Jesus is the Bridge to Balance – A message for the American Church

Jesus is the bridge to balance.  This is a thought I believe the Lord gave me yesterday.

I believe that that majority of the churches today that actually preach and believe in salvation can be put into two categories.  First is the “Feelings” Camp.  Second is the “truth camp”.  I addressed earlier there instead needs to be a balance  worshiping God in both SPIRIT and TRUTH.

If you are not in the Pentecostal or Charismatic movement, but you have a bible-believing worldview, you may be able to see that these denominations over-emphasize the Holy Spirit  office of the trinity.   This represents the majority of the “feelings camp” though almost all of the modern mega-church movement could be added here.  Many are also leaving the “truth” camp and embracing their “feelings”.

On one side, it is never good to neglect the spirit, and many churches neglect the Holy Spirit all together.  You are left with dead orthodoxy and lifeless religion.  Dead man’s bones in whited sepulchres.  However, just as dangerous is to put the emphasis on experience and feeling and the gifts of the spirit.  They may not necessarily be worshiping the spirit, nor will they necessarily think they are neglecting Jesus Christ.  However, by being involved with these circles you will have to fight the crowd and go against the grain to not go astray and end up with the unstable results from seeking signs and wonders.

I have heard a lot of criticism about this camp from those “not in their camp”.  What I don’t see from any camp is for those inside the camp able to recognize where they are off and adjust before they get out of whack.  These “Spirit-focused churches” do have some strengths as when you tend to emphasize the spirit over truth, you get very little judgmentalism   However, with little judgmentalism you get little discernment.   They love everybody, but without truth, you now have all kinds of confusion such as a brand new ministry where an actual husband and wife bodybuilder couple started a ministry to reach out to those in the swinger lifestyle.  By becoming swingers.

The feelings camp tends to not harp on what people look like.  They tend to accept people how they are.   People pack stadiums to hear Joel Olsteen smile and say how wonderful they are or to rock out at a Jars of Clay Kingdom Bound concert filled with strobe lights and marijuana smoke.  Amateur positive preachers get thousands of web hits and hundreds of likes after an hour of their post.  However, they then think everyone is saved and when everyone is saved there is no reason to evangelize.  And often they are content to leave people as they are.

I really think THE or maybe just a big problem in all the churches of America today is the emphasis on Jesus, God the SON, is minimized.  OK, so the mega-church touchy-feely love-everyone God-loves-us-too-much-to-care-about-our-sin rock-n-roll circus we have created in the last 30 years that puts the emphasis on the Holy Spirit, feelings, and the gifts is unbalanced and partly to blame.  But is this camp completely responsible for America’s idolatrous backslid condition?

I think the truth camp is just as guilty, if not more so.  They don’t know what the truth is.  We have the truth, but our attitude repels more people than it attracts.  I think those of us in the Bible believing, King James preaching, sin hating, fundamental, standard holding, doctrine honoring circles can just as easily have Christ knocking to be let in and not realize it.  The late revivalist Leonard Ravenhill said of our generation’s churches, “You reek with pride.”  He said there is no cost of being a Christian in America.  None.

We too have neglected Christ, but just here there is a different emphasis.  It is just as dangerous here in the “truth camp” because I don’t think we really are lifting up Jesus Christ 100%.  Some churches may be better than others, but in general we seem to give out the love of God to a lost and dying world, but present the harsh and just God the Father of the Old Testament to the church.   I believe that is the opposite of what they did during the Great Awakening.   I believe you exalt Christ after you lay the foundation of how they offended a Holy God by their actions using the Law and the “God of the Old Testament”.  IE, the “law to the proud, grace to the humble”.    Instead, we have a play or a performance or a special Christmas program that appeals to people’s emotions instead of the conscience and give them the cure before they know they truly have the disease.  They “pray the prayer” and in their unrepentant state perhaps come to church.  Then they are introduced to the harsh God the Father and interpret that you please God by your actions.  And we have successfully made another two fold child of hell.  And we have been doing that for the past 100 years.

