Prone To Wander:
A Message Concerning Church Revitalization
Crocodile tears streamed down his chubby cheeks while his slippers soaked up the water like a sponge and the roses wasted no time wilting on the floor. He froze in place while I picked up pieces of broken glass, the remains of a treasured Austrian vase, a gift from my late Aunt Emma. How many times will I have to remind him not to run through the house? How soon he forgets!
Forgetting is a problem in the spiritual realm as well. Our drift is ever so slightly off course. A line from Robert Robinson's old hymn says it all. "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love."
Individually we are prone to wander and collectively, as the Body of Christ, the Church has suffered from that same inclination to drift off center from its birth. Like children we need to be reminded, "This is the way; walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21) We know forgetting has been a problem for the Church since the first century because Peter, the Apostle, called attention to it in his second epistle.
"So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things." (2 Peter 1:12-15)
Do you sense his concern that they would forget the truths he'd imparted? Remind refresh your memory remember!
Memories have failed to improve over the past two thousand years and the tendency to drift from sound doctrine and holy living has resulted in a society resembling the Apostle Paul's word picture of "terrible times in the last days."
"People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God having a form of godliness but denying its power." (2 Timothy 3:2-5)
But this is not just a graphic of the atheistic neighbors down the street! Here we have a snapshot of the Church of the twenty-first century "...having a form of godliness but denying its power." What in the world has happened? How have we fallen so far?
If ever there were a time for a reminder, a refreshing of the Church's memory a wake up call it is Today!
Although A.W. Tozer penned the following words over fifty years ago under the title of The Open Secret in his timeless masterpiece, The Knowledge of the Holy, a more pointed and powerful reminder cannot be offered to the Church of our day.
"When viewed from the perspective of eternity, the most critical need of this hour may well be that the Church should be brought back from her long Babylonian captivity and the name of God be glorified in her again as of old... What can we plain Christians do to bring back the departed glory? Is there some secret we may learn? Is there a formula for personal revival we can apply to the present situation, to our own situation? The answer to these questions is 'yes'.
Yet the answer may easily disappoint some persons, for it is anything but profound. I bring no esoteric cryptogram, no mystic code to be painfully deciphered. I appeal to no hidden law of the unconscious, no occult knowledge meant only for the few. The secret is an open one which the wayfaring man may read. It is simply the old and ever-new counsel: 'Acquaint thyself with God.' To regain her lost power the church must see heaven opened and have a transforming vision of God."
Acquaint thyself with God! The soul desiring to remember the way that he may walk in it can only respond with an "Amen."
It would seem that insidious drift has taken us to the throne of a utilitarian God designed to meet our needs. As Paul wrote, "People will be lovers of themselves..." and "...lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." We stand with uplifted hands, swaying and singing the contemporary chorus, "It's all about You, Lord ", but all too often in our hearts we really believe "it's all about me!" The focal point of man's interest is now himself and the disease has infected the Church of the Living God.
It's no strange thing that men would look to God for the supply of their needs, both temporal and spiritual. It was Paul who wrote, "My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19) Indeed, the Creator and Sustainer of all life delights to provide for his people and it's appropriate that we stand with uplifted hands, swaying and singing our thanksgiving and praises to such a God.
But true worship goes beyond adoration of God for what he's done for us to adoration of God for who he is. Even if we could not call to mind a single benefit received from God, he would still be worthy of all our praise and adoration for he is the Only Sovereign, God the Father Almighty, the only wise God our Savior and the Majesty in the heavens Most High!
Today's worshiper wants his experience with God to make him feel good about himself. And, being in God's presence does bring the greatest possible pleasure known to man. Psalm 16:11 puts it this way. "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." What could be better to the senses? But this will never happen for the believer whose focus is a God who will make him feel good about himself! Rather, it comes as the result of forgetting one's self.
Personal experience bears witness to this truth. Standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon one crisp December morning, the clear blue sky overhead hosting a giant fireball which brought warmth to my soul as its rays kissed my body from head to toe; I found myself losing all sense of self-consciousness while being completely enthralled by the handiwork of the Maker of Heaven and Earth the I AM! Such a moment of self-forgetfulness and God-consciousness is the impetus for a season of true worship! As the Church has been filled to the brim with people looking to have their needs met, she has lost the concept of the Majesty on High. Indeed, to regain her lost power the Church must see heaven opened and have a transforming vision of God. Once again she must be reminded who is on the throne. Once again our Church's pulpits must draw our attention away from ourselves to him who is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!