Friday, November 21, 2008

This Little Light of Mine...

How many of you know how to finish that phrase? The rest is; "I'm gonna let it shine", and I'm sure it probably dates me but it's from a song I learned in Sunday School when I was little and I'm not sure if it's even taught anymore. I hope it is because there is more good theology in this song than in many sermons taught from the pulpit today. Now if that statement somehow offends you let me point out that it is not just my opinion, but unfortunately also the opinion of Jesus when He describes the state of the Church just before His return.

Now most of us can relate to the anxiety of receiving our report cards at the end of the quarter, and trying to formulate some sort of a believable excuse for poor performance. Like me, I'm sure your excuses fell on deaf ears as well because the evaluation of our performance was up to our teachers, not us. What many believers are unaware of though is that the first three chapters of the book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible is exactly that; a report card from Jesus on the performance of His church. When you study what Jesus has to say it becomes apparent that, like my report cards, it's not a very pretty picture.

When you do an in-depth study of the letters to the churches, you find first of all that there appears to be at least 4 levels of meaning behind what is said. First of all these letters were sent to actual churches of the day, so the messages were in response to actual needs within the specific church. Second, as there are only seven churches mentioned, and we know the number seven in the Bible stands for "perfectly complete", we must assume that the messages are a complete picture of the Church as a whole. Every church today fits into one of these profiles, because if you note, the message to each individual church contains the admonition "Hear what the Spirit says to the churches", plural! Third, it further appears that these letters refer to us as individuals within the church because each letter contains the phrase, "He that hath an ear let him hear". So each of us as believers fits the profile of one of these seven churches. Fourth, and most amazing of all, these letters have been discovered to be prophetic because they accurately describe the evolution of the Church through history from birth to the present time. That of course means that we can look at the last church described to see what Jesus has to say about our church today.

The last church mentioned is the church of Laodicia, and what Jesus has to say to them does, in many peoples opinion, accurately describe the state of the church today. Jesus paints the picture of a large, seemingly rich church that appears on the outside to have it all. But when He describes the inside He says that although the members think they are doing everything right, have it all, and need nothing, they are in fact "lukewarm", have an inaccurate opinion of themselves, and are in fact "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked". He goes on to say in verse 20 that the reality is that He himself, Jesus, is outside of His own church! Jesus is not even inside, but outside knocking on the door trying to get in! How can this be, that a church full of professing believers can actually be so poor that Jesus says in verse 16 that He intends to spit them out of His mouth?

I think the answer to this lies in a few other passages that describe what believers are like as we approach the end of this age. Now we have already mentioned Jesus referring to the days of Noah, and what men were like at that time. If we look also at 2 Timothy 3:1-5 we see a description of not just people in general, but as verse 5 makes clear, these are people who claim to be Christians but in fact are hypocrites. They go to church and go through the motions but in reality they are only interested in their own pleasures to such a degree that according to verse 4 they love them more than they love God! The most important things in their lives can be seen in how they live their lives; "covetous, proud, boasters, disobedient, blasphemous(bad language), unholy, lovers of pleasures(whatever makes me feel good-drinking, sex, etc.) are all what we would call demonstrative behavior. You can see these people do these things, it's not as if they try to hide it. Jesus also describes these end times believers in Luke 21:34-36 with words like "surfeiting" (partying to excess) and "drunkenness" (no explanation needed). So the picture here is of people who profess to be Christians acting exactly as non-christians do in regards to their personal lives, and failing in the one thing that Jesus says is most important to Him.

In the book of Matthew, Chapter 5, verse 13-16 Jesus spells out what our responsibility is to Him, and in reality also to the Body of Christ, the Church. In these verses Jesus says that we as believers are to live in such a way that our "light" shines "before men" (the world) and brings glory to God. Jesus also refers to believers as the "salt" of the earth. Everyone knows that a little salt can go a long way, and it doesn't take much to affect an entire meal. But if you were to use salt on your dinner and find that it wasn't salty, you would throw it away and get some fresh. Do you get what Jesus is telling us here? In this verse people that claim to be Christians but don't have any effectiveness are "cast out" and "trodden under foot". In Revelation the "lukewarm" Christian gets spit out of Jesus' mouth. So you tell me, how important is it to Jesus that we as believers live our lives as a shining light in this world of darkness? We do that by being different from the rest of the world, not the same. Maybe we would all do well to ask ourselves just how far do we think Jesus can spit? I for one don't want to find out.

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. How's that for some solid theology?