Does He want you to believe the right things or live the right way? Does He want you to hold the “correct” teaching about Him? Or is He more concerned with who you become?
Let me put it to you another way. What do you think pleases God MOST about your life?
Is it when you’re diving into the deep end of the pool to study Him in all his glorious ways? When you’re learning more about Him? Or is it when you love your neighbors as you love yourself? When by faith and through choices you’re transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus?
What matters MOST to HIM: That you amass more information about Him, or that you become more like Him?
Sorry, you can’t have it both ways
The easy answer is to say it’s both. He does care about both. They both matter. But for the purpose of this discussion, I’m asking you to think about which takes priority and take a side. What do you think God wants to be the priority in your life and his church? More Knowledge of him or more transformation? I’m NOT asking us to discuss this in relation to soteriology.
Job, the man God brags about
Consider Job. Man, did he ever impress God. He even brags about him to Satan. The Lord may be holding Job up as the most eminent among all living humans. What was it that grabbed God’s attention? What turned his head and caused him to consider Job?
It wasn’t his systematic theology. It certainly wasn’t his understanding of the sovereignty of God or the problem of evil. Not if you asked his friends. According to them, Job was a theological newb, a borderline heretic! They’re the ones who understood the deep things of God. Not Job. But God wasn’t impressed with them. He was impressed by Job’s blameless and upright life.
We don’t have to guess about this. God tells us in His own words:
“And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
We don’t know how much Job knew about the God of the universe. But we do know that he knew enough to radically alter the way he lived. THAT’S what impressed God. I think that’s what always impresses him.
What did Jesus believe?
When they asked Jesus to sum up the Old Testament law into one command, he gave two. They both deal with how we live: Love God and love your neighbor. God wants each of us to have Him as King and then to treat every person around us the way our King commands. Both of those broad categories have behavior as the key component. The Epistles and the early church fathers all say the same thing. God wants us to live a certain way.
American Christianity has become more concerned with understanding the ways of God than living by them. And it’s decimating the church. We’ve mistakenly believed that God’s goal is that we have more information about Him. But is that what He wants? Is that the object of the Christian life? Does God want us to have more and more information about who He is? Simply for the sake of having our theology wrapped up in a nice box and stored on our bookshelves? Or does he want us to become like Jesus?
Ask your Neighbor
I heard a missionary tell a story about a primitive culture they were working in. When a new convert came to Christ, they’d teach them to love their neighbor. They taught them what it meant and how it looked and how they should do it. Then then they sent them out to do it.
In a week or two, the people of the church would ask the unbelieving neighbor how the new convert was doing. “Is he treating you like you want to be treated?” If the answer was “NO!” then they would go over the lesson again and send him back out to live his faith. When he finally got it right, they would move on to the next thing.
How’s that for a discipleship course?
Don’t misunderstand me. I LOVE theology! It’s so much easier to study about God and the Christian faith than it is to put it into practice. Isn’t it? But imagine a world where Christians live out what they already know about God. There would be a lot more Mother Teresa’s than theologians.
That’s my take. Now it’s your turn. What do you think is most important to God, how we live or what we believe? Why do you see it that way?
If you liked this post, you should check out this one: Does God Care about Our Theology?
“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”
My friend stared at me in disbelief. How could I say something like that? We’d been discussing the state of the church in its four major divisions: Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant. (For the sake of brevity, I’ve lumped all us Protestants into one category. I don’t have time to list us all!)
“Of course THE Church matters to God”, he replied, “He died to give it birth!
I can’t argue with that!
What perplexes me though, is there are so many different types of churches. Catholics believe in purgatory, the other three divisions of the church, don’t. That’s a big difference. We don’t agree on how many books are actually the official “word of God”. That also seems significant. Some churches teach that how one lives has absolutely nothing to do with salvation, while others teach that it has everything to do with it. That’s a HUGE deal, right? Others are somewhere in-between.
We have Catholic decrees calling the Reformers heretics, and we have the Reformers labeling the Pope the anti-Christ. Orthodox and Catholics are at odds over one word in the Creed among other substantial issues. We can’t even seem to agree on the purpose of Christianity.
Then we have us Protestants!
Protestants agree that Jesus Christ died on the cross for “our” sins, but we can’t agree on who is included in “our”. We agree in the “Atonement”, but can’t agree on what it actually entails. We believe people worked miracles, but don’t agree on when or IF that has stopped.
- We don’t agree on how a church should conduct itself in worship.
- We don’t agree on something as simple as how a person actually comes to Christ.
- We don’t agree on what it means to follow Christ.
- We don’t agree on a host of important issues.
