July 1, 2008 Matthew

The Right Kind of Fervency

We must be fervent in spirit

“…fan into flame the gift of God” 2 Timothy 1:6

“Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.” Leviticus 6:13

It is a wonder how much our Church lacks power against the influences of the world and culture in the West. Even with the most gifted preachers and creative talent it still seems to be blatantly lacking, and overall, dying. We can barely maintain our presence in society. You have likely heard in many places about the need for the Church to “rethink itself”, “be relevant”, or “be cutting-edge”. It is a prevalent theme almost everywhere you go.

Our Church has a legacy of doing many great things (as well as bad things) in history. It also has a legacy for being misrepresented by counterfeit Christs and counterfeit teachings. At this point it is almost as if the Church is buried beneath layers of bad fortune, disillusionment, and retribution from a world that has a different kind of attitude toward the Church than what we might have expected—indifference. Of course that attitude is not globally universal. In some places our Body is referred to as “infidels” or “anti-revolutionaries”.

But here is what we should feel impressed about in America: Our Church has been fighting fire with candlesticks, when we need to be fighting fire with fire.

Consider the amount of life sucked up by entertainment with things like the Internet, TV, movies, and video games. America has about 750 televisions per capita (1000 people) and they sap an average of 12+ hours per week out of people. Nearly everyone uses the internet, and for about 17 hours per week at that. Entertainment is nice, but not at the cost of time with Jesus when it then becomes a vice. So let’s talk about Jesus for a moment. How much time is given to Jesus—simple and plain fellowship, prayer, the Word, and breaking bread every week? If we are real and honest with ourselves, we can say it is probably very little, if any at all. What’s more, people still seem to complain about not having enough time, so, we play a few songs, remove time for prayer, give them the fifteen or twenty minute sermon that they want, and get ‘em in and get ‘em out. Thus, it is probably not too much of a stretch to say that the average Christian spends almost no time each week in authentic fellowship.

There is saying out in the world about America, “What do Americans do with all the time they ‘save’?” It is inferred from all the commercials and advertisements we make in which it is promised that such and such a product will ‘save time’. Well, perhaps the appropriate answer to them, in light of what we are talking about, is that it’s wasted. So in response to our lifestyles of busying ourselves with ‘saving time’, our Church is responding with the drive-thru sermon.

Now let’s think about a fiery church for a moment. This is, predictably, a Church that can not only compete with the addictions to entertainment and consumerism, but overcome them. In Acts chapter 2 we find the description of just such a church. In this church they meet very plainly and with purpose. Here they devote themselves to the Word, and prayer, and fellowship, and breaking bread. Who? Not only the leaders, but all.  Moreover, day by day they attended at the temple and gathered in their homes. This is always a wonderful passage to juxtapose with the Church of our own times, because we need to see the potential. Why should we settle for so little, when God calls us to so much?

Someone might say, “But they could afford to spend more time fellowshipping like that. All that God requires from us is our faith, anyway.” Indeed, God does not require anything but your faith. But as the apostle James explains, faith is completed by our obedience and deeds, for “faith without works is dead”. So it must be asked, “How much time and money do you spend on entertainment, and how much time and money do you spend on one another as brothers and sisters in Christ?” Nor can we forget how God himself feels about daily devotion and fellowship—he loves it. In fact, as recorded in Acts, it pleased him so much that “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

How great it would be to see a church like this whose members fellowshipped daily with one another in some form, even if just to talk or pray together, spontaneously devoting themselves to prayer, the Word, fellowship, outreach, and meals, and not just the rigmarole of the Sunday morning excursions to church. We’d like to see people making room and time for the family, the brotherhood and the destitute, throwing out the remotes and game consoles and clearing the tables if that is what it takes. A better performed service is not what it will take to overcome our spiritual poverty. The thinking continues to float around that if we can just make that one hour more impressive, more flashy, more captivating, more engaging, more lively, more dynamic, then we can have a chance. Far be it from us. We know no God who gives his people “a shot” or some mere chance. We know only one God, and he makes his people more than conquerors. What is the victory we have that overcomes the world? A one-hour faith amusement ride with a twenty-minute self-help sermon? Of course not. If we believe that, we are grossly misunderstanding the point of steadfastness and endurance in the Lord as sojourners in a place that is not our ultimate home, and we might as well pack our bags and head back to Egypt because we would be, above all men, the most to be pitied.