I really cannot figure some people out. I realize that North America has developed a very self-centered society where everyone seems to share in the same goal of getting more money. I realize that our main occupation is how to entertain ourselves. We even see our work as a means to an end, whether that end is to afford entertainment or early retirement. There was a time when we found purpose in the work itself. Many values have shifted because of these changes to perspective, allowing for marriages that are not marriages and abortions because babies are too inconvenient. I realize all this is happening in the world and I am not surprised. It may disgust me but I am never surprised at what the unleashed sinful nature can do. However, I am surprised at how much this perspective is tainting the Church in Noth America.
I have no illusions of what the Church is and either should you. The Church is made up of a messy people living messy lives so it can be a very messy place. We have people of various levels of maturity all desiring to be like Jesus. The more mature are suppose to have patience with the less mature and even be an encouragement to them. But relationships are never perfect, things can breakdown; sin can happen. We should never be surprised by sin, in and outside of the Church. However, what we should expect is repentance and forgiveness. These are the two pillars of a healthy church. None of this surprises me as we all travel together on this great journey of discovery and growth.What does surprise me is the sense of lost purpose.
North American worshipers have gotten so caught up in the culture of "self" that we have lost our sense of purpose. The reason is simple: one cannot be a selfish servant. We have forgotten that Jesus did not die on the cross so that we can do whatever we want with our lives. He died so that we would gain the freedom of choice. As long as we were chained by sin we had no choice. He freed us from those chains so that we could make a choice; to be a slave again to sin or to his righteousness. In other words we can choose to fall back into the slavery of sin and allow sin to dictate our thoughts and actions or we could fall into the the control and direction of doing what is right according to God. To choose Jesus is to choose to die to yourself, to your desires and wants. In choosing Jesus we choose a life of service to God:
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:14)
If this is new to you then I encourage you to take note of this verse; "so that we may serve the living God!" The one thing that will destroy that service is when we refuse to die to ourselves. Jesus warned us that we cannot serve two masters because we will love one of them and hate the other. When we try to serve God and our desires we end up resenting the many things that God has us do. When we fail to receive anything from this service we become bitter and that bitterness brings out a lot of ugly stuff. We fail to understand that we have already received every spiritual blessing so we do not need to receive anything else from our service. However, God will not argue with us. He will react like the father in the parable of the prodigal son. He will let us go off and live a self-centered life and even hit bottom. We cannot blame him for the foolishness of our self-centeredness. Yet, just like the father in the parable, he is waiting to take us back when we come back in repentance. So, do not think that God is going to prevent you from becoming self-centered; it is a choice we make.
Maturity can only be found in a life that knows sacrifice; sacrifice can only happen in a selfless life, a selfless life can only be lived after we have died to ourselves. Remember that Jesus told us that a person who tries to save his will lose it but a person who loses his life will save it. I am not sure we can appreciate this truth until we are willing to admit the environment in which we live. If we don't see it how can we respond to it? Traveling a bit can help with that. Get out of your environment, visit another country, go on a mission trip, experience the struggle of another culture for just a week and you will come back completely aware of the environment in which we live. This alone will not change you because you will quickly fall back into your old ways. However, this awareness can help you to understand what you must choose to decide to do in Jesus Christ.
We are saved so that we may serve the living God. Are you there?