The world looks at us and sees “Christian” sects. Groups that argue amongst themselves and can’t agree on the essentials. We are divided, pure and simple. Stating otherwise is wishful thinking.
“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”
Of course, Jesus did pray for “those who would believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me…” (John 17:20-21, 23.) Unity was important enough to pray for on the eve of the crucifixion. The Father gave a big “Sorry Son, no can do” answer on that one. At least Jesus knows what it’s like to have his prayers go unanswered!
Why did God allow it to happen?
Many Protestants believe that around 300AD the real church was infiltrated and perverted by the Catholic Church. As a result, the true Gospel was lost. And God let the Gospel be lost for 1200 years? That leaves more questions!
If purity of doctrine matters so much…
- Why didn’t God step in at such a critical moment to stop the hijacking of the Gospel?
- Why would God allow His church to proclaim a false gospel? One that would consign its followers to hell?
- Why didn’t he put a quick end to it? I find these questions a bit troubling.
To be fair, Catholics believe the Reformers are the real usurpers. Who can blame them? After all, the church existed virtually unchanged for 1500 years, until Luther come along. It’s understandable that they got together at Trent and called the Reformers heretics.
Here’s the compelling issue for me: In both cases, God did not stop the supposed error from taking root. If God is omniscient then he knew what would happen if he did nothing. God foresaw the doctrinal mess that would result. He knew what would happen if He did nothing, and he did…. nothing. Think about that!
He stepped in before, why not again?
We do know that if God wanted to step in and crush the rebellions, he could have. He did that very thing during the Exodus when Korah and his crew openly challenged Moses leadership of the young Israel. Read about it in Numbers 16. The gist of it is that God caused the ground to open up and swallow the leaders of the rebellion, their families and everything they owned! Rebellion over. Case closed. God’s leadership of his people settled.
But that is not what he did in 300AD. That is not what he did when the West and East Split in 1054. It’s not what he did at the beginning of the Reformation. He still hasn’t done it. In all these cases, God allowed it to stand. He had the opportunity to answer the Son’s prayer for unity, but chose not to.
You may counter and say that God NOT acting isn’t proof He doesn’t care. And I’d agree with you 100%. His non-action doesn’t prove anything on either side of the question. What we know from the Bible is that God has acted in human history. At key moments and in powerful ways, he’s intervened to ensure his plan moves forward as planned. But not on this issue. When you consider how significant the Church is to God’s plan, I think his inaction is worth considering.
It matters to us, but does it matter to God?
This brings me back to my conversation with my friend. Obviously, the doctrinal differences we’ve killed others for matter to us. They are a big deal, to us. But do they matter to God? Personally, I don’t think so. (My thoughts on this are shaped by far more than what I’ve covered here.)
Before you get the kindling and tie me to the stake consider what I’m NOT saying. I’m not saying that God doesn’t care about the Gospel or the church, or the world of lost souls. He does. But our petty little in house arguments?
This isn’t simply a thought exercise. The church in the USA could be heading into a very dark period. The culture is shifting. Their opinion of the church is souring even more. They’re calling some members of the church terrorists. They don’t like that we want to gather together for worship. New political leadership is rising that doesn’t care about religious freedom. What lies ahead? I’m not sure. But it sure seems like dark clouds on the horizon.
If dark days lie ahead, we’ll need to circle the wagon of faith. We’ll need to set aside our petty theological differences. We’ll need to unite around the basic essentials.
Who am I kidding? That will never happen! That would take a miracle and miracles don’t happen anymore. 🙂
That’s my view from the cheap seats. What’s yours? Why do you think God has allowed so much diversity to exist in His Church?
Read another thought provoking post on worship: God Does Not Need Our Worship…We Need It!
That’s right! I said it, and for God’s sake SOMEONE had to tell you! You still don’t get it, do you? Your theology is warped, your view of worship is flawed, you are too worldly, you never share the gospel, you don’t give enough and you certainly don’t serve enough. I could go on and on and on with your failures to live up to the standards of Christ as I see them. What is wrong with Christianity you ask? It is you, you are the problem.
I feel a LOT better now, thanks for letting me get that off my chest!
I want to say that on one hand, I am not being serious. But on the other hand, there is some truth to what I am saying. Let me explain… Read the rest of this entry
This blog was a sort of therapy for me. It allowed me to discuss the absolute frustration I had (and still have) with the utterly misguided modern church and her “worship”. Though she is still misguided and making herself increasingly irrelevant, I have come to accept that I can’t change it. I’m OK with that.
I am hopeful that this new generation of leaders will run their course, and not do too much MORE damage to Evangelical Christianity and that the next leaders will right the ship.
