“because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:14
Of course I can’t be certain, but I am practically convinced that throughout the history of the church there could never have been a time when the church body was busier than it is today. I wonder what the disciples of the early church would say if they could take a look at one of our monthly calendars of events today. I mean, at first glance, it would have to at least be impressive.
For example, it is common to find on a typical church calendar at minimum:
- choir practice
- 3 different bible studies
- christian book reading club meeting
- mothers-with-preschoolers meeting
- mom’s morning out
- men’s breakfast
- women’s brunch
- knitting group meeting
- finance committee meeting
- 3 different Sunday services
- praise band rehearsal
And this list doesn’t even include the children’s or youth ministries!
But I’ve got to say honestly – and I don’t think I’m alone here – that in my earlier years of actively participating in the church functions – getting up early on Sunday morning to get the breakfast muffins and coffee set up in the social hall, rushing to the church right from work to bible study, staying up late Saturday night to prepare for the children’s Sunday School class I’m leading the next morning – on many, many occasions I would hear the same timid, little voice coming up from my soul, almost like the radio in the car. (The sound of it brought more comfort to me than would have silence.) The words in my gut would just resonate, easily ignored, but absolutely impossible to extinguish:
“There must be more.”
Recently I was having dinner with a dear sister here in Estonia, listening as she tried to describe her concern over a loved one’s relationship with God. She said, “My friend has always been involved in a church, and he believes that God exists. But he doesn’t really know God, or maybe he doesn’t realize that he can know God.”
And I think that is really the heart of it, isn’t it? So many of us are playing the part we’re supposed to play – the part we’ve been told we’re supposed to play. But, I think that so few of us are actually experiencing the reality of intimacy with God, our Creator. It is true that we all have an inner yearning for communion with God. We are created in His image. We are longing to have our souls washed – engulfed – in the precious, powerful anointing of His Spirit. I believe that in the core of our existence as creatures of God, we each want so deeply for our steps, our words, our breath, to be covered in the protection and strength of His blood. We seek to live a life that is completely dedicated to the desires of the heart of God. Whether we be used by Him to bring peace or unity or healing or hope – the bottom line is that each of us, created as a reflection of Him, truly desires to be His sanctuary, and to overflow Him who is the way, truth and life into this world of chaos and brokenness that we currently occupy.
So what a tragedy it is that so many of us are killing ourselves to meet the demands that have been set before us by the church and society – to meet those requirements that we’ve been told will make us “good Christians”. Yet so few of us are actually experiencing fully the things of Christ in our daily lives. Hebrews 10:14 says, “by His one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” By confessing the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, the writer says that we are made perfect forever. But notice how he describes followers of Jesus as those who are “being made holy”. The words being made not only indicate a process, but they indicate a process that is happening now – always – as we are living in this world. And so I ask myself as I bake bread for the small group meeting, organize prayer meetings, or prepare the children’s lesson for Sunday – in this work, am I being made holy? And if not, then why am I doing this?
Oh, well, this is a scary question. First, it can’t be denied that the work we’re doing here is good work. Those around us consider us to be good, productive members of the church and of society. So it is difficult to ask ourselves, could there be ulterior motives for why we do the work we feel God is calling us to? And what could some of those other motives be?
Well, let’s face it. Being an active member of a church – especially a good, wealthy, mainstream church – doesn’t fare too badly for us politically. I mean, how often do you hear someone who is running for a political office stand up on their platform and proudly shout, “No I am NOT a member of any church! I do not like churches or the things those people stand for!”
Or what about the positive effect going to church might have on our work or business? Is it possible that our involvement in a local church might give us a reputation as someone who is honest and fair, and therefore influence people to do work with us instead of the other guy who is not known to be actively involved in a church?
Or more basically, is it possible that we may seek to be active in a church or in church missions as a way to simply make us feel better about ourselves and our lifestyles? Maybe as a way to compensate for some of the other indulgences that we carry in our daily lives?
Oh, this is dangerous ground. Do we remember in Matthew 21 when Jesus became so angry in the temple that He began turning over the tables of the money changers? Matthew 21:13: “It is written,” he said to them, “’My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’”
Or maybe we should remember Jesus’ warning to the Pharisees for using their involvement in the temple to make them look like something they were not. In Matthew 23:27 Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”
Throughout scripture, one thing that consistently infuriated the Lord was when people used His name and His church as tool for their own personal gain. Oh, how desperately I want to tell myself that this is not what I do!!!
But as I look deeply into my spirit, and even more as I allow the Lord to show me the depths of my spirit, the more I see that this is, in fact, exactly what I do. And I wonder if there has ever been a single moment in my years of service to God that wasn’t at least partially inspired by the hope of some personal gain for myself, whether financially, politically, or socially.
So I am writing this as a calling to all of us who’ve heard that little voice inside, believing at the core of our existence that this can’t be it. That there simply must be more.
Let’s give it up. Whatever it is that we’re clinging to so desperately – whatever may be those “other” motives for the work that we’re doing – whatever it is that we feel we just can not live without – let’s give it up. Let’s give it up to God.
Let’s put a day on our calendars this next month that is set aside entirely for Him. Let’s take that day and let’s spend it alone with Him. Let’s tell our closest loves ones that we are spending a day with our Lord, let’s pick a place where we know we won’t be disturbed, let’s get up early that morning, get dressed, grab our bottle of water, our sack lunch, our bible, our pen, our notebook, whatever God leads us to grab, let’s get in our car, and let’s go to a quiet place to spend a day with our Lord. Let’s give Him a chance to talk to us, and to show us what are those “other” motives in our daily lives, what are the things that are keeping us from being made holy, those things that are keeping us from Him and from the life that He died to give us.
And then go tell somebody about it!!! Give yourself some accountability and some guidance by sharing with others the things that God is saying to you. Go after it and do whatever it takes to hold onto it, including asking those around you to help you hold on!
Much love and peace be with each of us as we go after the truth and life that is in our Savior, Jesus Christ!