Do you recall using “Cliff Notes” when you were in high school or college? While the company will tell you they encourage reading the original literature, most know that the Cliff Notes are the “highlights” or “30,000 foot view” written by educators, that give you just enough information you can pass a test, or write a book report, without actually having to read the original literature. In fact? They make their money on the idea that you don’t have, or don’t want to take the time to. While this may work for a passing grade in high school or college, this type of mentality is damaging and damning our society when it comes to knowing the truth in God’s word.
We live in a world where information is fed to us at a rapid rate and attention spans decrease from minutes into seconds by the day. Meaningful conversations were first reduced to email, then texts, and now simply a picture or emoticon that is supposed to suffice as “communication”. To actually sit down and read the bible? Isn’t happening. Yet many people are feeling depressed, anxious, fearful… the Lord is speaking to their hearts and they are feeling the tug that they need more. They are contemplating their existence and purpose. Many often deem God a “last resort”. When all else fails? We pray, we seek. I have heard many say… I think I need to “find God” now and see if that helps. And so the journey starts.. and also the Danger Zone. This is where someone starting their journey MUST avoid the Cliff Notes, pick up the bible and learn the truth. Someone else can’t walk your journey for you. The bible is where you find the truth that many churches are no longer preaching.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32
Most people are very receptive to my testimony and an ensuing discussion about the gospel plan of salvation that provides hope. But there are always a few who are fighting the urge to humble themselves and admit they need a Savior. They are often very logical and have trouble with faith, and when I talk to them about Jesus I almost readily get “Well what do YOU think about…(insert any popular topic that causes conflict)”. I tell them God doesn’t want my opinion, and neither should they. They should seek the truth for themselves. Start by praying that God will speak to their hearts, then pick up the bible and read it. Not just the verses that sound pleasing, but ALL of it. Once you start your quest for truth? God will reveal loving conviction if change is required, as well as confirmation of what’s right.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” – 2 Timothy 3:16
Reasons I have personally heard people say they pick a church: I like the music they play during worship. They serve coffee and donuts and I can go dressed however I want. They have outreach projects that give items to the poor. They cuss and drink from the pulpit! They keep it real and relatable! They never preach on hell, it’s more like “life lessons” I can use. The service times start late enough I can sleep in…
“But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with the inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and “All who belong to the Lord must turn away from evil.” – 2 Timothy 2:19
There is one KEY element missing from the reasons I heard for attendance: Jesus! Or to go a bit further… I attend because they preach the truth, straight from the bible. ALL of the truth, not just the parts that make us feel warm and fuzzy, but the parts that correct us and lead us on the right path. The parts that remind us that Jesus is alive and interactive in every detail of our lives. The part where they feel the love and the Holy Spirit when they walk into the building. If you are going to a church for any reason other than seeking to gain a personal relationship with Jesus? You might as well go to a movie and be entertained. Freedom only comes from surrender, full surrender, and repentance.
“In the last days there will be difficult times…. they will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that.” – 2 Timothy 3:5
Sadly? we live in a society where many don’t know about Jesus, or the bible, and so when they start their search? They use the Cliff Notes. They just look for a building with a cross on it that seems to be the popular place to go. They listen to whatever the man behind the pulpit is saying and assume they are speaking the truth. The danger is being lead astray by those who have hung a cross on the door of a building, called it a church, and are living well off the offerings taken up each week. In those “churches” (and I use that term loosely) they have replaced passion with programs (they do good things for others so they must be a good church, right?) They have the latest in technology and have removed the altar and replaced it with a stage to entertain those in attendance instead of offer a place to be set free. People are not being delivered from addiction, they are not leaving different than when they walked in, they are not being told to “come out from among them” but instead “go ahead and blend in” – because if we don’t make you feel bad? You’ll keep coming back (and giving).
“Therefore, come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 6:17
Jesus turned the world upside down and reached “multitudes” with 12 men. 12 men willing to leave everything behind and spread the gospel. We have churches whose attendance is in the thousands, yet we have a heroin epidemic sweeping the land holding hands with a generation bound in depression, fear and anxiety. The math? Doesn’t make sense. But I think it comes back to what my husband always says… “The church doesn’t become the church until it starts looking outward.” The 12 disciples left everything to help others find freedom. We are not following the great commission to “Go out into all the world” and share the gospel. Not only are we not going out into all the world? We aren’t even going across the street to our neighbors where a child is hungry or being neglected. We aren’t letting our light shine in the darkness. Why? Because it has become about what the church offers me, instead of what I can offer the church. We have a generation following men or women who have been put on a pedestal, instead of following Jesus. A generation hearing a watered-down gospel so as not to offended anyone. Going to church hoping to get a word of encouragement to help “me” make it through another week. “having a form of godliness, but denying the power..”
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17
Until we lead people to the foot of the cross? Until we teach about salvation and the blood and the hope? Until we remind them that we are called to be set apart, to not conform to this world, to be a light in the darkness (not blend in with it) – we will not see a drop in depression and suicide, fear and anxiety. It’s time we stop looking inward, stop worrying about what our platform will look like, and just start walking in purpose sharing the truth. Because where there is truth? Freedom awaits.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 2:38