Until then, I will just arrive late to church. Feel free to assign whatever word for this you feel is appropriate. I am extremely comfortable with the compromise arrangement that God and I worked out: I show up AFTER the concert. Honestly, I think God agrees with me, because even He shows up after the band’s last song. Honestly, does anybody think God can handle one more G – D – Em – C progression with silly, incoherent lyrics?
It sounds a lot like surrender, and I guess that is a good way to look at it. It is what it is, and it will stay that way until some later time. I still love Jesus, and his people and love the gathering, but feel no need to lead the charge for change.
I have been busy though. I have been building several businesses, and helping out my wives ministry. She now has 3 books published, the fourth is almost done and the 5th is ready to go as well. She has been traveling and speaking to Hispanic women all over the world. While this blog is more of a negative focus “Let’s talk about the Problems in the Church”, her ministry is more about positively impacting the lives of helping Spanish speaking women who follow Jesus. If you speak Spanish, or know a woman who does, check out her ministry over at El Rinconcito De La Paz.
I am toying with the idea of starting a completely different blog, totally unrelated to this one. I’ll keep you posted.
“The heretics did not just offer a different worldview. They were using Scriptures to uphold their ideas…”
We don’t often re-blog other posts, but this was such a thought provoking and stimulating article that we just had to! Mike discusses the framework we should use to interpret opposing views of what Scripture says and how we should use the early church Fathers to aid us in that. Be challenged!
We also wanted to introduce you to Mikes blog, so take a few minutes to check it out. You will probably hit the “Follow” button like we did.
Irenaeus, a 2nd century theologian, defended Christianity from the Gnostic philosophies that were popular at the time. His 5 volume work, Against Heresies, dedicates the first two volumes to describing the Gnostic views and then precedes to dismantle them in the remaining volumes.
Underlying Irenaeus’ defense lies the questions: how do we know what the truth is? and how do we decide between different interpretations of Scripture?
The heretics did not just offer a different worldview. They were using Scriptures to uphold their ideas – which centered on two gods – a good one and an evil one. It was the evil god who created the physical world that we must rid ourselves of.
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In a recent post, we discussed a study that concluded Christians and non-Christians are both attending church services much less today. If you missed that compelling post, you can read it here: Barna Study: Even Christians Are Leaving Our Churches.
Today we want to give you a chance to chime in on the topic, and we have two polls that allow you to do that. The first one asks if you are attending church more or less these days. There are several answers. Please don’t answer the way you would like to be able to answer or how you think you should answer. Just the way it really is in your life at this moment.
The second poll asks why you are attending church less. You have several option here as well, even an “other” where you can write in your answer. There is also an answer for “I am attending church MORE” and “I am attending about the same”
Thank you for voting and please feel free to share these polls with your readers or re-blog this post. If you look at the results so far, it seems to coincide with the study. The more answers the better, so share away!
We were warned back in 2005 that this was coming, but few paid attention to it then. Many scoffed and pretended it could never happen. But it is happening. That is what a recent poll by the Barna Group has uncovered, and the implications of it are alarming.
In this article, I want to share some of Barna’s findings with you. I warn you: Brace yourself!
I invite you to join the discussion in the comment section, as well as answer the polling questions (there are two polls at the bottom of the post) so we can get a better idea of what is going on from your perspective. In the next post we will offer our analysis about why it is happening.
“What, if anything, helps Americans grow in their faith?”
When the Barna Group asked this question, people offered a variety of answers:
- Family or friends
- Reading the Bible,
- Even having children
But CHURCH did not even crack the top 10 list.
That is staggering in its implication. Christians of all Read the rest of this entry
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me and bid me come to you
That with your saints I may praise you For ever and ever.
That sound you are hearing? That is me stirring the pot!
Calvin’s faith is certainly different from the faith of the early church, but is it going to far to say he reinvented or re–delivered a new faith?
Play nice, please.
It is a little bit late but Happy New Year! Read the rest of this entry
The following New Years prayer was first offered back in the 1700’s. It is from the largely forgotten deposit of the Puritan Movement of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These people knew God and they certainly knew how to pray. We can learn a lot from them. They are written in old english. I have updated a few outdated words and changed the Thee’s and Thou’s to make it more 2015. However, they still have the feel of that era. This prayer, along with many others, can be found in a book titled “The Valley of Vision”, by Arthur Bennet… Read the rest of this entry
Early Christian Writings is the most complete collection of Christian texts before the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The site provides translations and commentary for these sources, including the New Testament, Apocrypha, Gnostics, Church Fathers, and some non-Christian references.
If you want to read ANY work from the first 325 years of church history, you will find it at this site. Free.
