“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror, for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”—–James 1:22-25
Over the years I have noticed a common trend towards a “Christian Pep Rally”. Take a look around and you’ll notice conferences, churches, retreats, and events all geared toward a hyper-spiritual experience. A once youth and youth group focus has now seemingly overtaken the whole of many older Christians as well. Wanting to feel more “spiritual” or seeking to have a “deeper” walk with God, many are now flocking to those with great charisma to give them these experiences.
Christian Conferences are now exploding with seemingly one happening every week or more. Even in this past month, I have noticed at least 2 major conferences drawing hundreds of thousands in person, on the web, through social media, and other ways from around the world to take part in these events. With the Who’s-Who of popular pastors and leaders coming together to rally people from all walks of life and faith to talk about their latest thoughts about what Christianity looks like in this new age. Many leave feeling an emotional high and believe that this “Jesus” they proclaim is some sort of rock star. This ends up leading these followers to seek one emotional high to the next without any real depth about the truth of living out faith and obedience to the Jesus of the Bible.
But let’s not stop there. Because of the seemingly great success and desire that pours forth from these conferences, our churches have been adapting to meet these people’s demand for a place that is seemingly in-touch with our culture today. Evaluation of success has now shifted from the growth and depth of one’s faith to a model based upon Church Growth. If it has the appearance that a church is growing in the ABC’s (Attendance, Building, Cash), then it must be doing something right. Even then, the church must constantly be evolving and transforming to meet the changing world around us. So not only does this hyper-spiritualism take center stage, but it has also produced the constant need for an emotional high. Nothing less will do.
Another big concern is the growing commonality that is being formed. Bringing together people from very extreme doctrinal perspectives find common ground in this arena. Christian Dominion, Word Faith, Emerging/Emergent, Purpose Driven, Prosperity Gospel, Social Gospel, Missional, Calvinists, Wesleyans, and everything and everyone in-between find that as long as they give people what they want, they will continue to draw large crowds. And they do. People don’t realize that the unity that seems to be happening is not under the Truth proclaimed in the Bible, but under whatever new clever topic is being presented.
This isn’t to say that every conference, church, retreat, or event falls into this category. There have been and are some good conferences, churches, retreats, and events that really do point us deeper into the Word, faith in Jesus, and also shed light on the growing darkness around us. But we must be careful that we don’t fall into the traps around us that seemingly look spiritual, but at the core are nowhere close.
What we see in Scripture is a faith lived out where there is no hyper-spiritual or constant seeking for the next emotional high. There is daily pursuit of denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Jesus. (Luke 9:23) This does not take away the joy and the excitement of living out our faith. As Christians we can truly enjoy life and should enjoy our daily walk with the Lord with Him and other people. But the true life of a follower of Jesus isn’t the constant lusting after the next experience that seeks to rally my soul.
In the above passage, James writes to exhort us that we cannot just hear talk about the Bible, but must truly hear the Word and apply it to our lives. Much of what is being presented in our Christian circles today is a lot of talk and opinions about life, but not a lot of talk going through the Word. They invoke the name of Jesus and may use Scripture to try support their agenda, but much of what is being spouted out is nothing more than a feel good message about how to build personal self-esteem and unity under a certain cause.
James is clear in his message that we must take God’s Word seriously. No longer can we accept the nonsense that a person can stand at a pulpit or on a platform and spend most of their time giving their opinions and random illustrations formed around a perceived idea rather than simply going through the Bible learning what it means to live out the Gospel. God has given us His Word and we must hear what He has to say.
Not only must we hear the Word, but also act upon the Word as James says. It must be continually before us to be living out what God has commanded in Scripture. Even times when we hear the Word being preached or even in our own times in the Bible, we fall short in actually applying it to our lives. Application of the Bible is tough because it challenges the things we have been taught and believed as well as having to make adjustments to the way we think and act.
So let’s go from here looking out for the traps all around us that have the appearance of success and a deeper walk with God, but leave us without the Word and seeking the next high. Let’s begin and continue to do the work of surrounding ourselves with those that want to read/study the Bible and seek to apply the Truth of those things to each of our lives. It is those that do that will be blessed as our lives will be an example of worship to the Lord.