Easter was this past weekend. The time when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ. It is also the time when many avoid reflecting on what preceded it. Christ’s brutal death on a cross. That is the part of Easter many don’t want to spend much thought or time on. No wonder. It is dark. It is sad in many ways. It affects our emotions in ways that is hard to grasp or imagine. It is harsh, painful and possibly inconceivable than mankind could be so brutal to someone who merely came to share the good news of God that created such animosity and offense to so many people.
For many in this world and Christians alike, we want to pass-over that day quickly (pun intended) and think about the joy of Easter. The resurrection, the celebration, the reason we can look to a heavenly future. But, without the Friday before, the day Christ died, there would be no Easter.
Christianity in the current age is in crisis. We spend a great deal of time focusing on the ‘Easters’ of life and not what it costs to have them. Many have joined the Easter parade of the sunshine and lollipop version of Christianity and it is slowly tearing down the foundations of the church and Christians within. We have evolved to want only the good and to avoid anything that feels or looks negative. Negative things are not all bad. They grow us. They challenge us. They make us aware and real. They show us the need for a savior.
Without the dark, we cant see the brilliance of the light. Without the light, we cant see the depth of the darkness.
The mega message in today's American culture and society is that everyone "deserves a trophy”. And sadly, that mindset has made its way into the church. The new message is focused only on the Easters of life - grace, love, equal treatment, acknowledgement and acceptance for all. The evolving church only wants to pull out "the greatest hits" of Christianity to make a better world. Sin is a negative word. Mistakes sounds better. Hell, well hell, we don’t even want to go there in discussion because really, who is actually going there anyway? The god of the modern christian is a morphed up version of the real deal but with the mindset of 'what kind of loving god would never send a person to that awful icky place the religious zealots call hell'? That is so negative and judgy!
The church is getting pressure from a multitude of influences that are pulling, pressing, challenging, questioning and criticizing it to be relevant. It can be hard for the modern-today Christian to keep their foundation strong. Like a giant tidal wave, the torrent of viewpoints from social justice to equality for all humanity is creating doubt, compromise and discarding the beliefs even in the most devout of Christ followers.
The modern Christian’s view of their god is that Jesus is their peep, their bro, their bud. He is warm and fuzzy and also somewhat of a tough guy, who when we don’t like a situation we are in, we just name that difficulty and demand he come to the rescue. It is like Jesus become the new modern day super hero that is only wanted when it serves our interests or wants!
The modern relevant and evolving christian doesn’t want all that negative sin stuff. That kind of talk doesn’t promote a healthy self esteem or sense of worth. Besides, who are we to judge another human being? How can we take a position that someone else’s choices, desires, marriages, or behavior is any of our business much less tell them what they can or cannot do? It's a theology that everyone has the right to create their own version of the feel good spirituality…even altering Christianity.
That's what many believe today’s church needs to be. To be relevant, in touch and evolving with social and cultural meaning. But it is not the Christian or the church of the Bible. It is actually an age old mistruth first spoken in the garden of Eden - Surely God did not say we would perish if we do our own thing! Surely being a Christian isn’t about giving up who you are or what your potential is? Surely, being a Christian isn’t about excluding or judging others? (1 Corinthians 5:10-14)
I read an article from a well known free thinking female social evangelist, who has been labeled the most polarizing woman of evangelicalism, (along with her fellow popular female bloggers willing to push theological boundaries). This persons foundational platform is that she wants to challenge the way Christ followers have believed. She said “I just know I’m not the only one who sits in the pew sometimes and asks, ‘Am I the only one who’s doubting all of this?”(1) All of “this” she refers to is the very foundations of sound biblical Christianity. She has a huge following of other like minded thinkers who are being invited into churches regularly to speak about topics that lull the Christ follower into a slow Christian compromising death, like a frog in a pot full of warm water. This warm love sounding truth that feels so right, ends up lulling the believer to a slow spiritual death.
This modern day religion infiltrating Christianity sounds ideal but it has been seducing and eroding Christianity and Christ followers from the inside out for years. It is subtle. It sounds reasonable to the reasonable mind. It sounds loving and kind and caring to the heart that is searching for meaning, significance and purpose. It sounds like Christ (almost). The bible is quoted. God is mentioned. It has in all appearances the look, smell and feel of an advanced form of enlightened spirituality that feels godly and full of grace and love. It is most deceptive because is sits on a fine line between truth and a lie. It has many appearances of godliness but lacks its power and truth.
The new world religion has roots everywhere and is becoming the norm in many churches. Dave Hunt is one of many who talks about this subtle erosion in his book the Seduction of Christianity. He quotes well known human-development pioneer Dr. Jean Houston from a 1983 interview where she said “I predict that in our lifetime, we will see the rise of essentially a new world religion..I believe a new spiritual system will emerge”. Her prediction is correct. And she herself has been a founding influence to this movement that has influenced psychology, business and the church. Houston said in 2016 -
"I have concluded that together we can discover the wisdom, the fortitude and the willingness to develop strategies and actions to preserve and enhance our world rather than destroy it…. Now is that time, and I want to help you become one of those who has the capacity, courage, stamina and stick-to-itiveness to be a bringer of new ways of being in your life and into this world…...her work assisting others in accessing and then living from their “authentic self” ... in keeping with her ability to speak the language of both science and spirituality, Jean’s describes our true essence in this way: “There are patterns for our higher being that I call the ‘quantum blueprint’ or ‘optimal template,’ but they could also be called ‘patterns for your higher being.’ These optimal templates are coded in your higher destiny, coded for unfolding in your body and your mind, and if contemplated and practiced, would allow for all manner of growth and opportunity."
