A lot of folks today seem vexed by the idea that people just can’t seem to agree on anything.
“Why can’t we all just get along?” is the rallying cry of the liberal side of life that believes that in order to co-exist in this life we have to homogenize, neutralize, and super-size our toleration of every possible theory, algorithm and ideology. Whether it’s politics, religion, healthcare, or child-rearing, increasingly, differing points of view on almost any subject, with a side order of political correctness thrown in, can generate passionate, even violent responses from both the left and right sides of the socio/political aisle.
But, in spite of all our vast differences, believe it or not, I am going to say something now that no living being will be able to argue with. Really. Alright, it’s pretty basic and not too profound, but it is no less true. Here it is: every living being, whether plant, animal, or homo sapien, has to eat in order to maintain life. Yep, that’s it. I know, you are overwhelmed with revelatory insight right about now. But just think at how basic I had to get to find something EVERY living thing can agree on! That should give you an idea of the complexity of our world at this point in time. A world where any opinion or spin, no matter how wacky or wicked, can have a written or oral audience 24/7, whether on the airwaves or internet. Wacky and wicked, it is.
So, let’s keep it basic. We all agree that every living being is designed – oops, we now disagree already perhaps – so let’s say that each living thing eats according to it’s physiology and each living thing needs certain nutrients. People eat people food, horses eat what they require, and plants take nutrients from the earth. Because we need to eat so frequently, we spend a lot of time acquiring, preparing, and digesting our nutrients. If we eat more than we require, we also have to spend any remaining time trying to work off the evidence that we can’t seem to stop taking in food. Now, in a simpler time, people lived on farms and raised their own protein and carbs, taking in and then burning off what they just ate, for survival’s sake. In fact, our great-greats probably spent most of their waking hours pondering their next meal and doing what it took to get it. How primitive and unproductive, you might be thinking.
But life moves forward: suppose humans reach a point in their ‘evolution’ on earth where they still need to eat, but can no longer be hunter/gatherers due to social change. Over time, with the industrializing of all aspects of life, let’s say we got ourselves a bona-fide, city-fied, electri-fied, consumer-driven world in which our every waking moment is governed by governors, industry and self-proclaimed experts on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? Survival mode is hard-wired into us.
Fear not, the only thing that might change, really, is how to acquire nutrients – from whom, and from where. The small country farm could give way to the ‘mega-farm’, which in turn could become enslaved to multi-national corporations to process and distribute mass quantities of well-preserved foods to a bona-fide, citi-fied, electri-fied world that cannot feed itself. That might work, but doesn’t it sound a bit – unnatural? What is natural anyway? Behold the humble cow, one of man’s two best friends in the world. Cows are designed (there’s that word again) to eat grass, not grains and assorted protein
by-products; they should live 15 years (not 5), give beef and butter and real milk, and – I suspect – should not be injected with a vast array of chemicals designed to destroy both the animal and the human who benefits from it’s many talents. Crops should be grown with sun and rain and dirt as they are designed to, as opposed to season-extending and life-shortening chemicals; and people should be students on the types and quantities of nutrients needed, and the consequences of living outside those paramenters so they can make informed decisions in spite of a radically changing world. But the world system, being what it is (fallen) and owned by who it is (Satan) has persuaded us to tamper with the natural order of life to serve egos and unbridled greed. Processing, poisonous additives, unholy profits and a veneer of ‘prosperity’ have tempted the now global ‘food industry’ to make the natural, God-given and enjoyable pleasure of eating an often dangerous mine-field of scientific experimentation.
So here is a snapshot of the world as it has embraced progress: malnourished, sedentary, overweight, diabetic and stressed. Artery-clogged and stroke-ready, depressed, violent, self-absorbed, uninsured and insomniac. But there are always pharmaceuticals to ease our pain and side effects are rare, so see your doctor if you experience any of the above. But all is well, global citizen, as there is enough processed food on the shelves in the Great American Supermarket to feed us all. We have tamed the hunger beast, for there is nothing we cannot do, we lack for nothing, and are lord of all we survey. Huzzah! And – we did agree on something.
