Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Blurred Line Of Distinction

“And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” Malachi 3:18 (NIV)

To the person looking in, America’s Christian churches are bulging at the seams. Mega-churches are springing up across the nation, churches with an attendance of 30,000-plus in their congregations. On any given day one can find on his television set masses filling the pews, all appearing eager to hear the Word of God from finely dressed and groomed Pastors with gleaming white teeth and winning smiles. But what one sees on the outside is not necessarily what resides on the inside.

The line of “distinction” has become blurred. It is often cited in our media that approximately 80 percent of Americans are professing Christians. If one believed the number to be accurate, crime in the United States would be almost non-existent. There would be little hunger, poverty, or homelessness. Abortion would not be tolerated, divorce would be rare, and our nation’s laws would remain established upon the foundation God laid before us. Recently, I read a study that dramatically decreased this number to below 5 percent. Astounding as this seems, when the questions of what it meant to truly claim this title were asked, the number of Christians narrowed tragically. In other words, when our feet are put to the fire, we miserably fail the test.

There is a vast difference between being a mere “hearer” of the Word of God and putting it into practice. Application is a required factor (James 1:22-27). Anyone can claim a title and not genuinely own it. For example, if I said I was an accomplished pianist worthy of notoriety, yet never sat down and practiced the scales and etudes and studied the Masters necessary to meet this claim, the proof would be glaringly obvious the first time I performed. What I perceived myself to be would crumble around my feet and all I would be left with would be humiliation and shame. I would be forced into re-examining myself and taking another hard and long look at the image in the mirror and the label I am attempting to wear.

As a child learning to play the piano, I was often told “practice makes perfect.” This should also be applied to our Christian walk. God sees into our hearts and knows what lies there. He Who created us intimately knows what lurks in the dark corners and often spills into our lives. What others perceive us to be is not necessarily what we are for our talk is rarely our walk. We stand in unison in our churches, hands raised, faces posed in piety, our voices raised in praise and worship, then listen with apparent intensity to the message that is given. But, unfortunately the majority walks out the door and leave behind what they pretended to absorb. We abandon God on the altar of our worship. We push Him back where we think He belongs and rush back into the world, only willing to give to Him a couple hours of our time and consideration until the next Sunday comes along and we sadly repeat the pattern we’ve created.

Charles H. Spurgeon, the renowned 19th century British Pastor, wrote: “The tendency in these days is to break down the holy barrier and to make the distinction between the church and the world merely nominal. Christians no longer keep a strict watch over their attitudes and actions, questionable literature is read everywhere, frivolous pastimes are commonly indulged, and a general laxity threatens to deprive the Lord’s own people of the sacred singularity that separates them from sinners.” (Evening By Evening, pg. 241)

God deserves so much more from us. He is Creator, Sustainer, Provider, Redeemer and Saviour. His love for His children extends beyond all boundaries. And in spite of our continued unfaithfulness to Him, He never forsakes us. Rather, God continues to pursue us with an intensity that belies our own halfhearted and feeble devotion, for His desire is that we accept and embrace the greatest gift He could give us - His Son, Jesus Christ. He also desires that when we do, we seek after His righteousness and submit not just part of our hearts, but all we are humanly capable of giving to Him.

It is time the “distinction between the righteous and the wicked” is made evident. If we are going to profess our devotion to God and assume the title “Christian,” then we must also live it. “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourself. Do what it says.” Become “doers”, serving our Lord in the manner He deserves and let it be known to all men that our God is worthy to be exalted above all things. We must proclaim His Truth to a dying world and re-draw the line of “distinction”. God's honor and His glory is on that line.

So, to the bulging churches, I encourage them to return to their First Love, our Almighty and Holy God. May His Truth ring from the rafters and pierce our hearts. May we leave each Sunday with His Word embedded there and pray it will carry us through the week to the following Sunday. May we all stand boldly in the face of persecution and hatred and convey His love for all sinners. And may we demonstrate that we have drawn a line of “distinction”, separating us from the world and all that is in it.

“Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty…“Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Malachi 3:7(b), 10 (NIV)

Copyright 2007 Karen L. Brahs