroyed. There is no middle ground. There is no cheap repair, and discount paint job. Where is this message today?
I can’t escape this anymore. I can’t sit back and watch this country slip into the grasp of evil and not speak up. The church is to be the salt and the light and she is neither.
36 years ago, God burned this into my heart. He apparently wasn't kidding.

More on that tomorrow... 

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