I love the sentiment from this Catholic prayer of contrition. It indirectly points to the Good News: We don’t have to die rather than sin again. Jesus has died for us, paid the price, and won victory over death. Because of His sacrifice, God forgives us of our sin, all of it. Our only duties are to repent and believe in (put our trust in) Jesus Christ, God will forgive us of all sin and unrighteousness. And, He will give us the power to find victory over sin so that we do not have to live as a slave bound in darkness. We are free indeed.
What would happen if your church building lost electricity? How many people would have their Bible with them? How many people would be able to follow the music in the hymnal if the projector didn’t work? How many people would simply stay home because the building would be too hot, too cold, too stuffy, or too dark?
Now let’s pretend that not only your church building loses electricity but your pastor’s house, too. Would your pastor be able to prepare a sermon without Internet? Would he or she have any stories to tell or illustrations to relate without searching online? Could your pastor speak from the heart or would he or she be lost with no light to read from a manuscript?
I imagine a church full of people wandering around in the dark, not knowing when to start the service because the countdown is not projected on the viewscreen. I imagine a congregation That cannot worship because they don’t have music and lights to manipulate their emotions, and because they have never been alone with God.
I remember attending church before viewscreens, before endless choruses, before the Internet, before Bible apps on smart phones, and before dark, cavernous multi-purpose meeting halls with manipulative lights, mood-affecting music, and polished performers.
I remember when we had a pastor to whom we could speak when we had a need, but that was before senior pastors, teaching pastors, youth pastors, children’s pastors, senior pastors, and church CEOs. I remember when we had to learn the books of the Bible and their order. I remember when we committed Scripture to memory. I remember when we were guided by the Spirit instead manipulated by the worship service .
And, I remember when we measured the success of a church not by the number of attendees but by the number of people whose lives were changed.
Why is the Church in the West dying? Because churches are social clubs doing “good works” based on social justice and humanistic principles, reaching out to people based on psychological precepts, marketing themselves like the newest trendy nightclubs, and presenting the prettiest, most talented, and charismatic musicians leading the newest music on a high-dollar sound system.
The dying Church in the West preaches “I can do all things through He that strengthens me,” and “I know the plans I have for you.” The dying Church preaches living “life abundantly.” It preaches giving with a “joyful heart.” But it forgets repentance and deliverance from sin, transformed lives, and freedom from the Law.
I long to find a church where the pastor preaches true Victory in Jesus because he has experienced it himself, not because he finds it in a Bible app. I pray for a church where the congregation is full of humble sinners whose lives are redeemed and transformed by the blood of the Lamb, and who are willing to reach out and lift others from the muck and mire of sin. I long for a church whose musicians play and sing to God’s glory, and not their own. I long for a song leader who doesn’t care if he or she is a little pitchy, because he or she is led by the Spirit and not the latest trends.
I pray let THE CHURCH BE THE CHURCH.
“Kick the bucket,” “pushing up daisies,” “go belly up,” “bite the dust,” “bought the farm,” “cash in his chips,” “dead as a doornail.” “Circling the drain.”
I heard all these euphemisms for death and dying when I was a boy, especially in old movies. I don’t hear so many of them today, or maybe I simply avoid the topic of death. One that I could identify with was the last one, “circling the drain.”
As a child, my brothers and I loved to swim in the Finley River which meandered through the farm where we grew up. Sometimes we would go upstream to Riverdale, an old mill and dam, and float back to our farm. On the way back, we would stop at Blue Hole and swim, for even when waters were shallow, Blue Hole always had enough water to dive and swim. It was inevitable that somewhere along the float trip, conversation would turn to whirlpools.
Whole floating we would sometimes pass a whirlpool, but never the life-threatening sink holes that one found on the James River, the larger stream that lay a few miles down from our farm. The James, it was said, was full of whirlpools that would suck swimmers and boaters to the bottom and drown them. Every year, we heard stories of new drownings.
Turns out the stories are based on facts. There were significant numbers of drownings on the rivers of Southwest Missouri when I was a kid. The whirlpools – the deadly kind – were not just turbulent eddies, but sink holes that opened into underground rivers and caverns. Get near one of those, and it would suck a swimmer straight to the bottom.
Sin acts the same way, for those Christians who are weak in their faith and still flirt with sin, it takes little temptation to lead them into sin. Sin, without fail, leads to eventual death. Sin sucks got right in and – once it has you – there is no escape. It is a bottomless pit that leads to death, a whirlpool from which the is no escape. Sin, when it claps is wicked hands around your throat, does not easily turn loose.
Only Christ can compel sin to loosen is grip on your heart. Only Christ can toss you a life saver.
At a local amusement park in Branson Missouri, there was -in the 1960s – a ride called The Float Trip. On one turn was an artificially constructed whirlpool with a manikan perpetually circling it, as if condemned to an eternity of drowning. The ride has been transformed and renamed. The lifelike dummy is gone now, but the whirlpool remains. Temptation always remains, but Christ can transform you so that you no longer dive into it.
Holiness is, perhaps, the most misunderstood concept in Christianity. Anyone who has striven to follow the life of Christ can likely tell you that it is impossible to do. No one can match His love, His grace, or His compassion. For no one but Jesus is perfect. Once the believer is filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit, though, he or she is filled to the brim with the love of Christ, and desires nothing more than to please God and follow in Christ’s steps. The love of sin is gone. In its place is a love and passion for others. That is Christian Holiness. This is Christian Holiness Daily.