What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
I have always known I am not the smartest cookie in the jar. There are many that are much more intelligent than I am. Somehow, I cannot explain it, but in a crazy way, this has allowed me sometimes to see things in a different light. Because of my lack of education I have found it very hard to be taken serious, but this does not keep me from thinking deeply about many things. Unknown to some, I am a very deep thinker. I see, look, and ponder many things, especially things concerning our Creator.
One thing I have found in my short life, is that we humans are incredibly good at taking an inch and making it a mile. We can take something natural and simple and almost without any effort, pursue to make it into something more grandiose. There is no doubt that in the 21st Century, the names have changed, the tools used are more complex, and the technology is greater but we can agree with the writer of Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. What is happening today, has happened before.
Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
These words given by God through the prophet Jeremiah sound simple, direct, and they make sense to most of us today.
In the day of Jeremiah, God’s people were placing a higher regard for the Temple of God than for the God who dwells in the Temple. They were so engulfed in their family, career, and without prioritizing their lives. They were serving the flesh of men and the cultures around them instead of faithfully and joyfully living under the rule of the one true God of Israel.
I picture the prophet Jeremiah sitting around the fire at night trying to understand why God’s people are so bent on doing life their way. At times you can tell that Jeremiah really complained about having to speak so harshly to the people. They are tough words, but this is what God laid on his heart. This is what is burning in his bones and he has to speak. Suddenly God reveals something that just might give Jeremiah the answer; the only answer that even slightly makes sense.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
The heart. That is a word you hear often in describing our inner thoughts and intents as humans. What is it that causes the heart of man to never be satisfied, never content with the simplicities of life? When I think about the human heart, the old song by the Rolling Stones comes to mind, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”
God tells us in no uncertain terms that the heart of man is deceitful above everything. The heart of man is desperately sick. Deceitfulness is being mislead. Sickness is a disordered, weakened, or unsound condition. The human heart is by nature easily mislead and suffers from a condition of chronic disorder. It is no wonder that even in Christianity we have over 40,000 different denominations and groups in the world, with every one of them different from the others.
So what does all this have to do with rethinking Christianity?
From a personal perspective I have watched Christianity in America for over 40 years and have seen massive changes. To some, depending on your age, then you too, have seen some or all of these changes. Some changes have been for the good, but the majority of changes have taken us way beyond sound biblical teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.
As we read in Ecclesiastes 1:9, this is nothing new. Ever since the book of Acts, it did not take mankind very long to start adding to and taking away from the simple faith, profound love, and unity of the family of God. To say I am extremely tired and weary of American Christianity in the 21st century is an understatement. When I have to go back and read the Book of Acts just to remind myself what the true church looked like and how it functioned, then you know something is terribly wrong.
I like what Francis Chan wrote in his book, Forgotten God: “Sometimes I leave Christian events wondering if we resemble the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 more than Elijah, the prophet of God…the prophets of Baal had a loud, passionate worship gathering that lasted from morning till evening. When they were done, they had a great time of fellowship (I think you can call it that). But no one answered; no one paid attention,… We can have a great time singing and dancing ourselves into a frenzy. But at the end of it, fire doesn’t come down from heaven. People leave talking about the people who led rather than the power of God.”
As I watch modern Christian concerts many times the first word that comes to mind is, idolatry. Everyone is cheering their favorite music artist, shining their lights in unison, fighting to get up front to get a glimpse of the star of the show or paying hundreds of dollars to get VIP tickets to go back stage and get their picture taken with the one and only. In recent years we now have specialized worship where darkness surrounds you, smoke and special effects hypnotize you, and words of chants that ring over and over until we are lulled into an atmosphere that has been proven to give us the feeling of God’s presence. “People leave talking about the people who led rather than the power of God.”
Christianity today offers a plethora of trinkets, jewelry, coffee mugs, posters, books, CDs, DVDs and clothing representing pictures, scripture, and even Christian symbols in an effort to market the lowly Jesus. If you want to know the pulse of American Christianity just glance through the top 20 selling books in any Christian bookstore. Titles such as, “You Can, You Will,” “Your Best Life Now,” “Think Better, Live Better,” “Soar, Build Your Vision From the Ground Up!,” “Seize the Day!,” and “Living Beyond Your Feelings.”
In the last decade, many churches have turned to marketing groups to help them determine what they must to do to reach certain people and be more relevant to the culture. This has caused an even deeper divide between generations and promoted more financial burden that only successful churches can maintain. This means larger buildings and constant planning to keep the stimulation fresh so that people will maintain their interest in coming at last once a week.
There are a new breed of pastors that may be able to get people in the doors of a church or auditorium if they tell enough jokes or use enough visuals. The fact remains that they cannot convince people to be more in love with Jesus. We cannot talk or offer enough stimulation to cause someone to fall in love with Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit of God and Christ can do this within the heart of man.
If you are a teenager or young adult, then you are probably scratching your head and wondering what makes these things wrong in my eyes. If you are from my generation, you either completely understand or at least can agree in part.
How do we get back to the simplicity of following God and Christ? How do we make sure that our heart will not be easily deceived and led astray?
The answer has always been the same.
It is the same answer as it was in the beginning.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
It is the same answer as it was for Moses and the people of God.
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
And for Joshua.
Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.
And for King David.
This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
It is the same answer that Jesus proclaimed.
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
It is the same answer that the first church lived by.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
We see throughout the New Testament that the early church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (the Word of God), the fellowship, communion, and the prayers, as summarized in Acts 2:42. There’s no precedent for anything flashy or glamorous—just a focus on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Did you see that? Nothing but simplicity and devotion to teaching the Word of God, fellowship, communion and praying together.
Please notice something! In Acts 4 it tells us they were of one mind and one heart. Here in Acts 2 it tells us that they were together and had all things in common. The early church was a body of believers who became closer than their own families (Matt. 12:46, Luke 14:26). Jesus said that “all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). He also prayed that his disciples would be so “perfectly one” that the world may believe that the Father sent Jesus (John 17:20-23).
It states in Acts 4 that there was not one needy person among them because those that had much did not have too much and those that had little did not have too little. Those that had much sold anything that was not necessary and gave it to the church to distribute to those that had little.
They met daily either in the temple or together in their homes. They shared meals and communion together and praised God with generous hearts. They loved to give!
As you can see, the early church was simple, authentic, love fueled, devoted, based on the word of God, generous, prayerful, faithful, sacrificial, content, and Spirit led. A beautiful beginning that ended up taking a multitude of directions because the heart of man can be easily deceived.
Remember Jeremiah? Listen to God try to get his people to come back to the ancient path, the good way.
Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
The answer of the people in Jeremiah is the same answer most are giving God today.
“But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
I set watchmen over you, saying,
‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’
Therefore hear, O nations,
and know, O congregation, what will happen to them.
Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people,
the fruit of their devices,
because they have not paid attention to my words.
Yes, I am rethinking. I am rethinking my part in the solution. My desire is to return to the pure and simple ancient path, where the good way is. The western church has moved so far from its beginning that it will take time, sacrifice, patience, forbearance, and the power of the Holy Spirit to return, but return I must.
2 Corinthians 11:2-4
For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.