by Oliver Price
The sins of the world have become the sins of the church.
In the Book of Acts, we see a powerful church full of heavenly love and holiness. Today, Christian homes and churches of this caliber seem to be the rare exception, not the rule. Within the church, we see intense power struggles, even fights. In Christian families, broken marriages are all too common. Even in lives where no blatant sin exists, there is noticeable spiritual dullness. Serious problems of spiritual weakness plague the church. Instead of the gospel turning the world upside down, the world is turning the church upside down, inside out, and every way but loose!
Our Lord promised to fill families and churches with His presence and His own holy life through the power of the Holy Spirit. But what has happened? Something is missing!
Even ministers are not immune. The newspapers go into a feeding frenzy over the minister who allegedly attempted to murder his wife, a cleric who was involved in adulterous affairs for decades, and priests who are accused of being pedophiles.
"Just when we thought the world was again becoming safe for preaching, headlines burned with a sad and startling story of a fallen brother," writes Joseph Stowell, president of Moody Bible Institute. He confides, "I find myself asking, Is there something within our system that tends to produce neatly-packaged products looking for a place to fall?'"
Can you see it? Joseph Stowell has let loose an arrow that is right on target! There indeed is "something within our system that tends to produce neatly-packaged products looking for a place to fall." I'm talking about a hidden fault lurking beneath the surface.
A Gallup poll makes it abundantly clear what this fault is. The pollsters even put a label on it, calling it "a self-centered kind of faith." The church seems to exist to lead people to self-fulfillment, that is, to feel good about themselves. The necessity of obeying God for His glory and our good has been forgotten.
How can Christ be honored as head of a church where obedience to Him is entirely up to each individual? There is no corporate commitment to Him! You can join nearly any church in America, liberal or conservative, without ever making a commitment to learn to live by biblical standards. You can even become a leader without ever becoming accountable or agreeing to learn to obey all that Christ commanded (Matt. 28:18-20).
Dallas Willard commented on this subject: "The current position of the church in our world may be better explained by what liberals and conservative have shared, rather than how they differ. For it is for different reasons, and with different emphases, that they have agreed that discipleship to Christ is optional to membership in the Christian church. Thus the very type of life that could change the course of human society, and upon occasion has done so, is excluded from the essential message of the church."
As proof, Willard argues that: "The best current literature on discipleship either states outright or assumes that the Christian may not be a disciple at all-even after a lifetime as a church member."
Worse still, many church members think that their participation in the local church is completely unrelated to their fellowship with Christ! In their fuzzy thinking, they believe they can wholly follow the Lord while totally ignoring Him as the active head of the church they attend.
The all-powerful Holy Spirit is still here, earnestly desiring to reproduce Christ in individuals, small groups, families, and churches. However, He is hindered. His attempts to rekindle the fire of faith have been doused with the cold water of unbelief. In fact, He even encounters stubborn resistance. People are "uncomfortable" talking about the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the church falls short of the abundant life. Many Christians go through life stranded in the "no man's land" between the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness, the Kingdom of Life and the Kingdom of Death.
We dare not keep this up! We can't go on in this condition! The church must repent and return to Christ. We need earnestly to seek the Lord in prayer to find out how we have grieved the Spirit. Doing this will enable us to confess and forsake our sins and recover the abundant life for the Savior's glory. Otherwise, we will drift downhill to destruction under the judgment of God. Israel's history serves as a warning to us.
Returning to Christ in humble united prayer to renew complete love, trust, and obedience to Him for His glory is the revival we desperately need.
This article was adapted from Oliver Price's book, The Power of Praying Together:
Experiencing Christ Actively in Charge, published by Kregel Publications.
Used by permission.
Oliver W. Price is general director of Bible Prayer Fellowship (BPF), Dallas, Texas.
He will be one of the leaders participating in the "Heart-Cry for Revival Conference,"
May 23-27, at Ridgecrest Conference Center, Asheville, NC.