I know enough about the world’s system to know that everything about it is corrupt, it’s fading away, and I shall not put any hope whatsoever in it’s false premises and promises. I know enough that if I weren’t a believer, I would be frustrated beyond words at how things are run in this life and how little justice is served. I think it’s very possible that I would be the poster child for clinical depression if I didn’t have the solid foundation of Jesus to build upon each day. So, by God’s grace and to keep my sanity, as I still have to eat/drink/breathe in this world, I still spend a goodly amount of time acquiring and preparing family nourishment but I also add to that the pursuit of truth with any time I have left.
But how about another human need? It’s no less basic and foundational, yet I will bet dollars to donuts I won’t get unanimous agreement on this one. Here’s the premise: humans are more than the sum of what we eat and drink and wear; we are spiritual beings that because of creation know full well there is a God behind everything we see (Romans 1); we are sinners in need of a Saviour (Romans 3:23), and God has provided for us all that is needed for life and godliness (2Peter 1:3 ) Some will agree with this, but I would have lost some by now I’m sure. But if you have already been reconciled to Christ through His atoning work on the cross – through genuine repentance and faith in that work – you are a new creature in Christ, old things having passed away. And like any new life, your first requirement is to – eat. Can we all agree on that premise as believers? I hope so, or the rest of this article will not be a consensus.
Because of His Word, the owner’s manual for humans, we can know everything there is to know on this side of eternity concerning what God requires of us. We know His Word is foundational to life, because the Scriptures tell us that ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1); that ‘heaven and earth may pass away, but My words will never pass away’ (Matt 24:35; 1Pet 1:23); and that He ‘exalts His Word above His Name’ (Psalm 138:2). Whether you are a seeker looking for the answers to life’s dilemmas, or a new believer looking for a bottle of ‘milk’ whereby to grow, or a seasoned saint who has learned how to dig deep for a hearty meal, the Bible is indispensable and foundational to anyone who thinks they have it all figured out. It corrects, rebukes, reproves, and yet comforts in the darkest hour. It’s milk, meat, vitamins, side dishes and dessert all in one. It’s pure, and cuts through the lies of this world, and nourishes us to the very marrow of our bones. “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Deut. 8:3) What in particular is it about that last verse do today’s Christians not understand? Plenty, apparently.
We have been generously supplied with a food source that comes from God Himself – true, trustworthy, pure, unadulterated, life-giving. No additives, the only preservative effect is that for those who live by it, it preserves the soul for eternity. It is free, it prevents (spiritual) death, it is readily available. It can be stored up in the innermost being for times of famine and scarcity, and is a source of fuel – for extra energy when times are hard…and light for when it’s dark! And no one has ever had to ‘shed the excess’. In fact, I have yet to hear of a case of someone who has gorged themselves on the Scriptures to excess and whose spiritual health is compromised. More good news!
Now, let’s suppose that once upon a time (not too terribly long ago) Christians were able to feed and be fed within their community of believers, their ‘circle of influence’. A time when each local church, as governed by God and as the Holy Spirit gave direction, used its gifts and callings in a way that was simple and unadulterated. This is no fairy tale! Kind of like when people lived in small communities,
rural or urban, and knew where the food was coming from and built a solid life around that. People did their usual living and dying, marrying and burying, of course, but the local congregation acquired, prepared, and digested the Word for themselves, they ate regularly, and God gave the increase. They took it in, and ‘worked it off’ by being ready in season and out and living it out. Result: a healthy local body. So simple! But this model of Christianity may be on it’s last legs, in the same way that we no longer grow our own protein and carbs on planet earth. Let me explain.
There are those movers and shakers in the church today that might say, “how primitive and unproductive is the old fabled way, when what we could be doing is repackaging our food for more people. Isn’t it time to let someone else prepare, slice and dice, pre-digest our food for us, so we might actually change the world with mass-produced yet feel-good fillers that might be palatable for any spiritual persuasion? If all the food looks and smells and tastes the same, we could industrialize and popularize and homogenize our product so that we can all feel like we have eaten the same spiritual food each day.” And the more watered-down it is, the more we can feed. Christianity Lite! One-third less conviction, less filling, tastes great going down.
