Thursday, August 9, 2012

Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and Overzealous Faith

It's funny to me how the emphasis of preaching and teaching swings back and forth from one focus to another, then back this way, then back that way, etc.  We’ve gone from the goofiness of the health and wealth gospel and the felt needs gospel to the morbidity of a poverty gospel.  Instead of “God wants to bless you with prosperity”, the new message is “God wants you to suffer.”  It's an overreaction by some to correct the weak preaching of others.  The pendulum is swinging from easy believism to raising man-made standards and thinning the herd.  Both extremes lack Biblical balance. 

I’ve noticed that a lot of good people who love the Lord, love the Bible, and mean well, are confusing our call to accept suffering (should it come our way) to choosing suffering as evidence of true spirituality.  This has spawned a new form of legalism too.  Instead of being asked “What’s in your refrigerator?” as in times past, the new watch-dogs in the church are now asking, “What’s in your driveway, and how big is your house?”

In some ways this is a return to the dysfunctional American gospel of the 1940s and 1950s.  Back then it was assumed that anyone serious about their faith would head out to the foreign mission field (unless God gave them a special exemption).  And those on the mission field were told that “putting God first” meant shipping their children off to a boarding school to be raised by strangers.  This was the gold standard for everyone to strive for.

Instead of a Jesus who offered rest, a lighter load, and an easy yoke to bear for the downtrodden, Jesus was portrayed as demanding it all, accepting only the most committed, and delighting in snuffing out spiritually bruised reeds and smoldering wicks.

Even as laste as the 1980s I can distinctly remember resisting altar calls in which evangelists proclaimed God was calling "x number of people in the room" to the foreign mission field.  I ended up believing Jesus would take everything from me, smash it all, and then send me to a place I least wanted to go – like Africa.  My resistance to these appeals made me feel like I lacked proper zeal for the Lord, resulting in a lot of self condemnation.

I'm glad I finally figured it out:  Jesus' yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

If you listen closely enough you will hear traces of this overzealous emphasis again.  Instead of buying in to that message, embrace this one: 

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you restTake MY YOKE upon you, and LEARN OF ME; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

You can read a related article here:  Is Being Average a Sin?  (Spirituality is Not the Same for Everyone).  It's a real eye-opener. 

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