Mindfulness. This new world religion is here and is very active. It has a holistic presence that preaches "personal responsibility -- to ourselves, to others, to our world, and to God...This is the kind of Christianity that works. Truly following this path with love, strength, and compassion, will bring us to a more peaceful, balanced, holistic life and world, with greater joy, fulfillment, and peace of mind for both ourselves and those around us.”(2)
It all sounds amazing and actually has some wonderful truths...but not all the truths. It presents itself as having a faith in God but it is a faith in self and self's ability to do good to others to self and to the world. Using scripture to support a belief does not make it a biblical truth. In the journey of this discovery of who we are and why we are here, we are slowly being wined and dined away from believing the biblical truths of what it means to be a true Christ follower. This new world religion feeds off biblical truths with a self serving spin that is attractive and misleading. I know, I got sucked in. It is the same things said in the 1960’s. "After witnessing the devastating consequences of world war II and having troops still fighting in the Vietnam war, western (especially North American) societies began promoting "peace and love" to help generate positive energy and to promote the preservation of dissipating environmental factors”.
What makes this so attractive to young and old alike is its ability to follow the fine line between truth and mistruth. It allows the follower to feel they are still connected to God while creating their own reality of what they believe. Picking out the best of Christianity and mixing in other niceties from other forms of religions and spirituality (Buddhism, Hinduism and New Age philosophies - if you doubt that, do a little research) and calling it the relevant Christianity.
There is a fine line between grace and consequence. Between love and holiness. Between truth and lies. Between heaven and hell. Between biblical and unbiblical. Between God of the Bible, and the gods of the world.
Grace is getting acceptance and forgiveness after acknowledging something that we have done that we know has hurt Gods heart or another person. Mercy is not getting a consequence for that thing we have done. In our world we have an order of conduct or laws that if broken results in consequences. To the recipient of a consequence, it might seem unfair. To the administer, it is fair and right. Even if it hurts to have to administer it. I think parents can get this concept well. In everything we do there is a consequence. An effect that affects. Some are positive and some not so much. The new world religious view is that the God of the Bible is harsh. Unfair. So, where consequences are promised for certain actions, they are ignored or criticized. If it is not liked - it is not wanted, accepted or believed. This way of thinking only wants the "love God". Everything is about love. If love is involved it is good and right and true. If love is not involved, if it is negative. To deny an assumed deserved right of another for a want or a desire, is judgy and bad. The fine line is where God resides. He is merciful, loving and gracious. But He is also just and holy. There has to be death before resurrection.
Holiness without love is legalism. Love without holiness is anarchy. The infiltrating spirituality wants love without holiness and grace without remorse. It wants all the benefits of Christianity without the sacrifice. A candy coated warm fuzzy trophy wielding we are the world Christianity that isn’t christian at all.
The only way to have our eyes opened and to see clearly is to get back to the basics.
"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2
How do we get back back to the basics? Simply, re-learn what it means to follow Jesus.
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
Pretty simple, yet the hardest of all. We want what we want and when and how we want it. That is why the deception is so powerful. It tantalizes our desire for comfort and balance, for equality and social justice, but instead it slowly robs us of who we are as Christ followers and creates in us a sense that everything is acceptable as long as it seems good and loving.
Billy Graham said this regarding taking up our cross:
"In Jesus’ day, a cross wasn’t just a symbol of pain and suffering; it was mainly a symbol of death. What Jesus was telling them is that they needed to put to death their own plans and desires, and then turn their lives over to Him and do His will every day. You see, Jesus doesn’t simply call us to believe that He existed, or even to believe that He can save us. He calls on us to commit our whole lives to Him—to trust Him alone for our salvation, and then to follow Him as His disciples. He said, “And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27).
There is a cost to follow Jesus. It isn’t all warm and fuzzy. It isn’t about thinking happy thoughts all the time. He is not our buddy, pal or peep. HE IS GOD. And following the creator of the universe is not for the faint hearted. But it is all or nothing when it comes to following Jesus. We either follow Him or we don’t. My friends, there is no in-between Christianity. There is no greatest hits we get to pick from that feels the best to us. We either believe God is who He says He is, that the Bible is His divinely inspired word (all of it) or we don’t. The Christian life is not about being perfect or doing a desired set of idealistic behaviors...it is about being perfected in Him daily, as we let go of ourselves and take in more of Him.
To many, that is not very appealing. That’s ok. But it is Christianity. Its really pretty simple. We just need to choose daily which line we are following.
"The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18
Other references: http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/
Don't forget to pick up a copy of my book, "Confessions of a Feel Good Addict"
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