But is processed spiritual food of any value to the church? And who are the processors and where is the ingredient list so I can see what’s inside and make an informed choice? Well, the processors are the publishing industry who take the latest fads and fancies of the church and re-package it for undiscerning Christian consumption. This includes former Christian publishers who have sold out to the huge secular book companies like Zondervan (owned by Rupert Murdoch and FOX),
Thomas Nelson (owned by InterMedia Publishers, a private investing group), and Multnomah (owned by Random House). The mega-church is not unlike the corporate farm; the book publishers are not unlike the multi-national corporations who market their agenda/product. Ever since The Prayer of Jabez, and right up through the Purpose-Driven Life, and on into the latest Emerging Church tome, the Christian best-seller, with it’s formulas for success and re-inventions of the gospel is nothing more than man’s attempt to build bigger and better barns, by the arm of the flesh, and create a customer base for whatever it is they’re selling. Do I enjoy these comparisons? No, not one bit. Neither do I like it that there are churches that are abandoning the ‘small family farm’ approach to ministry, where leaders are letting a best-seller teach their people with a program that by default creates a back-door denomination and clones parts of the body that were meant to be distinctly unique. Richard Bennett has written the following about this trend that has taken over many churches:
Displacement of Pastors and the Consequences
“The ‘40 Days of Purpose’ campaign of purpose and community is distinct from other movements we have seen in recent times. Rick Warren asks pastors to devote their church and their people to an intensive forty days of reprogramming their understanding of God, Christ, and how one becomes a Christian. He promises at the end of forty days that the church will be transformed. Through his book and the agenda laid out, he teaches for forty days on nearly every aspect of the Christian life. This type of interference in the running of a church opens the way for an insidious take-over of that church. In Scripture the function of pastors is to teach and to be watchmen and guardians of the flocks the Lord has given to them. “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.” (Acts 1:28) To hand over their position before the Lord to another who will for seven weeks teach his own doctrinal messages based on a multitude of flawed paraphrases of Scripture is utterly unbiblical. The church is the pastors’ and elders’ charge. It is not theirs to bring in debased ideas that infiltrate every important area of the church life. In Warren’s book and movement, God’s absolute sovereignty is flatly denied as men are counseled to determine their own destinies.”
The Purpose-Driven Life: Demeaning the Very Nature of God by Richard Bennett
I could not agree more with this brother. When we follow the latest spiritual fad, we are told that there are no side-effects and that there is no need to read the label, and those who do are ‘heresy-hunters’ and intolerant and narrow-minded. What did I say earlier in this article about our physical food choices? ‘People should be students on the types and quantities of nutrients needed, and the consequences of living outside those paramenters so they can make informed decisions in spite of a radically changing world.” As much as this applies to our physical bodies, how much more does it apply to ‘reading the label’ in what we take in spiritually? Would you – do you – allow the kinds of toxins into your physical bodies as are floating around the church today? Things such as emergent mysticism, purpose-driven relativity, and seeker sensitive powdered milk?
When you call your family to the table each day, do you disregard warnings of food-bourne toxins and safe food-handling practices? Do you leave perfectly good food purchased with hard-earned money out on the counter to rot and bring illness to those you love? Or do you carefully acquire, prepare and offer up the best possible meals to bring growth and soundness to the bodies of those you love? With our natural bodies, we care for them and keep them safe, if we are wise, so that we can live a productive life – even all the while knowing we will die someday! No one likes to be sick, and yet the body of Christ seems to care not one bit if it allows spiritual poison to enter it’s bloodstream. Few blink when their churches turn to programs that serve up a plate full of adulterated fluff that never satisfies, cause spiritual malnourishment, and make the sheep sedentary, lazy, self-absorbed, and bring the cancer of apostasy into a formerly healthy ‘body’.
What can be done? Are we just too far gone to reverse this trend? I have great respect for the godly Pastors who labor among us; but I have no respect for those who take His Word so lightly that they give place to pre–owned teachings and neglect to be led by the Holy Spirit in their calling. God’s people will continue to get ripped off if they refuse to be discerning about what they are being fed. Even when we are sheltered in our mother’s womb, there is a cord that nourishes and fosters life when we cannot feed ourselves. All I can do in my own small way is to plead with today’s shepherds to nourish and shelter the sheep, and to cut that un-biblical cord with any ministry that embraces today’s smorgasbord of emergent-ecumenical-purpose-driven-seeker-sensitive junk food, and get back to communicating a faithful rendering of God’s holy Word – for the health of those for whom Christ has died.
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.