Churchiness and programs occupy large space in the thoughts, writings and discourses of many professing to be Christians.
While luxuries of world, the empty pride of life, and selfish interests in all of its multiple forms, grow as rank weeds, and overrun the surface of the church, they however, do not choke the lively interest in religiosity. Notwithstanding the chilling blasts of infidelity, and the enervating malaria of superstition, today’s Christian zeal for the ‘outward forms of devotion’ conspicuously holds its ground.
To look around gives proof. Is money not solicited to multiply and enlarge churches and schools, to endow districts, to embellish fabrics, to deck protrusive choirs in emulation of rock groups? And abundance generally responds to the appeal.
But the truth of the matter is, that this unprecedented liberality also includes the cold reality of indifference to the holy things of God in sacred matters. Hope, ever joying in its bright prospects, gladly marks these demonstrations of abundance, and trusts that the worldly visible Christian church is advancing to fulfill the dreams of her prophetic rapture, and to be a “crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of our God.” (Isaiah 62:3) But truth here cannot be wholly checked. In nature early appearances often raise fallacious hopes. Spring blossoms often promise more than the autumn yields. Means do not constitute the end. Steps that may enter the right path, do not guarantee that the Christian’s true home will be ultimately reached.
The application of this thought is obvious. Edifices may exhibit the highest of architectural skill in full perfection. The beauty of stone, steel, marble and skill may delight the beholder. Flowers and trees may decorate the landscape. The officiating minister may be arrayed splendid in attire, or simply dressed in his everyday jeans to show that he is above it all. Services may be as ornate as ingenuity can render them. Singers in conspicuous dress, and flashing lights, may dance and sound loud, singing enchanting melody. Verses of simple chants may repeated endlessly for the hypnotic entertainment of the crowd. But after all this, the benefits may not extend beyond the charmed eye and ear.
Let it be fully granted that many believe, that so long as such elaborations transgress not the cultural tastes of today’s society, suspicious distrust should not interfere. But there is an infinite peril to this approach.
The acceptable signs of abundant church life should not be mistaken for the signs of the spiritual reality of Godliness. Shadows are not substances. The sham and tinsel of fashionable religion is not the pure gold of heaven. Hence, when these extravagances exceedingly abound, caution should become so much the more vigilant, and spiritual wisdom should not slumber in its watchtower.
No folly has ever yet been denied in that religion which avails not. If the Spirit of Christ evaporates in the heated moments of emotion, it is excused as an innocent expression of excess. The long procession of carnal “saints” and the crowded pew are not necessarily the visible signs of the true strait gate and the narrow Christian way. Trivialities make triflers, and the concerns demonstrate clearly the lack of spiritual depths in many of today’s Christians; just as it shows exactly upon what type of foundation they have built. Solid biblical food gives strength. But if so, then the current of today’s modern Christians show that their propensities of carnality are a loud warning, a warning that their mind is preoccupied by the ‘mere external show’ of Christ, and not with Christ himself.
For apart from living faith in Christ, there is no pardon for sin, no cleansing from iniquity, no reconciliation with our heavenly Father, no access to Him, no welcome to the sacramental feast, no peace of conscience, no hope of heaven, no escape from hell!
Is it not as indisputably true, that outward means are not the link which join the soul to Christ, and that the senses gratified are not the heart converted, and salvation won? We are infallibly taught, that the proclamation of the Gospel is the heaven-appointed instrument to minister such blessings. No substitute can take its place. If Christless sermons fall on Christless crowds, allured by music and bewitching show, then the lifeless will remain lifeless, and their bubble will burst in woe.
Thoughts adapted from Henry Law, edited, and re-presented for today’s Christians. By Michael Pursley