Posts Tagged ‘institutional Christianity’

I heard a sermon a few years ago on the radio relating many stories of men who rose to fame in Christian ministry only to end in defeat or humiliation.  The stories sobered me because you seldom hear “the rest of the story.”  The speaker shared statistics which indicated this is actually the more common outcome, rather than the exception.  I have been reading over the life of Solomon lately, and this sermon came back to mind.  We have no shortage of examples in scripture or in modern Christianity.

An interesting paradox in our Christian walk is that the greater a gift God gives His children, the more potential we find for the gift to become our bane instead of a blessing.   The first temptation is to love the gift more than the One who gave it, not realizing we have misplaced our highest devotion.  I believe this was Solomon’s downfall – his heart being drawn after the women in his life and passively following their spiritual desires at the expense of his love for the true God.  Sometimes the gifts and blessings of God overwhelm me, and the temptation is to focus all my energies on those things, especially my children and family.  But if we make an idol out of our career, house, family, church family or a charismatic leader, our love will quickly grow selfish, constricting, conditional, and even abusive, as we have cut ourselves off from the true Source of real love.  These idols are hard to see because we are supposed to love and nurture these things – but not more than we love God.  We often don’t realize we have crossed the line.   But others can often tell something is wrong, even if they don’t know why.

The other trap, especially in the area of ministry, is the feeding of our pride.  We mistakenly begin to ascribe to the sometimes subtle belief that our gifting originated in ourselves, not in God, or we may want to think He gave it to us because we are special in some way.  This describes the first evil found in our universe – when Satan became lifted up in his own beauty and aspired to sit on God’s throne himself.  We can never delude ourselves into believing anything good originates in us, and not lose the benefit of it in the end.  Solomon asked for wisdom in humility, telling God he was like a child who did not know how to go out or come in.  I wonder how long he remembered this was his natural state before God answered his prayer?

This is where we learn that the greater our revelation, the more we must be willing to suffer.  The great men and women of faith I admire the most, have suffered things I can only imagine. Why is this?  God’s mercy I believe, as Paul wrote:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.   Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.   But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:7 -10

This is why we are instructed to not despise the correction of God.  He does it in love to protect us from ourselves.  Not every calamity comes for this reason.  Some obstacles we are called to stand and fight against in spiritual warfare, but we must have discernment to hear when He says to us, “My grace is sufficient.”

God’s giftings come with testing built in – to see if we will love Him the most, and walk in humility before Him.  But if this is not enough, the church turned institution developed an over-dependence on leadership not found in the New Testament.  This structure places men on platforms they should not have to stand on, and binds burdens on them which should be shared by other giftings designed to work together as.. a body…. maybe?   This damaging symbiosis weakens both the pastor and the flock.  One is taxed to the point of his flame being burned out while the flock becomes passive. They expect their leader to spoon feed them, inspire them,  hear from God for them, soothe their every wound, and do the work of building the church by reaching the lost.  Some enjoy being large and in charge I suppose, but I have known those who have crumbled.  They need intercessors urgently – especially those who truly have a heart for honest truth and obedience to the Spirit.  Spurgeon said his ministry was a result of fervent intercession by those called to pray for him and the body.  Once during the Israelite’s wilderness wanderings, God allowed the burden to fall on 70 other men to prophesy with Moses – to lighten his load.  Moses declared at that time he wished all of Israel would prophesy.  This is the reality of what we have in the New Covenant and of God pouring out His Spirit on all flesh!  Yes we need leaders most definitely – but they are not ordained to be our everything.

Burnout, giving in to temptations, being distracted from our First Love in idolatry – just a few reasons why we do not end well.  Paul spoke of running the race and seeking the prize at the end.  I don’t believe he meant striving to be saved, but striving to end with integrity and faith, glorifying Christ.  In Ecclesiastes it appears that Solomon gained the greatest wisdom in the end – realizing the vanity of this world and the importance of a singular focus on God Himself.  Yet the consequences of his disobedience played out in a sad story of a divided kingdom.  We are living in an age of divided families, friendships, and churches.  We are not ending well, and it is my greatest desire and prayer that our true focus may be restored – to the praise and glory of God alone.


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