Seeking to be Christ-Consumed
Table of Contents
Chapter One – What is going on in Evangelicalism? – the current condition
Chapter Two – Where does this life start? – justification by faith
Chapter Three – What level of damage has resulted from a selective reading of the Text?
Chapter Four – What kind of life does God call me to live?
Chapter Five – Is there a magic bullet?
Chapter Six – What should our Church gatherings be like?
Chapter Seven – What do we do now?
Chapter Eight – A plea to seek to be Christ-consumed
As I approach the writing of a work such as this, I am struck by the necessity of such a message. Why is it that the evangelical faith has weakened so? The Church in the West has become very distracted. There are a number of professing believers that are distracted by the cares of this world (Matt. 13:22). Despite the presence of economic woes these professing believers may have curtailed their spending but it has not caused them to be less consumed by the things of this world. In fact, it may have caused them to be more distracted because they are now in constant turmoil over the vitality of Wall Street.
Another issue that is worthy of discussion is the political nature of the Church today. The American political parties have courted the Church. They have sought to lure professing Christians to support their cause. This has caused the Church to believe the fallacy that earthly rulers truly have unlimited power. Many Christians have begun to believe that the future of the Church is in the hands of the Republican party. This has led to spiritual weakness in the Church. It has led to lack of dependence on the God of the Bible, and increased dependence upon the political movements of the day. May God help evangelical Christians to see clearly. I will discuss this issue further later in the book.
In meditating on this issue of being consumed with Christ. We are delving into a life of self-sacrifice and self-denial. A life that is consumed with Christ is marked by passionate pursuit of the Lord. When you come into the presence of such a person you are aware of a single-mindedness which they possess. Such a person is wholly committed to knowing Christ in the most intimate way possible and making Christ known in the most powerful way possible. This passionate focus makes itself known in every facet of life. It is interesting to note that such a Christian will make other professing believers uncomfortable at times. A person who is seeking to be consumed by Christ will manifest an intensity that most others are uncomfortable with because it seems to serious. This is one of the evidences of the serious problems that are present in the Church today. Many professing believers think that Christianity is not something that should demand much time, effort, or life transformation. This has led us to the present state of the Church.
In this present work we shall venture into the depths of what a life seeking to be Christ-consumed looks like and what it entails. May it be our mutual desire that we become single-minded in our pursuit of Christ and making His glory known.
What is going on in Evangelicalism? – the current condition
The premise of this chapter does not deal with worship style, Bible translation, evangelistic strategy, or numerous other things that are discussed in relation to the condition of the evangelical church. I have a growing concern about the themes of many Christian books that are flooding the market today. My concern over them relates to what they seek to accomplish in readers. Most of these works criticize the evangelical church and its constituents because of their lack of polished technical skills. In their view, the problem with the evangelical church today is that its members are not good leaders, managers, motivators, coaches, marketers, salesmen, artists, actors, etc… In much of this conversation, God is absent. Let me be very clear, I do not believe that the problems of the evangelical church today stem from God. Whatever is wrong in the church is the result of sinful humanity. Yet, the prevailing message is that if pastors and leaders within the evangelical church are able to improve their leadership, management, and marketing skills their respective church will grow. In the minds of most of these authors, growth = health.
One question that never gets asked is this, does our lack of proficiency hinder God’s work of redemption? Sadly, many of these books don’t address redemption. They just address average attendance. The goal really is to see sinners converted to Christ. The great commission does not convey gathering a large crowd as its goal (Matt. 28:19-20). Any credible survey of the New Testament reveals that the Great Commission entails Christians evangelizing the lost and discipling the saved. The apostle Paul declares the following as his goal in ministry, “We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.” (Col. 1:28-29 HCSB). Paul’s goal was that each person be an authentic believer and become spiritually mature.
When perusing these books on church growth and leadership you will find heavy doses of humanism. The focus is entirely on things that we can see with our eyes. If attendance does not increase the reason is that the church isn’t skilled enough to bring the increase. The arrogance that we have manifested through believing and writing such things is astonishing. Somehow we have taken Christ’s declaration and distorted it. Christ said, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it. (Matthew 16:18 HCSB). Somehow we have come to believe that our skills and proficiency are essential for Christ to build His church. This is the instruction which you will find in many books discussing Christian ministry today. It discusses increasing our proficiency in leadership and management skills. Rarely, do these books delve into the spiritual condition of the church. I would propose that God is far more concerned with the spiritual condition of the church than He is with its proficiency in leadership and management. We have arrived here because of being man-centered instead of Christ-centered. We have become consumed with Anthropology rather than Theology. It matters little if our proficiency is high if we have left behind the reality that God alone saves souls and changes lives.
