You may be old enough to remember the old song, â€œGive Me that Old Time Religion.â€ Well, donâ€™t give me that.
At least not the kind I grew up with. That religion was powerless, ritualistic and based more on tradition than on the Bible. It didnâ€™t change me. The church people were sweet, but it seemed that God was distant, detached and kept safely â€œin a box.â€
This brand of Christianity seemed to work okay during â€œHappy Daysâ€ when the major concerns were drinking too much beer, smoking and deciding if we needed a nuclear fall-out shelter. Personally, I didnâ€™t know one person who bought one (LOL!). As a friend recently joked, â€œDuring fire drills we moved peacefully to the outside of the school building, but during nuclear bomb drills, we were told to get under our desksâ€ (wow, that was insightful).
Regarding church, when I was around 15, I found girls much more interesting. Itâ€™s sad that I canâ€™t remember one sermon I heard from that time until I â€œfoundâ€ the Lord in graduate school. I can well understand why kids leave the church. In many cases, itâ€™s as dull as dirt and void of the central focus of our faith â€“ Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit â€“ relying more on clever intellectual sermons based on correct doctrine. I love correct doctrine, but heads full of theology do very little for troubled hearts. Why not both?
Woodstock and all that
After â€œHappy Days,â€ things began to change: Woodstock, the hippie movement, â€œfree love,â€ the LSD dropout drug culture, New Age, Eastern mysticism, legalized abortion, prayer-less schools, promises by the Left to fix it all with socialistic programs, Vietnam, terrorism, super debt, STDs and suicides. Now we have the Ebola virus and ISIS (excuse me, Islamic State) virus moving across Iraq murdering and collecting vast amounts of wealth and weapons. Scary stuff, right?
Every day our ministry, Transformation Ministries, (http://transformationranch.org), works with people, mostly Christians, whose faith, because of many of the things above, has been shaken or is at the point of hopelessness. In most cases, these searching people are true believers who want to love God with all their hearts, but they have accepted the truncated gospel, one that doesnâ€™t call for transformation or change through pain. Somebody forgot to tell them that through much tribulation, we enter into the kingdom of God:
“We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
â€œGod’s people have their trials. It was never designed by God, when He chose His people, that they should be an untried people. They were chosen in the furnace of affliction; they were never chosen to worldly peace and earthly joy. Freedom from sickness and the pains of mortality was never promised them; but when their Lord drew up the charter of privileges, He included chastisements amongst the things to which they should inevitably be heirs. Trials are a part of our lot; they were predestinated for us in Christ’s last legacy.â€ â€“ Charles Spurgeon
Because the average believer doesnâ€™t get what Spurgeon says here, they end up with a lot of â€œwhy is this happening to me?â€ queries, as if faith is supposed to protect us from difficulties. Romans 8:37 says, â€œIN all these things, we are more than conquerors.â€
The damage of the truncated gospel
The truncated gospel began when the church attempted to reach the masses back in the 60s and 70s. We condensed the gospel to four or five verses â€“ â€œjust believe this, and youâ€™re saved.â€ Iâ€™m okay with that. Saved for heaven is one thing, but being deeply changed is another. When their stuff hit the fan later on, many of these people didnâ€™t know why this should be happening to them. After all, they were believers. Somehow the church didnâ€™t get the message to these perplexed believers across the country that the whole New Testament is about being conformed to the image of Jesus!
Part of the problem, also, lay with the prosperity gospel that has emphasized that God wanted all His people materially blessed. This whole teaching, which is so appealing to the flesh, got out of bounds, and believers got sucked up into debt up to their eyebrows, as they constantly pursued a â€œfaith formula.â€ The truth of the matter is the New Testamentâ€™s main message is one of spiritual change and not necessarily that of material wealth. God is a blessing God, but He ainâ€™t Santa Claus. We got confused about needs and wants, with wants getting a higher priority.
When Bill Clinton said, â€œItâ€™s the economy, stupid,â€ he wasnâ€™t just provoking the masses for his re-election; he was speaking about American economy as THE PRIORITY in life and not character of the one running the show. Now our trust in government is at an all-time low because we elected many lying politicians who primarily seek lifelong re-election at any cost. We got â€œchangeâ€ alright.
Most of the church is still getting that â€œold time religionâ€ on Sundays, but faith in many cases has become compartmentalized: Jesus is good for heaven, but you need a psychiatrist for the other things that ail you. Yet it is the depth of truth that the gospel brings to us, including dealing with evil and entrenched unbelief, which sets the captives free. The whole idea of just wanting Jesus to save you for heaven without the desire to save you from yourself leads to catastrophe, first as individuals and later as a nation.
The real â€œOld Time Religionâ€ was full of Holy Spirit power! These were visitations of the Holy Spirit because He was given freedom to work among the people who were fully seeking His Face. The real deal saw people filled with Him and set free! As a black sister used to sing in a church where I attended, â€œHeâ€™ll Do It Again,â€ but only if we desire that kind of experience in our churches. Anything short of this, and this country will be run over by our enemies. â€“ from within and from without.
Face it, America is slowly dying not because its citizens got lost in the maze of dumb pop culture, dumbed down education, sports idolatry and the idea that we trusted our elected officials to do the right thing â€“ which most of them didnâ€™t. All these have contributed to our current state. But the real reason societies like ours crumble is because they lose the most important element of all â€“ honoring Jesus Christ as Lord of all. In America, where there are churches on every corner, we are chastised by the Scripture, â€œTo whom much is given, much shall be requiredâ€ (Luke 12:48). Regretfully, in many ways we stand empty-handed when God has called for much.
Restoring the Foundations
Iâ€™ve been doing prayer counseling with people since around 1980, and Iâ€™ve found a lot of good things that work. Sometimes counseling is the answer, but I think weâ€™re counseled out for the most part! Quite frankly, people talking about their stuff leads to the same people talking about more their stuff without really nailing the problem.
A program called â€œRestoring the Foundationsâ€ (RTF) is the hammer that drives the nail into the heart of the difficulty or sin. RTF is a four-step prayer-counseling model that goes to the roots of peopleâ€™s denials and difficulties. And, if theyâ€™re ripe for healing and deliverance, they experience something fresh and new in their lives. Our ministry continues to see amazing breakthroughs in peopleâ€™s lives during one of these 3-hour sessions!
Does anybody really know what time it is?
We need a clear picture of where we are in time. As people become more perplexed, confused, scared and desperate, they will turn to the thing/person that will meet their needs. If itâ€™s an antichrist-type personality or a dictator who promises them a free lunch, and theyâ€™ve never decided that Jesus is Lord of all, no matter what happens, they will succumb to this person or system, becoming, in effect, antichrist in their attitudes and choices themselves. Many people have already made that decision.
If I understand the Book of Revelation at all â€“ and sometimes I have my doubts after reading the latest Revelation Made Easy book â€“ the end of all this is a choice: Jesus or Barabbas. But as a friend of mine always used to say to assure everyone, â€œI read the end of the Bible, and we win!â€
Joseph Beckham is the author of Deeper Water for Thirsty Souls. http://amzn.com/1493781286