I’ve come to the sad conclusion that much of what goes by the name church today is really unregenerate religion.
Not just the in the Roman cult or the liberal mainliners but the evangelical pentecostal supposedly bible believing church.
This explains so much. The adoration of religious humanism in the form of the Rick Warrens and Bill Hybels etc of the church world. The passionate pursuit of emerging non theology. The political mindset and the promotion of left wing causes by those who claim to follow the One who said His Kingdom is not of this world.
George Whitefield when asked why he kept preaching you must be born again, replied, “Because, you MUST be born again!”
His friend Wesley agreed as did Spurgeon, Moody, Edwards, the reformers, the apostles and Christ Jesus Himself. Many of these names mean nothing to the modern churchgoer. And many modern religionists know nothing of the biblical doctrine and the personal reality of the new birth.
Jesus said to the foremost religious leader of His day, “You must be born again” and Nicodemus was completely baffled as is many seminary trained “Nicodemus” today. (There is some evidence that Nicodemus did finally grasp this vital spiritual truth later on.)
What goes by the name church today can not be fixed. It can’t be repaired or tweeked, it must be resurrected. The problem is not some doctrinal errors here and there. The problem is it is dead. And the only solution to death is new life.
How did the organization that claims allegiance to Christ lose sight of the most fundamental teaching of the the Saviour? Over the years the pursuit of influence, numbers and a political voice saw the promotion of “preachers” and teachers” who promised to show new ways to achieve influence, numbers and a political voice. This allowed for the promotion of more and more “leaders” who have no personal story of salvation but are very good at playing this new church game.
Folks in the pews bombared with a constant stream of organisational teachings on “vision” “leadership” and “church growth” learned the jargon, bought into the new “paradigm”, and embraced a religion without cost, a faith without faithfullness and church in rebellion against the Head of the church. Those who had experienced the new birth either lost their fervour and settled in to the comfortable orthodoxy of heresy or they left, to wander the increasingly barren fields of churchianity in search of others who know what they know (or more importantly know WHO they know)
Many voices are today addressing the ills of the institutional church, perceived or real, and yet even some of the apologists seem to have as their goal the return of the church to a rose coloured image of a childhood memory; but much that is wrong today had it’s birth in compromises of yesterday. You only have to read of Spurgeon battling the downgrade controversy of his day to know this is a long standing problem. Not to mention revivalists, reformers and prophets of even earlier ages who suffered cruel persecution because of their bold message, “You must be born again!”
The new birth is the unltimate equalizer.
Catholic and protestant must be born again.
Pope and Archbishop must be born again.
Conservative and progressive must be born from above.
Religious and atheist must be born of the Spirit.
Gay and straight must be born again by the living and enduring word of God.
Rotary member and Hells Angel member must be regenerated.
Drunk and teetotaller, politician and voter, church goer and church leader must all be transformed by the power of God.
There is no other entry to the eternal city other than the rebirth through faith in Christ.
Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, occultists of all descriptions and “Christians” must be born again.
The one who is still dead in their sins may parrot the creeds, have perfect church attendance, “tithe”, pray and even read the Bible and yet still be outside the family of God.
The religious adherent without the new birth is still part of this world sysytem. Their goals, though religious, are worldly. Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life operating in a carnal religious system.
The affections of the the twice born are a mystery to the once born. The love for Christ, the emphasis on His cross, the joys of worship, the passion for prayer, the desire to congregate with God’s other children and the holy devotion to God’s written word can not be conjured up by human effort. These are fruit of the Spirit implanted by Him the moment He exchanges our heart of stone for a heart of flesh.
No one enters this new life by human effort anymore than a child can choose to be born.
Many are wandering in a maze of religious confusion and yet refuse to enter the Gate.
Much of what the world offers, including the church world, is rotten, worm riddled timber gilded with thin layers of fools gold. What Christ offers is eternal gold hidden beneath the wooden cross of the Roman executioner.
This heavenly birth is not obtained by the lazy lifting of a hand in a meeting. It’s not secured by repeating a half understood prayer. It’s not received from any other than the God of the Bible. The new age rebirth leaves the practioner dead still. The occultic rituals of various cults and secret societies can only increase the darkness. The new years resolutions of the masses reveals perhaps desire to change but is without the power to accomplish it.
And the one who is a recipent of God’s grace through the heavenly birth is not better or brighter than any one else. Although declared citizens of the heavenly city there is still much of their former neighbourhood clinging to their robes. But they are children of God though even the Creators kids can be messy.
But change comes. Not coerced from the outside in but growing from the inside out, from a divine seed: the holy Word of God received by faith.
To speak in some church circles today of the new birth can draw blank looks and a scornful twist of the lip. Some are full of mockery towards the ignorance of those who simply believe in the hidden treasure of divine life in Christ. Church folks can speak long and loud of their “vision” and their “ministry” and their inroads into popular culture and yet so many remain silent of His grace and His provision through His cross.
The apostles went to the synangogues of their day to preach the word. The assemblies that should have been the joyful recipients of what God was doing were often the hardest to reach. Today churches may well be the hardest mission field their is. And yet the message must be preached to church and non-church alike. “You must be born again”.