I think you need to exalt the holiness of God to a lost and dying world that causes people to cry out, “what must I do to be saved?”  After you are saved you want to cry out, what must I do to please God?  The answer is “This is my beloved Son.  Hear YE Him!  It is Christ in you, the Hope of Glory!”   To mix it up, and give a lost and hardened world the CURE of Jesus before they are convinced of the disease creates a majority of spoiled, hardened, cynical, presumptuous  prideful externally controllable “pseudo-Christians” who know the “love of God” without actually knowing God.  Nor do they have genuine love for others.

Hence, we have goats and then we try to use after “God the Father” to raise them up to act like sheep.  And the lost and dying world looks at all this and we wonder why they aren’t getting converted.

Putting the emphasis on “God the Father” instead of on Jesus seems to be the message of today’s churches that are trying to preach something.  It might not be the only message, but it comes off louder and more authoritative than lifting up the Lord Jesus Christ.   What I mean by that is there is so much confusion today over the wrath and angry God shown in the Old Testament and what people see as this loving soft and cuddly white Jesus that the Catholic paintings portray.   The biblical Jesus had a balance of law and grace, truth and love, truth and spirit, and mercy and judgment.

However, the new circles reject the OT God of holiness and create the “Shack” version of Jesus who cares less about our sin.  So to counter act that, it seems, we in the “Truth” circles sometimes in our actions and by our preaching present God as he was in the OT.    The OT law is used to expose our sin and bring our knowledge for salvation.  It is to get us to look to Jesus.  After salvation we are to look at the Cross for victory!  I believe that if we only instead live by OT principals, and think we please God by our services and have a “try-harder sanctification by works” type of Christianity, it will produce either those that continually struggle and are always on the verge of giving up, or it will produce self-righteous holier-than-thous who think they are better than everyone.   I think we are plagued with raising the majority in the church house either as closet sinners, in-your-face rebels, or look-down-at-everyone else who have fewer standards than you.  And want to punch anyone with more standards than you.

Yes, God is holy and judges sin.  However, when we study Jesus, we notice he had compassion on the sinner, patience in dealing with people, and yet a consistency of giving law to the proud and religious and grace and mercy to the humble.  Contrast how Jesus treated the Pharisees and Sadducee and then how Jesus dealt with the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, Nicodemus or the thief on the Cross.   Jesus handled everyone perfectly because he was God.

I first find the “truth camp” is inconsistent in the treatment of sinners.  Sin that makes us uncomfortable or steps on our toes is given the wrath of God and the hammer falls.   The lost come in and either have a “go get ’em! I don’t like those kind of people either!” and we feed on their self-righteousness or they feel shame and that they are never good enough to be saved.  The saved have trouble showing grace and mercy and have no idea how to deal with people struggling with the “unpopular sins”.   Or if they are guilty of them, they then put on masks and act the part and spend years in church as hypocrites.

There seems to be sins God hates but I don’t think that is how God deals with sin today.  He doesn’t wink at sin, but I don’t see Jesus railing on the sins of the flesh like the Preachers today.   I do see him only “railing” on the sins of the heart, and the sins of the Pharisee.  We who have struggled with overcoming addictions hate our sin and want to repent.  What I think is true about addictions is they are symptoms that something is off.  If I struggled with pornography before I was saved, I will struggle with it when my marriage is in the toilet and when I keep my struggles in the dark.

However, when things around me are being dealt with biblically, and I am biblically loving my wife, I will not have an interest in pornography.  To preach hard on the subject seems to rise up our self-righteousness.  I think then I can beat it on my own and “just say no.”   Then we start harping on everyone else’s sins, and comparing ourselves among ourselves.  “I’m glad I have victory over MY sin.  Look at poor Billy over there, still stuck on his.  Praise God, I am the better Christian!”  If we simply keep looking to Jesus and see how He became sin who knew no sin, we would know and see we have nothing to glory in.  Not our talents, not our abilities, not our church attendance, not our performance.  The only thing we can glory in is Christ, and Him crucified.

The New Testament church seems to be about lifting up Jesus and drawing sinners to Him, not railing on the sins that WE hate and the sin that make us mad.   More and more young men growing up in the conservative circles are closet homosexuals or addicted to pornography.  I don’t know why all that is, but part of it is there is often a judgmental atmosphere where those struggling do not think they would be accepted if they “came out” to get help in dealing with issues and getting victory.  They only see a cold, unforgiving church and outside they have a world calling them and willing to accept them.  Or they find a denomination out there that accepts their “lifestyle”.  Which are getting easier and easier to find.

