Christianity is struggling.
Many young adults leave the church once they get a taste of the world, usually in their college-age years. Others drop out while teenagers. They may attend church because Mom and Dad drag them in, but their heart left long ago.
Before the emails start rolling in, I know some of you think there are thriving churches out there. Most of the congregation is under fifty years of age, the music is toe-tapping, and the preaching addresses the day’s problems.
The problem is we judge if a church is thriving by what is happening inside the church, but if you want to know if the church is thriving – look at society. How much the church is moving society toward God is the actual test.
In 2 Chronicles 7:14, we see that the actions of God’s people change the world around them. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
The land (the nation; society) experiences healing when the church, God’s people, gets serious about their Christianity. Some will refute this by saying the church was at its best during persecution. After all, the church thrived in its infancy, yet the Romans fed the Christians to the lions. True, but notice what happened. Rome transformed from a people that worshiped multiple gods to a city known for its Christian heritage. How? While the Romans fed the Christians to the lions, the Christians humbled themselves, prayed, sought God’s face, and turned from their wicked ways. Christianity then changed Rome and later all of Western Civilization.
Mass revivals occurred in the 1700s and 1800s for the same reason: God’s people took God seriously and applied His Word to their hearts and lives.
When Peter walks on water in Matthew 14, he begins to sink when he takes his eyes off Jesus. Matthew 14:30, “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”
Many Christians are like Peter on the water. They look at everything around them. Christians are full of anxiety, fear, and stress because they keep their eyes on the things around them and not on Christ.
Peter did call out to Jesus, and Jesus came to the rescue, but we need to remember that Jesus called Peter onto the water while the wind and waves were doing their thing. When our eyes are upon Jesus, Jesus can plop us into an undesirable situation and keep us at peace if we continue to keep our eyes on Him. History tells us multiple stories of Christians being burned at the stake. As the flames consumed them, they sang praises to God. How could they do this? We’ve all burnt ourselves. Just touching a hot pot is painful enough. How could they not scream? The martyrs’ hearts and minds were set on Christ, not on the treacherous circumstances in which they found themselves.
Many of today’s Christians set their hearts and minds on themselves and the things around them.
Peter’s eyes were on Jesus before he stepped foot on the water; that is how he could take the steps he did. Today’s Christians tend to jump in the water and then try to find Jesus to help them.
Example: Instead of asking Christ which car to buy (looking to Him from the beginning), we go to Him when the money seems insufficient to pay the bills (going to him when the waves overtake us).
Another example: Many young Christians get to the age when the hormones start flaring up. Instead of asking God daily for Him to send them a godly person to date and eventually marry (taking the issue to God before it becomes an issue), the choice is made because of physical attraction or some other worldly cause. The result is usually an unhappy marriage, a Christian trying to live a Christian life with no support from the spouse, or the Christian living the life of a prodigal son. I will not address the following generations of such a union that live a godless life destined for hell.
How can a Christian keep Christ first? How can we look to Him?
As 2 Chronicles tells us – be humble – realize that Christ is number one. We cannot run our lives correctly; only He can. Understand that His Word, not our opinion, is the ultimate authority.
Pray – Prayer is not reading God a list of sick people at church. Prayer is standing before the throne of God with your petitions (Hebrews 4:16). The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing and always pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Luke 18:1, 21:36; 2 Thessalonians 1:11). We do this by keeping God in the forefront of our mind. “Lord, should I say what I am thinking?” “Lord, should I buy this thing on the shelf?” When God talks to us through His Word, He is serious. When we speak to Him, He wants us to be serious. Prayer should mean something and be preventive medicine, more than a request to fix things.
Seeking His face – Look to God first, not as a last resort. The importance of the Scripture cannot be overemphasized. Seek His opinion on things, what He thinks about this or that, and get to know who He is. Seek Him – you will find Him in His book.
Turn from our wicked ways – the step above, seeking His face, will cause us to either run from God or run to Him. If we run to Him, we will turn from our wicked ways. We will love Him so much that we will want to please Him. As Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Here is a verse to ponder – Hebrews 12:2, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Preacher Tim Johnson is Pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Indiana. His weekly column “Preacher’s Point” may be found at: www.preacherspoint.wordpress.com