Archive for August, 2013

Our High Calling

August 31, 2013

Our High Calling

Many ministers seem to have lost that precious sense of their high calling (Philippians 3:14). Was it not C. H. Spurgeon who said something like this: “I would be very sad if my son were called to be a missionary and dribbled down to become a king”?

Ministers are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).  This is a high and holy calling.  What ambassador of an important country, when on official state business, would dress casually, or still worse, scruffily?   What ambassador, when delivering an important communication from her Majesty, the Queen, when addressing the recipients of that royal message, would do so with their hands in their trouser pockets?  It used to be considered rude to talk to someone important with one’s hands in one’s pockets.  And are not our hearers worthy of respect?

Yet, many ministers today, when preaching the glorious gospel, dress casually or even untidily.  They lounge about, hands in trouser pockets, cracking jokes, instead of declaring the most important message in the world in a dignified and earnest manner.

The inconsistency of this behaviour is revealed when they attend a wedding and dress up for it; or when they attend a funeral and dress soberly.  Why do they do that?  Is it not out of respect for the bride and bridegroom?  Is it not to honour the deceased person?  In other words, they dress to honour the person or persons at the centre of the service.  Who is, or who is supposed to be, at the centre of our worship services?  Is it not almighty God, creator of the universe?  Is it not our Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of Lords?  Should we not be recognizing God’s presence and honouring Him?  Should we not be exalting the Lord Jesus not in word only but in the way we dress?  Does not the Scripture command, “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness”?  This can be rendered, “Worship the Lord in holy array” (Psalm 29:2 NASV).  No wonder people do not believe, and do not respect Christ when his ministers show Him such scant respect, and treat worship as such a casual activity.

An evangelist, in giving his testimony, spoke of how before his conversion, he was approached by a man who was smartly dressed and spoke with a cultured accent.  This man invited him to a meeting after which he became a Christian.  He remarked, “If he had been dressed like us and had spoken like us I would not have listened to him.”  This is not to argue for showy clothing or expensive tastes, but to present the case for smart, dignified clothing, in keeping with our high calling.  Often on TV one can observe sports commentators, smartly dressed, wearing ties, etc.  This is in marked contrast to the way some ministers dress.  No wonder many people consider sport to be more important than Christianity.

Now all this is assuming that the three basic essentials of the ministry are in place, namely, a holy life, sound doctrine through the inspired Word, and the dynamic, the power, the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  These may be considered as “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) as all three centre on Christ and are available only through Him.  If one or more of these three essentials is missing, it matters little how ministers dress.  Their ministry will be ineffective.  Some dress down because they lack the power of the Holy Spirit, and they hope to get “pally” with their hearers in this way.  It may produce a temporary affinity, but it does not produce spiritual results in the long run.

The Lukewarm Church

August 29, 2013

It would be a mistake to think that the lukewarm church is inactive or unpopular.  The term “lukewarm” in Revelation 3:14-22 refers not to its size, wealth, activities or popularity, but to its spiritual temperature.  The church at Laodicea even had a measure of warmth.  It was not completely cold; neither, however, was it hot.  It was far from on fire for God.  In many ways it was more like a comfortable social club than a church.

The Laodicean church was quite wealthy.  The offerings were good.  They were able to carry out building projects and support other Christian work.  They were, outwardly at least, prosperous.  This implies good congregations, a large staff, comfortable well-designed buildings, and well-attended services – at least once a week.

The church was, however, somewhat self-satisfied, as they thought they had need of nothing.  Compared to other churches they were admired, as they were outwardly large, prosperous and flourishing.  But they sickened the Lord.  He said He would vomit them out of His mouth.

Christ’s eyes in John’s vision were like a flame of fire, penetrating into the depths of people’s hearts (Rev. 1:14).  To His penetrating gaze the church at Laodicea was wretched, falling far short of what a church was meant to be.  It was to be pitied, rather than admired.  Materially wealthy, it was in fact spiritually poor.  It was blind in that it could not see its own need, its powerlessness, its pride.  It was naked in that it was not clothed in the righteousness of Christ, not covered in the garments of holiness.  Spiritually poverty-stricken this church desperately needed the gold of true spirituality.  This gold is refined in the fire of suffering and persecution.  It needed the pure white garments of Christ-likeness, each  member living a Christ-glorifying life.  It needed its spiritual eyes to be anointed so that it could see things as they really were.  It lacked humility and spiritual discernment so that it could see its own need.

To be practical, what are some of the symptoms of a church ‘cooling off’, backsliding and becoming lukewarm?  One sure sign is a decline in prayer.  Numbers attending the prayer meetings fall away.  Or, if numbers do not greatly decrease because there are other reasons for attending, there is a lack of earnest, fervent participation in prayer.  Prayers are said by a few, but there is little reality.

Another sign is when leaders are appointed who are not noted for their spirituality.  They do not ‘lead’ in the sense that they are good examples in zeal, applied Bible knowledge, prayer and holy living.  Biblical standards (e.g. Exod. 18:21; Acts 6:3; I Tim. 3:1-13) are ignored or compromised.

Yet another sign is that there is little difference between the church members and their unsaved neighbours.  Young people begin to watch 18 rated films and drink alcohol regularly.  Worldliness becomes common among them (I John 2:15-17).  Discerning members may be troubled, but are afraid to say anything for fear of  ‘rocking the boat’ or being black-listed as ‘trouble makers’.

It may be very difficult to reverse the downwards trend.  It requires humility on the part of both leaders and members.  It requires sincere repentance (v. 19).  It will take strong Bible teaching and much prayer.  Jesus gives the answer.  Individual members can call upon Him to come into the situation (verse 20) and bring His purifying, cleansing, reviving power, through His Word and by His Spirit, so that the backslidden, lukewarm church may be restored to health once more.