It is Sunday morning.
Bells in church towers and cathedrals ring throughout Europe, the British Isles, and the Middle East. With the westward passage of morning light across the Atlantic, steeples in the New World take up the anthem like an antiphonal bell choir.
People across the United States gather together. Worship teams perform. Hymns and choruses are sung. Prayers are made. Then, like a wave of the sea moving westward, ministers from one end of the nation to the other begin to rise to their pulpits.
All seems well. But it is not.
To a large and sometimes alarming degree Jesus is no longer central in the message or the life of the church.
We are busy with our own lives, concerns, activities, and church functions; sometimes even with missionary work.
It is popular to focus on subjects like prayer, worship, and “faith.” We find it interesting to study the lives of the disciples and other Biblical characters. The Biblical writings themselves are of interest to us. But our fascination with Jesus Christ is minimal. We seem to overlook the simple fact that an intimate relationship with Him is the fountain and all in all of life and faith. This is not true of everyone who claims to be a Christian in America, but it is common.
In Jesus’ day, when certain Greeks approached Philip, they said, “We would see Jesus.” They were not all that interested in getting to know Philip or how to worship in the feast. For them, to meet the Savior was the pearl of great price for which they had come.
Prayer and worship, and the like, are important, but they are of little if any concern for one who has an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Such things are a natural part of a close walk with Him. There is no need to make an independent study of them. Our focus in America seems to be on matters that are in themselves only secondary in nature. We show little concern for the heart of the matter. Thus, what is characteristic of the church in America today is that we “have a name that we live and are dead.” Our religious faith has become increasingly outward and Pharisaical.
Likewise, there is a place for the Biblical characters. A study of them should be of interest to us, for they played an important part in God’s work on earth. Our own lives are often much like theirs. The Biblical account itself, however, focuses on Jesus Christ. “In the volume of the book it is written of Me,” He said. The focus of Moses and Elijah and even of God the Father was upon Jesus when He was on the mountain where He was transfigured. So it was with John the Baptist. He said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The Biblical characters intend to draw attention to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Has the church in America, and vast areas of western Europe, forgotten Him? His words, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” were written to a church. It is therefore not only conceivable but an actual historical fact that Jesus is sometimes excluded from the very gatherings that bear His name. Could He be saying these words to many of us in America who claim to believe in Him?
If so, very few, it seems, hear His voice and open the door and find the joy of fellowship with Him.
We seem to be doing so well. The work of evangelism and church planting and the formalities of worship are so well laid out step by step in Christian books, or outlined through human planning, that we feel very little need for the Lord to direct us. It is as if we expect Him to come along while we do “the work of the ministry.” How much time do we actually spend in dependence upon God in prayer and in truly worshiping and loving and enjoying the Lord Jesus Christ and our heavenly Father? What would seem to be normal Christianity is surprisingly rare in the United States today.
We are shamed by our brothers and sisters in other countries, who have very little, yet are so in love with Jesus. Even though we have so many Bibles, seminars, Christian conferences, Christian books, and Bible-training institutions, it is rare for Christians in America to gather for the sole purpose of celebrating Jesus Christ and the beauty and riches found in Him and His Father.
Somehow the “good part” has been overlooked by us. We have become a subculture preoccupied with ourselves and our own interests and activities, and may find that we are out of touch with our Master.
© James Unruh 2015 and beyond