They can grow up with wrong desires because the forbidden is a lure the devil uses, and if someone is different and feels rejected by everyone around him he may be prone to fall for anyone -or anything- that gives him attention.   Is there an environment where they can address confusing feelings and get loving, grace-filled hope?  From stories I read, the answer is generally NO.  They feel like they can’t tell anyone and they leave the church and they fall into “the lifestyle” and grow up hating the church.  Yet, is the church there for them to woo them back?  Is the church able to offer hope?  Or is the church convinced that there is no restoration when there is an abomination?   Usually the church shuns them and really if they ever did come back, the average church wouldn’t know how to help them anyhow.

Further, the church has very little answer for treating “mental illness”.   They claim they have the answer from the pulpits.  Often, it is taught that depression or bipolar or whatever is either a sin, or from lack of faith, or from some judgment.  Medication is condemned.  The only problem then is when someone after seeks an answer.  “OK, Pastor, I struggle with being Bipolar and I don’t want to take my medication any more.  What is the answer?”  “Um, you don’t want to quit your medication without your doctor’s approval.  Maybe talk to him.”

I don’t have an exact answer right now either, but the appeal of the pharmacy industry is that it offers a quick-fix hands-off symptom-minimizing substitute than the awkward, gut-wrenching, lengthy maintenance of dealing with the enormous emotional issues that someone with major life struggles have.   You see a doctor, he prescribes substitutes for the promises of God, and get refills and see him again in 6 months.  Sooner if you are a more serious case.

We have Xanax instead of the peace of God, Prozac instead of the joy of the Lord, Suboxone for drug addiction instead of Jesus who came to set the captives free, and Lithium for mood and mind stabilization instead of “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace who’s mind is stayed on thee”.

Yes God hates sin.   That is why he poured out his wrath on Jesus Christ.  While God hates the sins of sodomy, and God hates pornography, and God hates the sin of child molesters, and God hates the sin of church dividers, and God hates those that rebel against authority,  God also hates the sins of pride, self-righteousness, idolatry, gluttony, lying, covetousness, and love of money.   But God does not have the sinner’s in his cross hairs.  The cross hairs were aimed at the CROSS!

The way it is often portrayed is that God could never love someone who committed those unpardonable sins in man’s eyes.  We might not say that, but often in our actions, we shake our heads when people fall, we remove certain lay people from ministries at the hint of some moral failure yet defend others no matter what they have done.  For example, a big name Pastor who’s father was one of the biggest names in the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church, was a proven and chronic adulterer.  Things were washed under the rug and he was moved to another church and repeated the process.  Another story is a young girl got impregnated by a church leader and she was blamed and moved away out of state.  Yet when a person who tries to take a stand against injustices or tries to say this behavior is wrong,  he is attacked and labeled a church divider.  Sins against the church are treated harsher than sins against the Lord.  Or against anyone else.  That is another reason why so many are completely disillusioned about the movement.  It is not just Independent fundamental Baptists, as my first youth pastor at the Wesleyan megachurch I attended committed some sort of immoral act with one of the girls in the college group.

I am not calling out the falling leaders as much as I am saying there needs to be an atmosphere of healing, of where you can be honest and open without being labeled for life, and where you are given hope not hate.    There across the board is a general better treating for the predator –someone in authority that takes advantage of a vulnerable young man or lady — than the victim.  And for someone not in authority, they are often treated like how the pharisees treated the woman caught in adultery.  In my Wesleyan example, the head pastor instead of apologizing for the youth leader’s behavior instead rebuked the entire college group who attended and said we should have reported anything unusual.   We had no clue anything was going on, and yet we were blamed for not preventing it.

