Churches are funny places. When I was young I made it my goal to stay away from them. My experience with church people was not positive. When I grew up I (thankfully) met Jesus Christ. He really is alive! In Him I found a new love and joy. He did something, however, that was unexpected. He sent me to the church. He called me to be a pastor. I have been in that position for ten years now. At times I still want to run from the church as fast as I can.
Over the last ten years I have noticed something. There is a difference between churched people and saved people. Sure, saved people are in church, but not all churched people are saved. When Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom, many joyfully followed and became believers. However, the churched people of the day became bitter enemies. He offered life, love and liberty, and above all salvation. The churched people only saw a threat.
Today little has changed. Churched people still see Jesus as a threat. The reality is that there are only two types of people in the world: those who have bowed the knee to Jesus as Lord and savior, and those who have not. There are many churched people who have not. They like the idea of Jesus. They love the idea of being saved. They like to hear how loved they are. But when Jesus actually shows up, bitter enmity quickly surfaces. I have seen what appeared to be nice people turn into ferocious antagonists with a drop of a hat. What caused seemingly nice people to change so drastically? The Word.
The Bible never flatters us. It only reveals us. Just beneath the surface of us all lies our true nature. Unfortunately many people have covered themselves in a thick layer of religion. When they go and look in their spiritual mirrors they see the elegance and refinement of religion. Religion can be so beautiful. But religion is not spirituality. It is the gloss that shines. I once spilled lacquer on a concrete floor covered in dirt. It was the shiniest dirt I ever saw! As an old rock song says, “Not all that glitters is gold.”
If a person does not have Jesus as Savior and Lord, then when the thin layer of religion is removed, what is revealed is a heart that steadfastly refuses to have Jesus rule over them. Religion can be calming, soothing and comforting. But when Christ shows up he begins to remove the varnish to reveal what lies beneath.
People want the comfort of religion and they want the serenity of hearing about God’s love for them. But what they don’t want is to have an encounter with what lies beneath, deep within the heart. When the heart is revealed, it instinctively lashes out. The heart wants self-justification. But when the Word works past the varnish and touches the heart it causes pain. It’s like when a doctor pulls back the bandage and touches the wound – it hurts!
The heart that has yet to be saved is a heart that has yet to be healed. And when the Word touches the unsaved heart, it is in fact touching a heart that is infected with the disease of sin. So the touch causes pain. The problem with religious people is that when they feel the pain, they blame the physician. So they recoil in horror and lash out at the instrument of God’s Word. But the reality is that as they lash out, they deny themselves the only thing available that can heal the wound.
The funny thing is that if a person will let the physician touch the wound, while it will initially hurt, it will certainly heal. The thing to do, is to acknowledge that it hurts; but then one must understand why it hurts. It hurts not because the doctor is touching it, but because it is diseased. Once a person can understand that, they can then acknowledge their need to be healed. The moment one acknowledges their need, the physician’s touch changes. The aching pain is replaced with a soothing caress. The heart transforms from being diseased to being made whole and complete again.
Salvation can be a painful process, but the results are the most wonderful thing in the world. It’s too bad so many people will not let the Lord heal their broken hearts. Instead they cling to their varnish – but they do so in vain.
The living God is not a God of religion. He is a God of life.