by Ted Kyle
It’s easy to point fingers at the problems of the church in the Western world, but providing a ready answer is a little more difficult.
Recently, for example, I read an analysis of the church’s failure to point out the so-great salvation which Christ offers to all. The author is perfectly correct in this. But it seems to me that his answer falls short of the mark when he says the remedy for the indolent Christianity of so many in the church “is to hold before the people the ‘wonderful works of God.’”
Certainly we should display in all its perfection the full sufficiency of God’s provision, both now and forever, for His children. But would this awaken the church from its torpor? I’m a little doubtful.
A. W. Pink (1886-1952) may have been hotter on the trail when he wrote: “There are multitudes who wish to escape the lake of fire who have no desire to be delivered from their carnality and worldliness.” Rightly or wrongly, he blamed evangelism which “announces a Savior from hell rather than a Savior from sin.”
For my part, I conceive the great problem to be man’s preoccupation with “self”—a problem we inherited from our first parents. As a whole, we haven’t made much progress in the intervening millennia, despite the solution God provided in His Son, Jesus Christ. If we are in Christ, we have been given a new nature—but that doesn’t mean we always function in the New Nature.
Self is a master of a million disguises. There is, for example, the “ugly self,” which everyone recognizes; but there is a “saintly self” counterpart, which comes very close to “fooling some of the people all of the time, and all of the people part of the time.” The fact is, of course, that the “saintly self” is as evil as the “ugly self”—perhaps more so, because it can even fool ourselves. How can we be sure whether we are thinking in the New or the Old nature? “Try the spirits,” the Apostle John advises (1 John 4:1).
I believe the practical application of “Try the spirits” is the “I test.” Whenever we are thinking about what “I like,” or what “I want,” or what “I need,” even what “I should do for the church” (do you see the “I’s”?), we are probably functioning in the Self mode. Only when we are fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit, and thus primarily concerned with our heavenly Father’s desires, can we be absolutely certain we are functioning in the New Nature.
This, of course, calls for a fresh surrender daily—perhaps even moment by moment, for the rest of our lives, as we find ourselves reverting to Old Nature control.
So my suggestion on how to “fix the church” is to help your flock learn discernment—self-discernment—for before we can help others we must first remove the log from our own eyes, as our Savior said. Teach them not only about the loveliness and full sufficiency of Christ, but also about the slippery, weasel-ways of our own Old Nature.
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