I am beginning to think that there is less disagreement between the Protestant view and the Catholic / Orthodox view on salvation than we realize.
The misunderstanding is a result of how each part of the church defines “salvation.”
When a Protestant talks about “being saved”, “getting saved”, “accepting Christ” or any other number of terms we use for this, we are primarily referring to the idea of forgiveness of sins. Our sins are forgiven when we “come to Christ”. We have been ‘saved” from sins eternal penalty. We can not earn this forgiveness of sins, it is a merciful free gift from God and we resist anything that makes it look like it must be earned.
In this sense Salvation IS an event, we have been forgiven of our sins! However, Read the rest of this entry
People have been living and dying for Christ for over 2000 years and history is full of wonderful examples of men and women who followed Christ faithfully. We can learn a lot from studying their lives. Yet, there is something truly compelling about those who suffer for Him and pay the ultimate price for their faith.
When I read the historical record of what some of these ancient brothers and sisters went through, it challenges me deeply. I often wonder how I would respond in such situations. I guess we won’t ever know unless and until we find ourselves in the same place. The one thing I can say with certainty is Read the rest of this entry
What is that event? Most Americans can’t answer that question so we share the answer here:
The World Cup!
That time is upon us, it starts on Thursday.
Not many people know this, but over here at Not For Itching Ears, we are hard core futbol, or soccer fans. We watch every single game. No matter what time the game is on, we watch it. What’s not to like about it? 204 teams compete over a three year period to win an invitation to the World Cup, which happens every 4 years. The host country team gets in free. So there is some great competition.
To make room in our schedule, Not For Itching Ears will be on vacation until the World Cup ends. We have priorities, so we will also be foregoing all yard work. All items on the “Honey Do” List have been temporarily removed. We were supposed to be in Brasil for the games, but alas, we are not!
Soccer is God’s greatest gift for world evangelism. It is an instant conversation starter. Just ask ANY non-American, male or female, who they are rooting for or what they think or their countries chances and you’ll have a 5 – 10 minute conversation about soccer. After that, the rest is up to you.
Our staff is rooting for in this order:
1. The USA and Ecuador (it’s a tie actually) Neither will win, but Ecuador has the best chance of advancing out of their group. Sadly, the USA is in the “Group of Death”
2. Any South American Country
The teams we most want to lose: Ghana, (sorry friends, you have beaten us one to many times) and Mexico. You can’t throw beer bottles at the USA team on their home field in the USA and expect us NOT to despise your team (we love you though!)
Take my advice: Stop blogging for a month and enjoy the World Cup. See you Mid-July! If you don’t know much about it check out this article on the Ten things Non-Soccer Fans Need To Know About the World Cup.
That’s how much our worship of God adds to God. Our “worship” doesn’t enhance Him and our lack of worship doesn’t take anything away from Him. Put another way, God doesn’t need our worship. In fact God doesn’t need anything from us: our money, our time, our dedication, our service.
Theologians refer to this as God’s Independence:
“God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy.” Grudem, Systematic Theology.
The New Testament states it this way:
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. Acts 17:24-25
Is God An Egomaniac?
Think about this: If God doesn’t need our worship, why does he require it?
Is it because he’s the ultimate egomaniac?
Because he loves to hear the sound of his own name on the lips of his adoring fans?
No. When we look at God’s acts in history that’s NOT the picture we see. It must be something else.
We All Worship Something
Humans are pretty predictable. We are the ultimate evaluators. We evaluate everything in life and prioritize them according to what we think is best. For example, I highly value guitars. But I value my wife and children more. There is really no comparison; I rank family higher in importance. What do I value more than family? Whatever the answer to that questions is, I may value something even more than that. I can keep going up the ladder of importance until I finally reach that one thing I esteem more than anything or anyone else.
Whatever that thing or person is, that is what we worship. We all worship someone or something, even if it is ourselves!
God Doesn’t Need Our Worship…We Need It!
God doesn’t need our worship; we need the worship we offer him. That’s why God demands our devotion. There’s no other thing or being more worthy of our ultimate devotion than Him. We become like the one we worship. God, in his mercy, created us to become like him. If that’s going to happen, then we must actively place him at the top of our “Top Ten List of Things I Value The Most” list.
Looking at worship this way means leads to the understanding that worship, though directed at God, is truly meant to serve humanity.
We are to worship God, not ourselves.
But God demands our worship, NOT for himself but for the good of his people.
At least, that’s the way I see it.
On a side note, that’s one of the reasons I am so passionate and often critical about corporate worship. It has the potential to profoundly shape us. Yet, we squander those opportunities because we don’t understand what worship is and why God demands it of us.