So if the primary battleground is not morality in the public sphere, what is it? I want to present that the current battleground for the health of the nation might quite possible be, not the Castro district, but the church. Now this is not to suggest we ignore the issues related to morality, but rather to begin to see moral conflicts more as little wild fires that persist because of another far more important burning inferno. That inferno might just be the church. Now if we are to criticize the church, it must ever be in love with a heart towards God’s ultimate goal. To berate the church and feel smug about doing it is to miss the mark and to lose any hope of prophetic unction. With that in mind, let’s consider this serious charge, but not with a religiosity that invalidates our own discernment.
Sadly, I believe that the culture wars are symptomatic of what is going on in the church. We have become a people that primarily value morality over God Himself. If we are a moral people, we are content to believe that we are a Christian people and this is emphatically not true for if morality was equivalent to Christianity, we must bring the Muslim and the Jew into our fellowship as well.
The first symptom of our malady is the issue of conversion. The flippancy with which we declare individuals converted must grieve the heart of God beyond measure. We prescribe a prayer, are really excited with a tear or two, and then pronounce an individual “saved.” This is not the authentic faith for which the New Testament Apostles died. Individuals are to be born again, with allegiance to another king and kingdom from that which they were born under. It is not a mistake that there is no official pattern of salvation in the New Testament. It is a supernatural work and God may work on a human heart however He wishes.
If an individual is born again they should demonstrate a new nature that is a heavenly one. It is ok if a toddler stumbles a little and we are not to demand a divine perfection of new believers of which even those most mature in the faith are incapable, but there should be clear evidence after a period of time that God had come to live in that individual and transformed the inner essence of who they are. While we cannot prescribe an “official” way of becoming born again as God is creative in how He brings men to repentance, we can see God clearly trying to break into every area of a newly born individual’s life. I do not want to belabor the point as volumes could be written on this, but we drastically need a new appreciation for, and in many cases a valid experience of, regeneration.
The second symptom is related to the first. The issue of being “filled with the Spirit” of “baptized in the Spirit” has likewise become cheap. How many believers are there claiming this experience and yet their lives reflect little heavenly reality? I am not trying to throne stones, belittle or question anyone but the question has to be asked. Are we really immersed in God’s Spirit with a heavenly mindedness, a heavenly perception, and a heavenly power far beyond what mortal men possess? If the Spirit has genuinely immersed you, I have no stone to throw, but the church at large, including those claiming an immersion into the Spirit, has very little real demonstration of eternal life and power.
The fact that so many in this Charismatic age claim an extra-ordinary enduement and yet do not live in an extra-ordinary way should lead us to our knees to weep that the Spirit might once again be poured out in power. While tongues can certainly be a sign of the infilling, they are not an exclusive evidence of the infilling if the rest of the individual remains unaffected by the supposed enduement of power. I am quite comfortable if you say that tongues are an initial evidence so long as the subsequent evidences of holiness, love, and power also produce themselves. If they do not, we must ask ourselves are we truly immersed even if there is an appearance of tongues.
The third symptom is our demonstration of morality. The sad reality is that among the church there is rampant failure to live out the morality that we require of those outside the church. How many more public failures must there be before we as a people consider if the problem lay, not in accountability problems, and accountability is good, but in something much deeper at the root of the faith.
The almost daily admission of moral failures from within the church, often at a leadership level, should drive us to consider whether or not there is a fundamental problem. Even where we may outwardly seem to conform with “Christian morality” we seem to be missing the inward fire of it as evidenced by secret sins such as pornography that are seemingly hidden like, sadly, rampant throughout Christendom. Through the internet and television we are now able to virtually violate our morality even as we maintain an outward remnant of it.
This “rotting from within” alone should be sufficient evidence that there is something severely amiss with our morality. In other words, if we were healthy within we would demonstrate healthy morality without. The fact that we demonstrate unhealthy outward morality points to a cancer within. If you examine the New Testament you will find a consistent focus on the indwelling work of Christ over and above merely moral living.
So then why is it we spend most of our time on that which the apostles mentioned only at a glance? Besides the issue of regeneration, one reason could be that in our zeal to reform culture, we have made morality the prime characteristic of Christianity. The apostles knew that radical adherence to a kingdom to come, accompanied by a present demonstration of it, all made possible by a deep inner repentance that severed the root of worldliness and made Christ Lord, would naturally lead to a moral people. In their writing and their preaching, it was King Jesus and His kingdom that was the subject over and above man’s morality. They dealt with the root and the symptoms naturally disappeared.
This is what God is longing for. God is not longing for a moral people, He is longing for a demonstration of a people that have been radically transformed and have an adherence to a radical kingdom to the exclusion of all other kingdoms. This people is not just a people that are more moral, but rather a people whose entire way of living threatens earthly kingdoms, even those affirmed by the most religious of men.
It is this demonstration that God is so jealous for. It is this allegiance to the King that is coming and not just to the Savior that has come, that must be present among God’s people. God wants a demonstration and a people. The current demonstration of Christianity that the world sees seems content with morality and yet God has called us to something far greater.
If we listen to much of the Christian rant against the culture we would believe that the American dream and capitalism are the path to righteousness if we could just legislate away the moral ills that presently exist within American culture. What we urgently need is a voice, yea even a demonstration, in the church who will bring that sword to bear that divides between bone and marrow. We must be a people that demonstrate that the American dream and capitalism are both at odds with the kingdom of God just as liberal morality is. We must begin to see the root and see that the root of the American experience is tainted by the same sin as the “moral ills” we battle. While a certain economic or governmental system may be preferable to another, we must understand that these systems still are rooted in this age and still allow for, and even encourage, men to iniquity.
Until God has a people that are willing to declare war on the entire root of culture, I fear we will gain little ground. This is why the primary battleground right now is the church, and not society at large. We need to maintain a voice in society, but we need to focus the intensity of our fight right within our own four walls. Until we have an expression of repentance that is capable of tearing down the expressions of the world that the church presently embraces, we will be incapable of pulling down the strongholds of more blatant immorality.
While we are fretting about declining morality, God is longing for a people whose entire demonstration is against the culture at large. I have to wonder if God is content to wait for the expression of His people that He longs for even as the morality of the culture at large declines. Until He has a people that have the smell of eternity on every expression of their life, not just on their moral code, He is not going to be content.
While we think the issue of declining morals in the church is the result of an influx of the world, one might better argue that it is due to an out flux of God. God is really not our chief obsession. Jesus is not really seen as the most precious prize we have, worthy of orchestrating our entire lives around. You see what eventually causes the morals of the church to decline is not the issue of the world, but the issue of religiosity and I am afraid this is rooted deeper in us then we know. And before you load up your moral cannon spend some deep time in front of the mirror. Jesus and John Baptist both aimed “repent!” at you and me first, not the Romans.
If we are to truly influence the culture it cannot be by inducing it to a greater morality, it must come from demonstrating to it a culture that is entirely different. That demonstration necessarily creates conflict without a single protest or boycott. It incurred the full wrath of Rome in its day and, I dare say, would do no less in our own. It is the root which must be different, not only the morality. This is what we must contend for. Let’s be so jealous for God’s glory that we become His expression rather than settling for morality.