A report by the Center for Disease Control last week reported that the flu vaccine for 2013 was only 9% effective for senior adults. This means that 91% of all senior adults who received the flu vaccine were susceptible to this year's flu strain. When the FDA approves the flu vaccine each year, manufacturers are given three strains of the flu virus to include in that years' vaccine. So if the flu strain which hits most of America is not one of those three, people who received the vaccine will still be able to catch that flu virus. When information is shared like the ineffectiveness of this year's vaccine, the CDC usually responds by telling us that having a flu shot is still a good idea. This year's vaccine actually ended up hurting those who were trying to be helped, the senior adults.
This kind of thinking has been seeping into the American Church for the past several decades. We have begun to compromise with culture to remain "relevant" and "engaged with our culture". So the Church begins to reflect the same cultural norms and values rather than reflecting the values of Christ and the Bible. The Church becomes little more than a social club or a support group or a political activist. It trying to remain close to our culture, we have slowly become infected with the sin so prevalent in our country. Rather than being a place of health, we become just as sick as those around us. We hope for an injection of faith that will keep us from trouble, rather than trying to live a holy life which pleases God.
The areas where this happens are numerous, so I will just list a few. The church has moved in step with culture when it comes to divorce. Rather than looking at divorce through God's perspective, we legitimize frequent and "painless" divorce by saying, "God wouldn't want me to stay in an unhappy relationship" or "I married the wrong man/woman" or "I can serve God better if this spouse were not bringing me down". Rather than looking at anger from God's perspective, we justify our anger by saying, "The Bible says to not SIN in our anger, so being angry is okay" or "The Bible tells us to not let the sun go down on our anger" or equating our anger with Jesus clearing the Temple. Rather than abstaining from alcohol, we justify our drinking by saying, "Jesus turned water to wine, so I can drink wine" or "The Bible says to not get drunk on wine, so as long as I don't get drunk, it's okay to drink" or "what I do in private is no one's concern and I'm not hurting anyone". Rather than honoring God's view of homosexual activity as sin, we justify a compromise by saying, "That stuff about homosexuality is the Law in the Old Testament and we don't live by the Law any more" or "Jesus never said anything about homosexuality so it must be fine" or "God is a God of love and He created us this way". Rather than looking for reach our community with the love and compassion of Christ, we justify spending more and more money on bigger buildings and newer technology. Rather than pointing out the truths of Scripture, we seek to entertain those who attend church with upbeat music, cute videos and "talks" rather than sermons. By these compromises, we actually end up hurting the very ones we are trying to help.
We simply try to inoculate us with a modicum of Biblical truth rather than being genuinely honest with Scripture. We know that holding firm to Biblical values in our lives will make us disliked by many in our culture and make us appear insensitive. We will be called "bigots", "Haters" or be equated to Westboro Baptist Church. We are afraid to offend anyone, so we put just enough Bible in our thoughts to bring peace or spend vast amounts of energy proof-texting the Bible to make a case for something that has been called sin by God. No one wants to be hated by those around us. We all want to effectively minister to those in need and those who are hurting. Unfortunately, those in our culture who are looking for authentic faith are not finding it in churches which value these compromises or who become so legalistic that there is no grace or authentic living out of our faith.
Hillcrest family, let me encourage you to allow the Word of God to permeate every aspect of your life. If we spend time in God's Word every day and enjoy spending time with God, He will give us the guidance, direction, conviction and peace we are needing. Jesus' calls to us was not to live a perfect life, but was to follow Him. For James & John, that meant leaving their family and their Dad's fishing business. They weren't leaving anything sinful, they simply had a higher calling in following Jesus. As we follow Jesus, He leads us on wonderful long cuts and He utilizes holy subtraction in our lives to bring about the abundant life. Growing in our fellowship with Jesus will take care of these issues. We will not have to seek ways to twist the Bible to meet our lifestyle, but will change our lifestyle to meet the truth of Scripture. We will live in that I Jon 1:9 joy of confessing our sin and experiencing God's cleansing and forgiveness. When we decide to live life the Jesus way, most people won't understand and may even think we are weird. However, there is incredible freedom in following Jesus. We don't have to worry about looking over our shoulder, having skeletons in the closet or the pain which comes from the aforementioned compromises.
Don't be fooled into thinking that a quick inoculation of God's Word will keep us from the pain of bad choices. Divorce leaves children in pain and actually affects the life expectancy of those who are divorced. Anger brings about heart disease and drives people away from us. A recent study just showed that one glass of wine per day greatly increases the risk of cancer. Those engaging in homosexual activity have a life expectancy which is 10-20% shorter than the average person. Churches which grow through utilizing advertisement and technology without strong evangelism and discipleship will have trouble maintaining growth and must reinvent with the next strategy to involve people every three years. We can't just play the game. We need to genuinely live out a full faith in Christ.
May you be encouraged to be honest with yourself and God about what we have been allowing into our lives. This is a humbling daily walk which will break our heart as we see how often we have missed the mark. Yet there is amazing peace which comes from seeking to repent and honor God. We have been called to be holy because God is holy, but we have also been given this incredible grace which covers all of our sins. Live today as one who seeks to honor God in all things, not just get a quick shot of God to we can justify our sin. Come clean, be honest and experience God's cleansing. Because anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old has passed away, all things have become new!