WARNING: Heavenly parental guidance recommended: this post contains explicit criticism of comfortable, lost Christians and church. Readers are asked to read this in the Presence of the Holy Spirit.
A good friend of mine was hurt by the Church, not once, but serially. We’ve all heard similar stories; pastors, members and church boards full of pride and blinded by legalism, traipsing all over their congregations in all their self-righteous glory; it doesn’t happen that often, but it does happen. Christians and churches can lose their way as good as anyone or any organisation.
The downward-spiralling pattern toward rampant disobedience and idolatry is one of the theological marks of the Bible. No one can deny this if they look at Judges, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. Even the Pentateuch is littered with stories of decline to moral relativism. Furthermore, Proverbs 1-9 (among other wisdom literature), instructionally, underscores time and again how persistently saved humanity wanders from the path of righteousness.
The example raised earlier of the friend ‘betrayed’ by his local church is a rarer phenomenon, however, to that of an all-too-common--and equally hazardous--problem in the Christian Church. The ‘comfy,’ lost Christian and church.
Of all the Christian problems there can be, there is usefulness checking them against the standard put to the seven churches in John’s time of Revelation. In the case of the comfy, lost Christian we can draw certain parallels with the churches in Ephesus, Sardis and Laodicea, but I want to focus mainly on the biblical example present in Sardis.
Sardis and Laodicea were both in comfortable positions, exposed to very little threat. And the church at Sardis was so comfortable that its reputation to outsiders of being ‘alive’ was a sham--a mark of self-deceit. It was the "perfect model of inoffensive Christianity."
A church possibly infected by the world.
The irony here is the ‘name’ Sardis had was actually a cataclysmic weakness--‘alive’ but actually dead; diluted, docile, and a push-over and certainly of no serious benefit for the Kingdom of God.
And now, let us come back abruptly to many of today’s typical Western churches, which, like every other generation in history, have the same challenges before it--the challenge of growing fat on the blessings of God.
This fatness comes at the expense of those to be served by this Christian and this church; those directly and indirectly in their path, those whom may be aided by their ministry, but never receive anything significant of God from these. The purpose of the Christian and the church, after all, at its end, is to serve.
We saw with the church at Ephesus that it had lost its first love. The comfy, lost Christian and church is not only growing fat, hoarding wealth, keeping itself safe, they have lost their first love. The mysticism and power of the Holy Spirit is lost to these. There is no spark of light or pungency of salt. Go on, yes, you see it now, don’t you?
If this Christian and this church don’t repent (change its mind and its approach) it will be spat out of Christ’s mouth.
The state and the country I live in is one of the richest, materially, in the world. Yet, there is still no shortage of complaint going around. What occurs in the world also has a habit of occurring in that microcosm called church.
I wonder. Is this a difficult word to swallow? Like a thief in the night the Lord comes.
Hypocritical, lazy, selfish, dead Christian and church: the fire of God is going to burn you to hell for your blasphemous and offensive ‘ministry’!
And to all the Christians and churches reading this who are genuinely preparing or are ready to meet God on that final day, I salute you. It is the purpose of our lives.
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.
Acknowledgement toPastor Neville Stanway
who prompted some of these thoughts, though his word was less lambasting.
ENDNOTES: Craig R. Koester, Revelation and the End of All Things (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001), p. 67. Citing Caird, A Commentary (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 48.  Christopher C. Rowland, The Book of Revelation: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections – New Interpreters Bible Volume XII (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1998), p. 583.