Thursday, February 16, 2006
The proper cure for spiritual disease
Let us consider what is promised by today's seeker-sensitive churches: meaning and purpose for life, fulfillment, peace of mind, connection with other people, etc.. Although all of these things are desirable in and of themselves, they are woefully insufficient to address the needs of real people. You see, you and I aren't merely lacking in peace or fulfillment, although we could certainly stand to have more of those things. No, you and I and every human being with whom we share this earth has a far greater problem that today's megachurches deliberately fail to address. Given the design of these churches to avoid turning people off to what they have to offer, it's eminently understandable that they'd not want to address the underlying problem of humanity, but yet I would suggest that they are responsible for extreme negligence in their seemingly friendly offer to help people with their problems without saying a word about the fatal disease that is at the root of those so-called problems.
The name of this disease is, of course, sin. It is far and away the most prevalent disease suffered by mankind. The infection rate is 100%, and the fatality rate is the same unless miraculous means are brought to bear to lift the sufferer out of his woeful state. In fact, nothing less than a miracle of God's grace will do the sinner a single solitary bit of good. Yes, you and I have problems, but our problems are nothing more than side effects of our sin.
Now, some will say, "We're all sinners, and we all know that we are, so why run the risk of offending people by harping on what they already know?" Well, as a matter of fact, none of us have the slightest idea of what sin really is until we are confronted with what the Scriptures have to say about it. Sin isn't just problems, and it isn't about making mistakes. It isn't just about the really big mistakes, either. People such Hitler and Stalin and John Wayne Gacy and Charles Manson aren't the only sinners, my friend. In fact, you and I are just as sick at heart as they.
In a way, I think all of us are like little Pharisees. I certainly am. I look at myself in the mirror and say, "Dave, you're not a bad guy. You haven't murdered anyone, you haven't cheated on your income tax, and you even help little old ladies across the street. I'm certainly a lot better guy than my neighbor who's cheating on his wife. Yup, God must be really happy with me." We tend to judge ourselves with a quick surface-level once-over, and give ourselves a clean bill of health if we can't find any blatantly obvious warts or lesions.
But are we really as well off as we think? The Great Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ, got right to the crux of the matter when He demonstrated that anger towards my brother is tantamount to murder, and lust towards my neighbor's wife is adultery. Paul expanded on this point in one of the most horrifying chapters of Scripture, Romans 1. "But that's about the pedophile, the homosexual, and the pervert," you may say, "I've certainly never done anything nearly so bad as what Paul's describing!" Perhaps not outwardly, and perhaps not in such a manner that any other person could observe, but if you and I will examine our hearts in all honesty, we will discover that lusts and perversions are indeed festering there. Oh, we may not have ever gone so far as to act upon the wickedness that's brewing in our sinful hearts, but it is there all the same. The fact of the matter is this: whenever I presume to do or even think whatever pleases me in willful contradiction to God's express commandment, I am a perverted man. In the Fall, Adam and Eve willfully chose to disobey God's commandment, thus perverting all that is good and right. When I disobey God's Law, as I do countless times every day, I am just as perverted as they, and just as perverted as a child molestor or drug addict. I don't merely have problems: I am a desperately sick man.
My friend, consider a man who's suffering from sharp, repeated chest pains. Would I be doing him a favor if I gave him a bottle of aspirin and a pat on the back? No, I ought to be exhorting him to see a doctor at the earliest possible moment, because his pains may be symptomatic of a very serious condition. Likewise, the so-called evangelical church does the sinner absolutely no favor by professing to care about his symptomatic ills while willfully refusing to confront him with the true nature of his malady. Although this behavior is thought of as sensitive to the person, in true fact it represents an utter lack of true love and compassion for him. Even if you encourage the sinner to trust in Christ, you will do him no good unless you make it plain to him just why he so desperately needs to receive the imputed righteousness of Christ. Christ came not for the righteous, but for sinners. If my only problem is a lack of peace or purpose, then perhaps all I need is a social club so perhaps my local seeker-sensitive church is all I need, but if I'm desperately sick unto death, then nothing will do for me but Christ.
If you were suffering from a serious disease, and you were to discover that your doctor was withholding the true nature of your condition from you, you'd no doubt be indignant, especially if your condition was curable if it were promptly and properly treated. You might even decide to go find another doctor. This is much like what happens when a so-called minister of the Gospel refuses to tell sinners of their desperately wicked condition. My friend, this is rank irresponsibility, and it ought not to be! Therefore, I charge those ministers who have willfully refused to forthrightly preach on sin and its only Remedy to repent of their sin and to resume preaching the whole counsel of God: both the bad news and the good.