I am struck by how the Church continues to grow at impressive rates in countries that are altogether hostile toward Christianity, yet in the Western world the same Church is falling in a rapid decline. How can it be that Christians who are free to worship their God and to tell others about Him are trapped in a malaise while those who face great trials for sharing their faith are doing so with a rabid zeal? One of the great mysteries of Christianity is that it has always flourished under persecution. The more others have tried to stamp it out, the faster it grows. As a follower of Christ it is encouraging to see what is happening around the world, yet very discouraging to look in my own backyard. How much longer will the Western Church slumber? What must be done to bring a new awakening to our congregations?
Part of our problem is the abundance of our blessings. While this should be a good thing, we have instead indulged selfishly in what God has entrusted to us. What He intended to be used for His glory, we have hoarded for our own. In the Old Testament, the peoples would go up to the high places and worship their Asherah poles. God commanded that His people should no longer worship those, and indeed that they be torn down (2 kings 18:1-7). Today I believe our church buildings bear a marked resemblance to the ancient high places of worship. We fancifully adorn our buildings and often build them in desirable locations so that people can come from all around to worship there. Paul tells us that greed is a form of idolatry (Ephesians 5:5), which makes all us greedy people idolaters. I cringe at the notion that I have engaged in any form of idolatry; yet how can we not admit our greed when we spend lavishly on our own comforts while around the world children lie sick and dying, and while billions have never heard the message of the Gospel? We have been given much and we are clutching tightly to it. We do not share, but rather toss scraps to those in need. How can we imagine God is pleased? Is it any wonder the Western Church is in decline?
There is a cure for our troubles; there is a path away from our idolatry. The answer is Jesus Christ and a life lived fully for Him. We can no longer accept the traditions of the generations that have come before us. The Gospel has been systematically watered down until now it is good news only when it benefits us. We ignore passages of Scripture that would bring conflict or discomfort while we cling tightly to those that promise peace and rest. True peace and rest are found only in Christ, and will not reign in this world until His return. If you would have comfort in this world, the only means of obtaining it is by throwing yourself with total abandon into the arms of Jesus and allowing Him to lead you along His path. If we indulge in the pleasures of this world, then this world will be our reward. Look around at your inheritance; is it worth giving up Heaven for a place that daily plummets further into despair? If we will seek only the pleasure of following in the way God has commanded, then Christ will be our reward. Compared to anything else, I’ll take Jesus every time.
We have too long lived in darkness masquerading as light. The way to God is narrow, but it is well lit; the path is clear. Do we desire Jesus more than anything this world has to offer? Are we truly willing to sacrifice everything we have and know to follow in His footsteps? Can we let go of the idols that have insinuated themselves into our lives? We need to forget all that we think we know and learn to live only in the manner in which Christ instructed us. No more empty religion, no more alibis, and no more pretense. The call of Jesus is serious; it demands your total devotion and it demands your life. Are you willing to pay the cost? Am I? It’s time to throw away the dead and worthless idols of our greed and apathy. Let’s cast everything aside for Him; let’s truly follow Jesus.