"Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off." Psalm 37:34
Living today seems harder than ever. Though I do not want to take on a "chronological snobbery" approach to this life, it seems like there has never been a harder time to live. Unemployment in America is higher than at any other time since the Great Depression, more people have lost their homes to foreclosure than at any other time in history (and more are coming next year), big business appears to own everything, the Government is running/ruining anything it can get its hands on (that's both parties), and we have people fighting over health care while we're at war in the Middle East and dealing with an Economic collapse in our own nation. All of this is happening while there is more money in circulation than at any other time in history. Shouldn't that make us happy and content? Strangely enough we are living in a time in which we are considered the "healthiest" generation with a longer life expectancy than any other people group in history (pre-flood) and yet clinical Depression has reached levels that never seemed imaginable. We know more about our Universe due to increased technology but we deny God's existence even though we can't explain any other way that the Universe could have come in to being. Moreover, we can communicate with people anywhere on the globe faster than you can say "Twitter" but we can't get on the phone with our own families or friends and forgive one another so that we may live in a graceful and peaceful environment in this short life that we have.
(Note: "chronological snobbery" is a term used by C.S Lewis to help people understand the timelessness of truth, beauty, etc. In our day we believe we are more advanced (and we are) because of new technology, more modes of transportation and a myriad of ways to communicate but when we take on a view that we are "better" than times past, and are only able to "get it" now because of some new Science or IPhone application, we are practicing "chronological snobbery".)
I struggle with the idea of being "in" in a culture that seems so upside down. The older I get, the more I watch how fast my daughter is growing up, I feel like I'm "out" instead of "in". (Now "out" means I'm gay, which I'm not, so maybe I should say "out of touch".) In a society where it is "cool" to dress like an outcast (because it's in), follow a specific political agenda because it's hip, or become "cause" oriented because you are so in touch with your compassionate side, it's hard for me to ignore the fact that being a "radical", or being "cool" today seems completely boring and "put on" when compared to Jesus of Nazareth; a guy who was so much more radical than anything this world has to offer that he didn't have to promote himself. When he had the opportunity to rule an Earthly Kingdom, his response was that His kingdom was "not of this world". When He could have had legions of Angels rescue Him from the cross, He decided against it because it would have ruined the possibility of Grace; the undeserved forgiveness offered to all of mankind for their past, current and future sins. Jesus was concerned about changing people from the inside out. His plan was to lead his followers on a "narrow road" yet when I look around at our culture, specifically Christians in our culture, we have taken on the "outside in" approach as that is what appears marketable to the masses.
In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus states, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." I must say before I get rolling that I absolutely love the Church! I'm truly grateful to be part of the bride of Christ! But it pains my Spirit to see the crowds of consumers who show up on Sunday to be "fed", taking from God and not giving their life for Him (I'm guilty of this too at times). I'm talking about the people showing up on Sunday, thinking that if they "just do Church, and join a life group" then they've fulfilled their God quota, or that they've fit in to their culture as a Christian. Little do these people realize they have joined the "wide road" that leads to destruction as Jesus is not their everything but only one of their things. Sadly, the Pastors, scared to lose these cultural, consumer Christians who pay their bills rarely preach repentance for fear of losing their financial base and do not Shepherd these Sheep to greener pastures planted by God. They tell people to "come as they are", yet they send them home after letting them know Jesus loves them, and teaching them a second language called "Christianese" all while never asking people to truly be "born again" so that they may inherit the Kingdom that comes along with traveling on the "narrow road".
Doing the "churchy Christiany life" is harming people more than helping them as a majority of the people in our own faith, scared to fail by Earthly standards, think that they can love both God and the world equally (the wide road). As we show compassion, teach these "learners of Christ" (as opposed to followers) some great stuff about how to live, we never actually call them out of a life of Earthly living, which would actually lead them to find their security in Christ. In reality, if we think about it, what the Church is doing is leading people to Heaven "through the fire" as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3. It is my opinion Christians today are only learning to waste their life better, as they know who Christ is, but still walk on the road considered to wide to Jesus.
As I read today's passage in the Psalms, I love the very first line about keeping God's "way" so that we may inherit what He has for us as the others are "cut off". In a culture that tells us that the "world is our oyster" and then tells us that we can love both Jesus and a "comfy" life out of the other side of its mouth, we recognize the contradiction in the message. Either God is lying or culture/generation are lying. I'm going to tell you bluntly, it's your culture that's lying to you and it's effecting what it really means to follow Christ. It's effecting the Spirit's role on Sunday, it's effective the way we evangelize, it's effecting unity in the Church and it's effecting the way Jesus is "marketed" to the masses.
The reason I love that line about "keeping God's way" so much is that it is actually very similar to Jesus' teaching about the "narrow road". The word "way" is the focus and in Hebrew the word "way", is translated into the word "derek" which means "a course of life or mode of action". Jesus was never concerned about the masses. He never signed an endorsement deal to bring him followers by putting him on a billboard in which he was paid to promote the "Jesus Sandals". Jesus' concern was to save the brokenhearted and the downtrodden, the widows and the orphans while teaching them a new "way". He aimed to bring all those to Him who new first hand that if life was only about what happens here, then "life isn't fair". The early followers of Christ in Acts were known as "the way" and it's no coincidence that they carried that name. In Christ is a new life and the old is gone. Jesus was interested in saving anyone and everyone, but never if they planned on keeping their own life which is the reason he invited anyone to join His "way". If you disagree, look at what He told the "young rich ruler" in Mark 10.
My goal today is not to bash Sunday church or the people who share the same Faith as me. It's not to push myself up as somebody who "gets it". My goal today, through Psalm 37:34 is to remind us that God has a plan for those people who choose to walk on His narrow path, no matter how much pain, hardship or suffering we endure. It's through that plan of the narrow path that we are to inherit His perfect Kingdom. As you see others around basking in the success of "making it" while the world is falling apart, don't be jealous or discouraged as that reaction only indicates your immaturity in Christ and His eternal perspective. I also want to say that I think it's wonderful if you go to church on Sunday (as we do sometimes) but doing that is not enough. Doing a "life group" or a "bible study" is not enough. The only thing that is enough is finding Jesus to be your everything. Life is found in glorifying God and the joy that comes from accepting the gift of grace from Jesus Christ. Without Christ there is no life, and a life without His Spirit is one in which finding your security in Him seems not only silly but ignorant. You have a choice, and you are either in or you're out. Repent today, let God transform you from the inside out and start living a life of fullness and vision, a life in which our joy does not go up and down like the stock market, but is full because of what we have in Jesus.