I've been hearing the wake-up sirens blowing for quite awhile now and in the wake of the recent controversy regarding Ted Haggard one can only wonder, is this the first of a new batch of public symptoms of a totally compromised gospel in American Christianity? Are we beginning to reap what has been sown? Is our spiritual well water poisoned?
You know, I must tell you, that for quite awhile I have been heartsick. I listen alot. I read alot. I hear a lot of preaching. I see alot. I am left feeling like, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, ...we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way" --Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
America has so much: really, a land of opportunity and blessing. A land of abundance and beauty. But what has happened to the gospel here? American ingenuity and pragmatism have helped us create some of the world's greatest inventions and technology. We are a "can do" kind of people. But have we concocted a gospel soft drink, goes down smooth, but full of emptiness? Is it made from a polluted spring?
Much has been said about the American gospel, and a lot of what has been said is true. The fingers however always seem to be pointing at the "other" church, with their heretical beliefs, and not at our own hearts. Maybe we all need to take one giant step back and see if how we each form and hold our beliefs is American and not, in fact, biblical.
I love reading the old American revivalists: Edwards, Brainerd, Whitfield as he preached in America, etc. And yet, when I actually read their words and hear their mindset, I wonder if they were to preach today if the churches they preached in would have many people attending them. Might not all the folks be across the street at "seeker" friendly churches, the one with comfy seats, and pastors wearing cool flip flops, where you are nudged toward a calm, friendly kind of spirituality, where Jesus never really makes any demands on you, much less causes you to fall on your face in repentance? Or, if you like things a little radical, maybe join a church with lots of purpose. Only the purpose is really about a lot of American kind of ingenuity painted in spiritual hues but lacking the power to change the hearts of men and women. Just because something seems to work, doesn't mean its true. Apparently much of what is preached isn't even working.
Where is the gospel that turned a bunch of fearful, bumbling disciples into people that willingly and fearlessly went to their deaths proclaiming a Christ out of whose mouth came a sword so sharp that it could divide completely between what was of God and what was of man? Where? I really want to know where it has went. And do we really think that all that the early church was about was presenting orthodox doctrine? If that was all it was about, where would they have gotten the power and boldness to shake society, including religious society, to its core? Wouldn't it have have been just another near-eastern religion, long forgotten? So where is that gospel? Where is the cross? Where is holiness and fear of the Lord?
Today it was a typical fall day in New England. This meant that there was a church bazaar on every corner. Great pies. Nice hand-knit gloves. Lots of preserves. No radical gospel that I could see. Lots of bread, but no Bread of Life. Have we, as Americans, just made the gospel serve us? Have we knocked off all the difficult parts so we can fit it in to our schedules? Have we preached mostly what brings good attendance and lots of money? Homey feelings and patriotic pride? Now don't get me started there.
Be forewarned: the real Jesus is a stumbling block. Many will stumble over Him. I have always gotten goosebumps when I read this:
Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures,'The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner. This was from the Lord. It is marvelous in our eyes?' Therefore I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and will be given to a nation bringing forth its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but on whoever it will fall, it will grind him to powder (Matthew 21:42-44).
So, will the kingdom of God be taken away from us and given to a nation that will bear fruit? Is the Stone ready to fall on us? Frightening correlations. This all strikes me as Toll One on the bell of "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" ....well, maybe its not really Toll One. It might be a little late for that. You know what I mean. We need to ask ourselves this: Is the gospel we preach Christ's gospel? Is it the gospel of God? Does it honor the Cross of Christ? Does its message come down from heaven or is it a poisoned well of destruction and deceit?
Our leaders get to where we are going to first. They have served the poisoned water and now they must drink of it. That is a very scary thought. Are we going straight to heaven or direct the other way?
The American Gospel