One day, someone I had spoken to a few days earlier at an international organisation came to invite me for lunch; they had been surprised to learn that I was a committed Christian and a Minister. They wanted to talk about God. So we went for lunch, they asked me many questions, one of them was on the church’s position on prevailing sexual mores. I was very clear. They wondered, should the church not evolve with the times?
My answer, if the church were a social institution, indeed it would and ought to, but if the church is a divine institution following the principles of God, then those principles are eternal and immutable and will not be altered to suit the whims and fancies of every generation. He then went on to tell me about a Bishop who had almost brought him to faith in Christ and years later had now become extremely liberal in his approach to scripture and scriptural moral values. Even though he was not yet a Christian, it confused and surprised him.
That is the dilemma the church faces today. Must we conform to the values of the world in word and in deed? Most of us will say no, we will mouth a clear distinct position based on Scripture, and that is good, but what obtains in practice? Have we not been conditioned to consider holiness an impossible requirement? How do you feel about sin as you empathise with your favourite moving star robbing the tenth bank and crawling into bed with yet another woman? Is that not why we have become so casual about sin, considering it simply a minor mistake?
The problem is too many believers get their theology and moral standards from television, societal norms, block buster movies, spend more time meditating on movie stars than on choice morsels of God’s world and consequently rather than think like Jesus and have the desires of Jesus we think like …….(fill in the blanks, your favourite idol) and act like them. We have embraced the Person of Christ and He requires us to embrace His principles, to live in a manner that honours Him and shows the world the beauty and loveliness of His Person.
Today we prayed about holiness in the church. The Bible says be holy for I am holy. In other words, irrespective of prevailing social and moral mores Jesus expects Christians to be people of noble character, who speak truth, who do not steal, who do not lie, who are diligent and hardworking and respectable and responsible, who do not practice sexual immorality or change the definition of it, who do not get drunk, gossip, fight, cause trouble. Those are not the standards of our generation, for our world calls good evil and evil good, celebrates villains and mocks church goers.
Isn’t it strange that Christians today find it impossible to live by moral standards that even non believers of past generations were able to abide by? Why? Because we bought into the lie that virtue is impossible, or worse, not virtuous, rather stiff, staid and outdated. We are a self indulgent generation that cannot deny itself anything, and lives for its immediate gratification, thus feels justified in wrongdoing. And so we moan and complain when we should cry out in shame, fast, repent and pray until we break off ourselves the junk we have put ourselves in.
We even have the audacity to feel sorry for ourselves when our sin is found out. We feel like victims because poor us, it is soooo hard to stay pure; and God is so hard on us. How hard is it to turn off the X rated channels, to block pornography off your web connection, to keep your hands out of the till, the devil did not put your finger in it, to zip your mouth before you call a conference to badmouth every one who disagrees with you, to say no, to …
Perhaps our problem is that we have no fear of God. We do not worship His holiness but our convenience and reputation. Look at the sight of pathetic ministers going on television to weep after they are caught in adultery, caught, not that they willingly confess. And in our permissive, touchy feely generation when you speak out against the egregious behaviour of those who would purport to lead God’s people while they are cheating on their wives, and generally misbehaving, you are accused of legalism.
How dare we preach to others when we cover up evil in our ranks? When Christians are bed hopping, how can they speak of morality? How do we evangelise when we are watching porn on the internet? How can we have boldness to proclaim the uniqueness and sinlessness of Jesus when we are committing acts that we cannot speak of in public, how can we speak of love when we are tearing our local congregations apart because everyone wants things done his way; lifting up unholy hands to worship the Lord Sunday after Sunday while displaying our underwear in the process and revealing cleavage; not to talk of the unbelievable display of flesh in prayer lines as we fall under the power in our too low cut trousers and too short tops.
It is the duty of leadership to put before God’s people the unchanging standards of the gospel despite the widely fluctuating standards of our society. Sin has not become acceptable because it has been made into a movie with Brangelina. Oh for men and women in the pulpit who do not crave man’s approval but God’s favour, who will preach holiness to our confused generation.
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