Many years ago, Pastor Charles Stanley wrote a small provocative book called, “Confronting Casual Christianity.” In the book, he addresses what I think many Christians are experiencing today – a lack of commitment and passion for God and the Church. In my own experience it is usually evidenced by a lack of attendance on Sundays, an unwillingness to serve and a lack of generosity to give and support the ministries and missionaries of the church.
Now I am not a legalistic person. I’m not someone who believes one must follow various rules and forms to be a Christian, but the Bible is quite clear that how our lives are lived are a reflection of what is going on in our hearts and minds. Hebrews 10:23-25 gives us a bit of a picture of what the Christian’s life should look like.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The first thing the writer calls his readers adhere is to the hope we profess. Christianity today has become very diluted as our view of Scripture has declined and the world’s influence has grown. Many of the core doctrines today pale in comparison to even a few decades ago. The hope in and exclusivity of Christ have been replaced with Jesus being “a way” to God rather than the only way.
Even the nature of God is now in question. With all the chaos and despair in the world today, people question God’s character. Is God faithful? Is God loving? How can He allow all the pain and suffering in the world? Although these are valid questions, we have allowed them to erode the foundational teachings of the Bible, especially in regards to the nature and promises of God.
The writer goes on to encourage believers to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Although this is practiced to a certain extent in the church today, we lack the depth of relationships to which this verse implies. In a sense, we have become more of a social club of “friends” rather than the “brothers and sisters” in Christ who push each other towards service and godliness.
I can remember speaking with someone who used to attend one of my previous churches I pastored. She began attending another church because at this other church, she didn’t experience people challenging her in how she lived her life. In other words, they let her live her life the way she wanted, even if it contradicted Scripture.
One of the new “virtues” in our post-Christian society is tolerance. Now tolerance is taught in Scripture, but not the same form as society preaches. The Bible’s definition of tolerance is: the acceptance of different opinions on subjective matters. On truth, there is no tolerance. The world defines tolerance as: the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. In other words, my view and behaviour are just as valid as yours so you have to accept it.
The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that believers should “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” This is probably the one area where the influence of the world has impacted the Christian’s life the most. When Christianity became “spiritual” and a “personal” religion, it made the need for others unimportant. Historically, when people came to faith, they joined a family called the church. It became a gathering place for people of like-minded faith would gather for worship, teaching and encouragement. They lived and served together as Acts 2 points out and the result was “the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.
Today, people come to faith as individuals and continue trying to live out their faith as “Lone Rangers.” Community within the church is at best a social work rather than a transformational work. This was never the intent of the God nor the apostles.
Throughout the New Testament, the phrase “one another” appears almost 100 times. Most of these verses are references to the relationship between believers. We are called to “love,” “encourage,” “submit,” “forgive,” “accept,” “instruct,” “kind,” and “compassionate” to one other… and the list goes on and on.
The point to these verses is we are called to live in relationship, supporting one another and joined with one another as the cells and parts of a body. When parts of the body neglect their responsibility, it puts stress on the rest of the body to carry the extra load. In the words of Paul, “This should not be!”
I think what has happened in the church today is we have allowed our casualness to turn into carelessness. We have become careless in our relationship with God and with one another and this has led to a decline in the church’s effectiveness in reaching the world for Christ. May God continue the work He has begun in us as we fellowship and spur one another on to love and good works.