And more disheartening, this often translates to the belief that God can never use someone who fell.   Ministry today is more character based and more a reward for those that have put everything else on the back burner for the cause of the church.  God used Paul, God used David, God used Moses, but in our version of a more powerless Christianity, we claim to believe God can change anyone, but the reality is we are full of unbelief and tough love.  However, I think we are creating a self-fulfilled prophecy.   The truth is someone with struggles who genuinely wants to serve God generally will thrive in an atmosphere of acceptance and opportunity.  It is more fulfilling to serve God than to give into sin.   When one feels God has rejected them, they are cut off from the only source of victory and they either serve God to “feel right” or they give up all together and feel God abandoned them.   No matter what someone did, if they genuinely have a love for God and show they really did indeed meet God, who are we to hold them back?  Jesus came not to call the righteous.  Yet that is who “we” call.  Those that fit the mold, and those that say, do, and wear everything right.  I’m not saying if you work at BurgerKing, I should still be allowed to be a manager though I refuse to take off my McDonald’s uniform.  What I am saying, is it seems our circles are better at training people to be Baptists than they are letting the spirit of God mold and shape a man.  And the true molding and shaping might produce some ugly, embarrassing moments.  Those who are Christ like, put an arm around that person and see their potential if  Christ can get their hearts and if Christ can get them back on track. Those that are “religious” think, “see that is exactly why we never gave you a Sunday School class!”

I am a pharmacist, and work 6 days straight.  A Christian brother I knew called me to help out here and there.  Business is slow-growing, but since I have a young family, it is a good idea to have a back-up in case of emergencies.  I had a semi-urgent need for him last week, and called him that morning to come in.  He sounded off in the morning, but I brushed it off. He came to relieve me and seemed off, but I was focused on getting out the door.  Fifteen minutes later, I get a call from the owner that I need to get back to the pharmacy.  My relief Christian friend came to work DRUNK!!!  I was aggravated but prayed and knew I had to show compassion.  The following week I gave him another chance as my wife and I wanted off for a wedding.   A couple days before the wedding he called to cancel because he was in the hospital with kidney stones and stomach problems which were likely related to the alcohol!!  Yet, I still want to give him a chance and know God can change him.   It was an eye opener because I saw that tendency in me to think I was better because I never sinned like that.  No, and I probably did worse.

Church is confusing, because on the other hand, sinners who practice the “treatable sins” that are controllable and fixable without a lot of effort are given a lot of mercy on.  Across the board, you will be treated better at the average Baptist church for certain sins practiced “after salvation” (when yet they don’t have a biblical claim to salvation.  “such were some of you”) than if you committed certain sins before salvation.   For example, in the Baptist circles sitting in service holding your pregnant girlfriend’s hand raises less eyebrows today than if you were a practicing witch, lesbian, or Democrat 20 years ago.  Sins of fornication, being unfriendly, being a drunkard or drug addict, gluttony, and other sins are in general acceptable.   Also, when you get saved, you are allowed certain sins and others are forbidden.  For example, you can watch DVD’s of Hollywood.  You cannot go to a movie theater.  You can be a Coke addict.  Or a Pepsi junkie.   You are only allowed to drink beer the first 48 hours you are saved.  You can smoke cigarettes for the first 5 years after you are saved.  I am not quoting actual rules, obviously, but in general there are certain “rules” that each church emphasizes, and sins that are acceptable and sins that are forbidden, and we tend to get our holiness from our church statement of faith and mimicking the spirituality of others instead of the Word of God and the Bible.  I had heard that the Southern Baptists were so shocked by the way the Baptists of England had beer at their bible studies, that they choked on their cigarettes.  And the Northern Baptists snorted out their coffee.

We need to instead just fall back in love with the Lord Jesus Christ and let that push us to look to Him for what is right and what is wrong.  What is wrong for me might not be wrong for you.  And vice-versa.  Instead of advice on our vices.

In general we are too external focused.  We need to be Christ focused, Christ centered instead of church centered, and ETERNAL focused instead of EXTERNAL focused.  1,000 violins all tuned to the master violin will automatically be in tune with each other.  And will produce a beautiful angelic orchestra.  We need to raise up a generation that is fine tuned to Christ, not made to be a man molded cookie cutter who feels like a failure if he doesn’t fit the mold.  Tuned to Christ, letting God use one’s individual God given talents and God given abilities to bring forth a symphony that will touch the world.

And when you aren’t looking down at the world, and especially those in the church, you can impact both for eternity.

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