Why have we left Theology behind? There is a prevailing attitude in the church that Theology is irrelevant. This is telling. When the professing church abandons Theology it abandons its foundation. I do not want to seem as though I am contradicting Scripture’s teaching that Christ is the foundation of the church “For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11 HCSB). What I am saying is that the church will be susceptible to every form of deceit and false doctrine when it is not deeply grounded in an accurate Theology. This is what Paul declared to the Ephesians, “And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” (Eph. 4:11-16 HCSB; emphasis is mine). It is no wonder that the church’s abandonment of Theology has resulted in its current condition. The church in its abandonment of studying church history has caused it to be blinded to its own faults. The church in its abandonment of Theology has caused it to be ignorant of God.
Prior to the Protestant Reformation the masses were ignorant of God because they were unable to read the Scriptures themselves. The Catholic Church kept the Scriptures inaccessible because most of the population was unable to read Latin. Men led by God risked their lives for the purpose of standing against this sin. William Tyndale worked tirelessly to translate the Vulgate into the English language for the purpose of making the Scriptures accessible to the common man. In this historical event the common people were not at fault for the situation in which they found themselves. They were at the mercy of those who were in authority over them. The church no longer finds itself in such a position. It is possible for the common man to purchase any Bible translation he desires and as many copies of such as he desires. Evangelical Christians have chosen pursuits other than a deepening knowledge of God through diligent study of the Scriptures. We have allowed our Bibles to remain unused for such diligent study. Instead, when the Scriptures are opened we search for promises to fix our present concerns. Ministries such as Radio Bible Class provide devotional resources for believers. One resource which they produce and distribute is the Daily Bread. The authors of these monthly devotional booklets are conservative evangelical Christians and they write good material. The problem is that believers abuse such resources. They read only the Daily Bread entry, many times not even opening their own copy of the Bible, and nothing else. Radio Bible Class having a burden to help believers mature in the faith have poured large amounts of money, time, effort, and prayer into the production of these booklets. It is not their fault that these booklets have been abused. I am not addressing new believers who are only capable of handling such spiritual milk. I am addressing the longtime professing believer who has not gone beyond this level of study. It is the result of spiritual laziness and lack of desire for God. It is very similar to being content with splashing in a puddle when the ocean is readily available. The church has chosen to neglect the deep things of God, such as the diligent study of Scripture. The study of the doctrines of Systematic Theology are a treasure which are waiting for those who will take the time to diligently search.
One more issue facing the church today is that it may well be full of tares, instead of wheat (Matt. 13:24-30). This is not surprising. Jesus informed the disciples that Satan would position false believers in the gathered church (13:38). The lack of Theological study in the church has resulted in the church sharing a man-centered gospel. The apostle Paul was very bold in speaking against perversions of the gospel, “I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to change the good news about the Messiah. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him! As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him!” (Gal. 1:6-9 HCSB). A biblical Theology will result in a biblical gospel. Since Theology has been abandoned in so many churches this has led to perversions of the gospel. Without being grounded in the timeless truths of Scripture we have followed a path of expediency. The gospel is offensive (1 Cor. 1:18-29). The gospel is unattractive to the lost (2 Cor. 4:1-4).
Since the gospel is inaccessible for the lost we have decided to remove the boundaries. We have altered the gospel by making it palatable for the lost. The problem with this is that we are changing the message because we have refused to accept what God says about the situation. God has told us that the gospel is inaccessible to the lost; they don’t desire it. We have concluded that we can fix the problem. The problem cannot be resolved through the efforts and reasoning of man. The problem lies with the depravity of man. It appears that we have believed the lie of liberalism. Apparently, evangelical Christianity has begun to believe that man is inherently good. This flies in the face of orthodox Christian doctrine. Biblical Theology results in the discovery that man is inherently wicked. It is possible that we would have avoided this error if we had diligently studied the Scriptures (Rom. 3:10-18). Scripture declares that man in his unregenerate state is the enemy of God (Rom. 5:10). Man in his unregenerate state is spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1). The knowledge of this would have taught us not to think that we could make the gospel accessible to the lost through our own effort and reasoning.
If we had studied church history we would have discovered that the mainline Protestant churches had already attempted to make the gospel palatable to the lost. Around the middle of the twentieth century they launched the social-gospel movement. The thought was that if the gospel was offensive to the world then there would have to be some other way to “reach” the world. There is no other way to reach the lost except through the gospel! This is basic Theology! The apostle Paul’s life was driven by the preaching of the gospel (Rom. 1:16; 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21-24). He understood that the preaching of the gospel was non-negotiable if one desired to see the salvation of the lost. If one delves deeper into church history he will find another time in which the church compromised Theology and as a result, the gospel. During his lifetime Jonathan Edwards was confronted by a church full of unregenerate people who were knowingly accepted into church membership for the purpose of bolstering attendance. This was done with the understanding that those unregenerate individuals would not take part in communion. What is truly astonishing is that these unregenerate individuals were actually baptized into church membership! Baptism is a public testimony of faith in Christ. These individuals had no testimony! Soon the unregenerate people outnumbered the regenerate and Edwards was fired from the church. He had pastored that church for twenty years and was fired for standing on the truth of Scripture.