September 26th, 2014 | No Comments
Perhaps the saddest, most poignant, country song ever written contains the lines:
On a Sunday morning sidewalk
Oh, I’m wishing, Lord, that I was stoned
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday
That’ll make a body feel alone
The songwriter is coming to the painful awareness of a wasted life. Pursuing goals that were of his own making, he belatedly recognizes that these were “the disappearing dreams of yesterday.” With profound sadness he realizes that he has lost “somethin”, “somewhere, somehow along the way”.
He concludes: “And there ain’t nothin’ short of dyin’, that’s half as lonesome as the sound” of a Sunday morning. But not really of a Sunday morning—what he now sees in himself and his wasted life. Truly, can there be anything sadder than to reach a point in your life where you realize you have wasted years, squandering God’s gifts on ultimately meaningless endeavors? Many American Christians will either refuse to ponder that question as it applies to their lives, or they will smugly conclude that such considerations do not apply to them—not them and their “works” in “serving” God!
But the American church’s depiction of what is “service” and what are “works” is very often profoundly in conflict with the actual teachings of Scripture. The church’s message—implicit as well as stated—is often a “gospel” of personal convenience and even materialism. Americans, including Christians, are fond of touting the virtues of “hard work”, but what does that mean? Does it even appear in Scripture?
The answer is no to the second question; hard work, as the concept is touted among American Christians, does not appear in Scripture. This notion is too often an expression of the materialism that pervades American culture and infects American Christians on a massive scale. This spiritual Ebola infected the church early in its history and began to spread dramatically in the prosperous years after World War II. Today, it is an unrecognized epidemic!
Americans tends to measure “success” in life according to their materialistic gains. American Christians are no exception, and the American church has increasingly measured its “success” in terms of dollars in the budget and square footage built.
Of what good has any of this been? How has it changed the course of a nation?
The answer is not entirely obvious. Clearly it has done nothing to beneficially change society’s course, but, worse, the churches’ and American Christians’ attitudes have contributed to the spiritual and moral decline of the nation. The church, in so many forms and ways, is following the culture rather than the model and teachings of Christ. The distinction Scripture actually makes about our works should be disturbing for American Christians and American churches:
If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved-even though only as one escaping through the flames (Corinthians 3:12-15; NIV).
Does your daily life reflect an attitude that you have come to serve? In the test of God’s fire—indeed, even the earthly fire which now threatens our nation—will your works be revealed as gold and silver or wood and straw? Will you, at your death, be as one “escaping through the flames”? Better to face those questions now and run the risk of feeling a lonesomeness that’s “nothing short of dying”. As long as we live and breathe, there is opportunity for repentance and a change of course toward the True North of Christ.
This benighted world needs you. Not someone else , you! Our nation needs you. Our fellowman on every corner, street, and road need you! But you are largely useless to the Kingdom of God unless your life’s energy and time are spent sacrificially in unselfish service and complete obedience to Christ.