Sunday, April 19, 2009

How to Almost Empty Your Pews

I saw this today in John Piper’s “Desiring God” blog, and I absolutely love it.

God loves you and has a wonderful plan

What do you think?  Should you suggest this for your church’s next promotional campaign?

Perhaps you should.  What would happen, do you suppose? 

What would happen if, instead of just a catchy poster, this were the reality of life in our society?  What if faithfulness to Christ really did put people at grave risk?

You certainly couldn’t attract those who are looking for their best life now.  Why would they want to emulate the martyrs of old who missed out on God’s blessings of wealth and ease?

You’d never pack your pews with those who come just for the music and the socialization.  Those things can be had more safely elsewhere.

Gone would be the ones who go to church to make business contacts, or who go simply out of habit.

But don’t misunderstand.  The people who stay are not going to be the cream of the crop, humanly speaking (1 Co. 1:26-29).  They won’t be able to boast about their faithfulness.  They’re no better in their flesh than those who leave.  So why would they stay?

I’ll tell you why.  It’s not because of who they are.  It’s because of Who they’ve found.

The ones who stay and the ones who leave will both be looking out for their highest happiness.  It’s just that some believe that the highest happiness is found in human comforts, and some believe it’s found in The God of All Comfort (2 Co. 1:3).

Some believe that money is God, and Jesus is good as long as He gives us money.  Others believe that Jesus is God, and forsake the love of money.

Some pursue godliness as a means of gain (1 Tim. 6:5), and some believe that godliness itself is gain (1 Tim. 6:6).

And once again, the difference between the two is not a matter for boasting.  What right does anyone have to boast about what God has shown them (1 Co. 4:7), especially when He says that He hides things from the wise and reveals them to infants (Matt. 11:25), and chooses foolish nothings to put the wise to shame (1 Co. 1:27)?  God does according to His good pleasure, and if He has allowed His light to shine in our hearts (2 Co. 4:6), how can we boast in that (Rom. 3:27)?  We “foolish nothings” did nothing to deserve it.

So does God have a wonderful plan for His people’s lives?  Of course He does!  And one of those wonderful plans might be the chance to show His worth to a watching world by choosing Him above your own ease, your own comfort, or even your own life’s blood.

Shame on those who proclaim that the worth of Christ is based on His ability to line your path with rose petals and your coffers with gold!  Those who truly honor Him are the ones who consider comfort and wealth to be “dung” compared to the excellence of knowing Him (The word translated “rubbish” in Php. 3:8 is really the word for “dung”)!

Do you know this Jesus, the one who is better than any worldly wealth?  The one who is our eternal life (John 17:3)?  If not, confess to Him that you have loved the things of this world more than Him.  Ask Him to shine His light in your heart and show you His infinite worth.  Ask Him to forgive your sin and turn your heart into one that loves Him supremely.  Acknowledge Him as your King, to whom you owe unquestioning and unconditional loyalty. 

A mere handful of such lovers of God will please Him more than teeming thousands of self-lovers who mouth words of praise on Sunday mornings.

May His glorious worth be preached at any cost, yes, at great cost, even if it does almost empty the pews.  God would rather have a small army that draws its strength from Him, than a large one that relies on its own power (Jdg. 7:2-7).

You and I are nobodies, and we could not earn the privilege of suffering for Him.  But it’s not about us, it’s about Him.  He is the Almighty, Holy, Eternally Glorious One.  He is the wonderful plan for our lives, and He is worth it all!

8 comments:

Yvonne said...

We, in America, don't really know the meaning of "giving our all." There are many places in the world, where calling yourself a Christian may mean your life.

Yes, God has a plan for our life. It may not be what we would choose, but it is what is best.

Thank you for this, Betsy.

Esthermay said...

“Your Best Life Now.”
HA!If churches suddenly removed their sound systems, their drums and electric guitars, most of its members would also suddenly realize they didn’t really love Jesus after all – just the music.

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." - II Timothy 4:3-4

. . . Many believers don't grasp the full import of these words of The Apostle Paul. Some "ear ticklers" out there are clearly proclaiming false doctrine and are preaching/teaching things that are clearly in defiance to the teachings given to the New Testament Church. Other "ear ticklers" are very well disguised – they twist Scripture and call CCM “Worship” when worship has NOTHING to do with music. They twist Scripture to equate worldly success with Heavenly sanctuary. They don’t necessarily “proclaim”-- as in “teach” or “preach” -- as much as they encourage a belief system and allow “entertainment” from the world to acclimate into the church. Sorta’ like the frog being boiled to death in the pot of hot water. We don’t know what’s hit us!!!
- - - -
There’s a rather recent song late 80’s-early 90’s (Ray Boltz, I believe): “Little is Much When God is In It.” The lyrics fill me right now . . .

Throughout Scripture, God has used the lowly, the humble, the ugly, this unsuspecting. Why should 2009 be any different. I think we’ll be quite surprised on judgment day who receives the crowns. . . .

I LOVE your posts, because I know I’ll find TRUTH – and I know I won’t commence a comment war if I speak my mind. Truth is truth and I’m so glad to have been exposed to it throughout my life. And I praise God for bloggers who aren't afraid to stand for Truth.

I can be nothing until I realize my nothing’ness and allow Christ to be all. When he is EVERYTHING and I am nothing, only then will His Truth be evident to me and in me. I pray this everyday.

"Make me nothing, Lord, so you are EVERYTHING”

SO sorry. . . . I forget. This is YOUR blog.
Preach on!

Betsy Markman said...

Talk all you want, Esthermay and everybody! I love your comments, long or short!

karin said...

Betsy, this is deep and powerful! That picture alone is so gripping! All of us have no idea how we may yet have to suffer for our faith. Yes, in this world we will have fear - even fear of being persecuted, but I trust the words written down in Mark 13:11 - "Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit."

Thanks for much to think on and pass on to others! Bless you!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I love this ad! Not many of us would willingly choose the surrender; I wonder if I would. Greater yet, I wonder how I would feel about my children making that sacrifice.

As always, you've made me think, Betsy. Thanks.

blessings and peace to you in this week~elaine

conarnold said...

This is a great and thought provoking post, Betsy! I enjoy the meaningful things that you write.

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

It's impossible for us to put ourselves in the shoes of a martyr because God gives us the grace to face each situation as we need it, not before. Still, just how far we would be willing to go for Christ's sake is certainly an excellent thing to ponder! The picture is chilling, and yet if I am taking up my cross daily, why should I fear looking death in the eye? Great post!

a woman found said...

Amen to the post and all the comments!

Truthfully, sometimes I wish the music would just shut off in the background when the pastor is giving an invitation to follow Christ... I just want us to be real. Raw. Really praying. Really singing to our God. Really desiring Him. Or not. But not just go to church every Sunday and go through the motions and carry on as usual.

So He brings it down to me. He draws me to pray and sing and enjoy Him and be willing to hurt in this world for His name's sake.

Thanks Betsy for sharing this. I wish I had more time to stop and read your posts!

Sheila

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